Emergency Exit Only Signs – How Important Are They?

Most official signs within commercial and residential R1 buildings deal with safety, but some of them are more critical than others. While all safety signs are important, some signs can mean the difference between life and death, which is the case with emergency exit only signs. Also known as running man signs, emergency exit only signs are placed on exit leading doors, particularly within vertical exit enclosures, which building occupants use to evacuate in the event emergencies such as fires, floods, and blackouts.

How Should Emergency Exit Only Signs be Applied?

Running man signs are applied in a variety of fashions, but the most reliable source for their application is the International Fire Code (IFC), which regulates egress safety in new construction and existing buildings that feature occupancy at above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. According to the code, running man signs that indicate which direction evacuees should travel after they pass through the door should be mounted on all exit leading doors within vertical exit enclosures. More specifically, the signs should be centered horizontally, with their top no higher than 18 inches above the finished floor (IFC 1024.2.6.1)

Running man signs are one element in a larger egress safety system that, according to the IFC, should also contain the following elements: floor identification signs posted at every floor landing within vertical exit enclosures, fire equipment signage, and photoluminescent markings applied to the edges of steps, the tops of handrails and handrail extensions, the border of landing areas, obstacles, door-frames, and door hardware. Currently, a version of the IFC has been adopted by at least 42 states.

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