A Short History of Fire Evacuation Marking Developments
International Fire Codes were created in response to the injuries caused during many historical disasters. After these incidents, inspections found that buildings were not safe and prepared for this type of event. IFC regulations pertain to existing structures. They require these structures to have all the necessary fire equipment and markings needed to assist occupants in reaching a safe location. Fire regulations specify all hazards, equipment, and egress paths to be sufficiently marked for the utmost safety. IFC compliant signs are used to show building occupants and responders where exits are located. These identifiers are combined with wall and floor stripping to show a direct path to building egress points. The codes themselves were created in the year 2000 and are updated every year. Currently, not all states use these regulations as part of their building code regulations.
Significant Fires That Encouraged a Consistent Fire Safety Code
Many significant fires have attributed to the need for increased fire safety in buildings. With the exception of the World Trade Center collapse in 2003, fires have never been linked to the bending and collapsing of steel columns. There were many other conditions that contributed to the end result of that tragic day. Far more severe fires have occurred in the past and typically break windows, fill large areas with flame, and burn for many hours. One Meridian Plaza is one such location. This thirty-eight floor building was located in Philadelphia and caught fire in 1991. The fire itself began on the twenty-second floor and destroyed eight floors in eighteen hours. Overall damage estimates were approximately one hundred million dollars. Windows broke, granite cracked, and panel connections failed.
In 1988, the First Interstate Bank located in Los Angeles also suffered damages from a severe fire. This particular building was twenty-four stories high and remained to burn for over three hours. As with the One Meridian Plaza fire, broken windows made it more difficult for responders to fight the fire. Four floors were damaged by fire. All floors above them had extensive smoke damage and the lower floors suffered water damage. Damage costs were in the hundred million dollar range. Other fires that contributed to the creation and continuous updating of IFC regulations include the New York Plaza fire, Caracus Tower fire, and the Windsor Building fire.
Since these fires, a need for safety code conformity and compliance was recognized by the International Code Council. As a direct response, they created the International Fire Codes. IFC compliant exit signs, markings, and equipment are all required in existing buildings to improve safety and ensure a safe exit in the event of a fire. Fires happen quickly and it is easy for the smoke to reduce visibility. Flames may trap individuals by blocking exits or hallways. Equipment must be functional and accessible in these situations. Signage is used to identify hazards and equipment on each floor level. IFC compliant exit signs mark stairwells and exits so that occupants can find their way outside in even the most smoke filled building. As an extra precaution, luminous identifiers are replacing older signage to guarantee visibility under extremely smoky and severe conditions.