Fire Exit Symbols: Their Importance to Emergency Egress Safety
Emergency exit symbols are designed to help building occupants locate exits during fires, blackouts, and other emergencies. Consequently, they usually contain elements that make them perceptible to panicked evacuees during low visibility, such as:
- Luminescent material that offers superior visibility through smoke
- Running man characters that indicate the direction toward an exit
- Arrows that reinforce the running direction of running man characters
- And simple wording that indicates a symbol’s purpose, such as “fire exit”
Technically, an exit symbol differs from an exit sign, which usually contains no symbol. However, some safety guides and catalogues consider all exit indicators to be exit symbols.
The importance of luminescent exit symbols
For the past 10 years, Jessup Manufacturing has been a leader in the luminescent safety products industry. This is because we understand the importance of luminescence to building safety signs, fire exit symbols, and exit signage. Unlike non-luminous signs and symbols, which are useless in the presence of thick smoke or darkness, luminescent exit symbols that contain our patented Glo Brite technology offer superior visibility and burn time. Unlike luminescent products of the past, our technology offers up to 96 hours of burn time in total darkness.
In the absence of luminescent exit symbols, the likelihood of death or injury during the evacuation process increases. Following an injury or death, building owners commonly incur the following expenses: lawsuit settlements, workers comp payouts, and a raise in workers comp insurance premiums. When combined with our other luminescent egress implements, our International Fire Code (IFC) compliant exit symbols help to ensure that building occupants evacuate safely.
Implementing IFC emergency egress measures
The IFC was created by the International Code Council (ICC) to regulate the construction quality, structural stability, and egress safety of new and existing commercial and residential R1 buildings. Concerning the egress safety of vertical exit enclosures—the long stairwells that building occupants use to evacuate a building—the IFC applies to buildings that feature occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.
In buildings that meet this criterion, the IFC requires the placement of luminous emergency exit symbols on all exit-leading doors within vertical exit enclosures (IFC 1024.2.6.1). According to the code, a luminous emergency exit symbol that complies with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code 170 should be centered on each exit-leading door 18 inches above the finished floor. The symbol should be at least four inches in height.
The impact of exit symbols in vertical exit enclosures
Despite their small stature, emergency exit symbols play a crucial role in guiding evacuees to safety. With their low placement position, they remain in evacuees’ line of sight as they move down stairs, and they also remain visible to a crawling position, allowing evacuees to identify exit-leading doors as they crawl to avoid smoke inhalation.
Exit symbols are inexpensive and easy to apply. But not applying them could end up costing building owners dearly. At Jessup Manufacturing, we understand the importance of protecting your finances as an extension of protecting your building occupants. That’s why we continually raise the bar for luminescent safety products, providing solutions that can turn an emergency evacuation into an orderly exit process.