Emergency Egress Safety – Is a Luminous Sign Better than a Non-luminous Sign?

Imagine you’re standing on the twelfth floor of an office building when it suddenly fills with smoke. Within 40 seconds, you can faintly see your hand at arm’s length. What would you do? If your answer is get on your hands and knees to avoid the smoke, imagine harder. Because instinct tells us to look for visual cues that indicate a way out of danger, such as safety signs that indicate vertical exit enclosures. The problem is: you won’t be able to see those signs unless they’re luminescent.

A Luminous Sign Could Save Lives

There’s one difference between a luminous sign and a one that’s non-luminous: the former glows, usually by principle of photoluminescence, which occurs when an object absorbs photons from its surrounding environment and re-emits them, creating a bright glowing effect. Such a simple process can solve a complex problem: finding your way to a vertical exit enclosure, and then navigating it with confidence as other luminescent signs and egress markings identify floor levels, exit leading doors, and trace the outline of steps, handrails, doors, obstacles, and landing areas.

Traditionally, buildings contain safety signs that have reflective surfaces, a feature that proves useless as thickening smoke occludes light. Even so, building owners in states that haven’t adopted a version of the International Fire Code (IFC), which calls for the strategic placement of certain luminescent safety signs, commonly fail to replace reflective signs with luminescent ones. For building occupants, this equals a disregard for physical safety, while for building owners, it represents crippling lawsuits and a ruined reputation should an emergency evacuation go terribly wrong.

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