Egress Lighting: Is it Enough to Keep Your Building Occupants Safe?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require many buildings to contain emergency egress lights, which illuminate egress paths during low visibility. Is backup lighting enough to ensure the visibility of egress paths during a fire, or when a generator fails? In many cases, the answer is no. In addition to backup lighting, buildings should also contain a self-luminous safety system in the form of photoluminescent egress markings.

Why Photoluminescent Egress Markings?

Unlike egress lighting, which is either generator or battery powered, luminescent egress markings are powered by photoluminescence, which occurs when an object absorbs photons from ambient light and re-radiates them, creating a bright glow. This makes luminescent markings the ideal form of “lighting” in the event of fire or generator failure.

In the Event of Fire

During a fire, smoke can make it difficult to judge the dimensions of egress paths—a problem that backup lighting seldom resolves. Instead of penetrating smoke and revealing the dimensions of a path, backup lights take on the appearance of headlights in fog, illuminating only the nearest egress space.

According to a fire evacuation study by Norwegian InterConsult Group, photoluminescent material remains clearly visible in high smoke densities, and evacuees using egress paths with luminescent markings have the highest evacuation speed, and make the fewest erroneous moves as they evacuate.

In the Event of Generator Failure

To avoid the maintenance expense associated with backup batteries, large buildings usually feature generator powered egress lighting. However, the elimination of one problem may lead to the start of another – the failure of backup lights in the event of generator failure, as happened during the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

Often mentioned as a cost benefit, the self-luminance of photoluminescent markings is also a safety benefit. If the egress path of your building lacks luminescent markings, implementing them now could be critical to preventing injuries and casualties in the event of generator failure.

A Safety Solution for the Future

In an age of energy efficiency, corporate cost cutting, and public safety concern, backup lighting as a means for illuminating egress paths is becoming obsolete. Replacing it are electricity-free, inexpensive, and always dependable luminescent egress markings. Currently, a version of the International Fire Code (IFC) requires luminescent markings to be placed in new and existing buildings and has been adopted by at least forty-two states. A version of the International Building Code (IBC), requiring luminescent markings to be placed in new buildings, has been adopted by all fifty states.

The IBC and IFC apply to commercial and residential (R1) buildings that feature occupancy above seventy-five feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.

Glo-Brite has the supplies you need

At Glo-Brite, we carry National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), IFC, and OSHA compliant luminescent exit signs, building safety signs, and egress markings in a variety of styles. Even if your building is not subject to IFC regulations, implementing luminescent markings in its egress paths is still critical to evacuation safety. To learn more about implementing self luminous safety systems, call Glo-Brite today.

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