Is your building’s emergency egress system safe? If not, you risk more than your building occupants’ lives; you also risk legal action if injuries and fatalities occur during a low visibility evacuation, a scenario that becomes more likely the longer you ignore egress safety. If you haven’t assessed your building’s vertical exit enclosures in a while, there’s only one place to start: the IFC (International Fire Code), which regulates egress safety in new and existing buildings that feature occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.
The Value of IFC Photoluminescent Safety Signs
Currently, at least 42 states have adopted a version of the code, which leaves some building owners with the option of not implementing its guidelines. If your state hasn’t adopted the code and you’re not planning on following its egress guidelines, it’s important to know what you’re rejecting in terms of safety, technology, and cost before you make a decision. Below, we evaluate these areas in terms of the code’s signage and what typically precedes it: emergency back up lighting and non-luminescent safety signs.
If you’re building’s exit enclosures aren’t equipped with luminescent signage as described in IFC—particularly emergency exit symbols and floor identification signs— they probably feature back up lighting and non-luminescent signage that may not contain enough information. The problem with backup lighting is that it doesn’t perform well in the presence of smoke, its rays reflecting off the smoke instead of illuminating the enclosure. Consequently, non-luminescent signs become difficult or impossible to see, causing panic and trampling as evacuees search for an exit. IFC egress signs emit a bright glow that isn’t compromised by smoke, allowing evacuees to learn their location and which doors to take to reach an exit.
Most backup lighting features incandescent or LED technology, both of which require maintenance for light bulbs, wiring, and in some cases for batteries. But electricity-free IFC signage is maintenance-free. That’s because it works by principle of photoluminescence, which occurs when an object absorbs photons from ambient light and reemits them, creating a bright glowing effect. Luminescent signage can glow for 96 hours in total darkness.
Some building owners decide against IFC guidelines in the name of cost savings, often without investigating the cost. The code’s guidelines for vertical exit enclosures consist of two simple measures: implementing photoluminescent tape to stairwell equipment such as handrails, steps and landings; and implementing a small range of photoluminescent safety signage. As one would expect, the tape and signage is affordable on almost any budget, and implementing them doesn’t require construction or hiring outside expertise, just adherence to the code’s easy to follow application instructions.