As a building owner, how well you prepare for a fire evacuation impacts how you and your building occupants would weather a fire. For your occupants, top preparation could mean the difference between escaping and not; while for you, it could mean the difference between minimal financial loss and settlements due to injures or deaths. For many building owners, especially those in states that haven’t adopted a version of the IFC (International Fire Code), which governs egress safety in new and existing buildings that feature occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire vehicle access, improved evacuation safety brings notions of expensive consultation. But the IFC and its sister code the IBC, which regulates new construction in the same type of buildings, present measures that can be implemented by anyone.
If you’re wondering how effective evacuation measures that don’t require the attention of an expert can be, the answer is highly effective. The signs approved and recommended by the codes have several advantages over similar signs, such as: photoluminescence, which makes them visible even in the presence of heavy smoke; strategic information, which increases the confidence and calmness of evacuees; and strategic application, which sees them at points and positions in exit stairwells that increase evacuation efficiency. There are numerous IFC and IBC approved fire safety signs you could add your building. But four photoluminescent fire safety signs that no building should do without are: fire equipment, floor identification, assisted rescue area, and emergency exit signs. Below, we discuss each type in terms of evacuation safety.
1. Fire Equipment
Fire equipment signage indicates the presence of fire extinguishers and fire hose and standpipe units, which can seem redundant under normal conditions. But add thickening smoke and fire that blocks egress ways, and fire equipment signage can help evacuees to locate extinguishers and hoses to extinguish egress impeding flames.
2. Floor Identification
Floor Identification signage is posted at each floor landing within an enclosure to report the following information: stair or ramp identification, floor level identification, total number of floor levels, and the story of and direction toward the building exit. Presenting this information keeps evacuees informed of their position in the enclosure, increasing evacuation efficiency and the confidence of evacuees.
3. Emergency Exit
Emergency exit signage contains a running man symbol that indicates an exit-leading door. Center mounted on exit leading doors at 18 inches above the finished floor—a position visible from both standing and crawling positions—the signage offers clear, uncomplicated communication in a complicated situation.
4. Assisted Rescue
Assisted rescue signage indicates the presence of safe areas where those who can’t traverse stairs can receive help from mechanical lifts or building security. Indicating such areas is crucial to preserving egress flow by preventing persons who need assistance from panicking and attempting to use stairs.