Canada currently requires that all public buildings use pictogram exit signs to mark egress pathways. Here in the United States, text-based exit signs are the standard. Today, we wanted to take some time to examine the pros and cons of the different types of universal photoluminescent exit signs and determine which one is actually more universally useful.
Pictograms Exit Signs
One obvious reason why Canada opted for pictogram exit signs is that Canada has two official languages: English and French. Creating exit signs that say “EXIT” in both English and French might create confusion and end up looking too cluttered to be instantly understood. Thus, the pictogram exit sign — which shows a person running out an open door — is an alternative that can be understood in any language.
Pictogram exit signs have the benefit of being understood by people who speak any language regardless of their age or literacy.
There is the possibility that a person who was looking for a standard exit sign might not realize that the pictogram was actually marking an exit. As simple as the image is, it might be hard to understand for certain people, especially in high stress emergency situation.
Text-based Exit Signs
Text-based exit signs, which are the standard in the United States, do rely on people being able to read the English word “EXIT.” However, exit signs are so prevalent that even most non-English-speaking American citizens are likely to understand that the sign is directing people towards exits. Thus, they have a similar effects to a pictogram sign simply due to their pervasiveness.
However, a text-based exit sign might not be immediately understood by children who do not yet know how to read or by people visiting the United States for a short period of time.
That said, text-based exit signs are the legal requirement in the United States. (Both electric and photoluminescent exit signs are approved under the International Fire Code and the International Building Code, but photoluminescent exit signs are recommended because they are more eco-friendly and more likely to function in an emergency.)
If you operate a business outside of the US or Canada, contact Jessup Manufacturing today to learn what safety standards might apply in your region. Likewise, if your business caters to an international clientele, keep in mind that you could use both types of exit sign in conjunction in order to make your building as safe as possible.