Emergency Exit Planning: What Type of Exits Should your Building Have?

When we hear about a fatal building fire, we wonder if the building owner could have done something different, such as supplied more exit routes, or used more care in emergency planning. Often, the answer is yes; for many building owners, exit and emergency planning comes in the wake of a fire, not before it happens.

If you own a commercial building, or plan to build one, the time for emergency exit planning is now. Below, we look at five strategies that can improve the evacuation safety of commercial and large residential buildings.

Implementing additional exit routes

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 29 CFR 1910.36(b)(1) states that buildings of a certain size, occupancy, and layout must have “at least” two exit routes to facilitate prompt evacuations. But it does not state that they must have “only” two exit routes. Implementing an additional route could have a significant impact on egress flow, especially for large, high occupancy buildings with several floors. Although workable in most existing buildings, this strategy is ideal for buildings that are in the planning phase.

Implementing luminescent egress markings

OSHA requires most buildings to have backup lighting. But backup lighting—which can fail due to broken parts or generator failure—should not be a building’s only emergency exit lighting. It should also contain egress markings that outline the dimensions and equipment of egress paths. In addition to being fail proof, luminous egress markings also perform better in the presence of smoke than backup lighting. The best references for implementing them are the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Life Safety Code, and the International Fire Code (IFC).

Implementing mechanical lifts

Some buildings contain mechanical lifts that reside in “assisted rescue areas,” where they transport building occupants who cannot use stairs to ground level. In addition to using them for building occupants with special needs, some experts advise using them for people whose physical condition makes them slow on stairs. Mechanical lifts are costly to implement. But using them to evacuate slow moving building occupants could help prevent egress jams.

Locating helicopters on rooftops

What sounds like a suggestion for an action film is actually proposed by safety experts, and with good reason: when fire occludes its exit routes, a building’s occupants gather on its roof, where a helicopter rescues them. Due to the cost of purchasing, fueling, and maintaining a helicopter, helicopter evacuation is uneconomic, to say the least. But it does address a critical situation.

Glo Brite promotes evacuation safety

At Glo Brite, we offer a safety measure that every building needs, regardless of its evacuation strategies: photoluminescent egress products for emergency exit routes. Without luminescent egress products, evacuees can be left in the dark—a situation that could lead to preventable injuries or casualties.

Unlike some safety strategies, self luminous emergency signs, egress markings, and exit signage are cost effective and easy to implement, and require no maintenance or utility cost. If your building needs improved evacuation safety, call us today to see how luminescent egress products can help.

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