The Impact of IBC and IFC Exit Path Markings for Emergency Egress Safety

The International Code Council (ICC) created the International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) to regulate the construction quality, structural stability, life safety, and fire safety of commercial and residential R1 buildings. The codes apply to buildings that have occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. The IBC, a version of which has been adopted by all 50 states, regulates new construction. The IFC, a version of has been adopted by at least 42 states, regulates new and existing construction. Concerning emergency egress safety, the codes impact the safety of vertical exit enclosures by mandating the placement of luminescent exit path markings and signage at precise locations.

The importance of luminescent markings and signage

Several types of occurrences, the most fearful of which are building fires that create low visibility, can precipitate evacuations. Unlike blackouts, moderate earthquakes, and non-lethal disturbances in the workplace, building fires often require the immediate evacuation of all building occupants. And in some cases, such as when fire results from an explosion, evacuation is not an orderly process – it is a panicked rush for the exit. In such instances, evacuation time can depend heavily on the behavior of evacuees, and on the presence of luminous egress path markings.

Acknowledging that evacuee behavior impacts evacuation time is a recent interdisciplinary study by researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in the New York City. Performed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the study interviewed people who evacuated from the World Trade Center immediately following the attacks. Among other questions, they were asked what factors helped and hindered their evacuation time. Their responses revealed what we at Jessup Manufacturing already knew: building occupants do not evacuate efficiently during low visibility when their actions are not educated by adequate visual cues, such as luminescent markings and signage.

IBC and IFC required exit path markings and signage

The IBC and IFC require the placement of luminescent egress markings on the following elements within vertical exit enclosures: handrails and handrail extensions, the edges of steps and landings, the perimeter of landing areas, egress path obstacles, and the doorframes and door hardware of exit leading doors. Regarding signage, the codes require luminescent emergency exit symbols to be mounted in the center of all exit-leading doors 18 inches above the finished floor, and luminescent floor identification signs to be mounted at each floor landing in a position that remains visible whether doors are open or closed.

When building owners follow IBC and IFC specifications for luminescent exit path markings and signage, they make the dimensions and equipment of vertical exit enclosures easily visible in total darkness, even in the presence of smoke. At Jessup Manufacturing, we specialize in developing the best luminescent egress products on the market. If your building’s vertical exit enclosures are not IBC and IFC compliant, contact us today to learn how our patented Glo Brite technology can improve your building’s evacuation safety.

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