Guidelines for Egress Marking Systems

Egress marking systems are an essential part of a building’s safe exit plan in case of an emergency or power outage. Before diving into the guidelines of egress marking systems, understand the definition of egress as a continuous and unobstructed way to travel from any point in a building or structure to a public way. A means of egress will consist of three separate and distinct parts: (1) the exit access, (2) the exit, (3) the exit discharge. The egress marking systems are meant to provide a visual delineation of a building’s floor plan that shows how occupants should evacuate to safety. The safety products included in egress marking systems can include:

  • Emergency Exit Signs
  • Egress Markers
  • Luminous Markings
  • Door Signs
  • Egress Symbols
  • Stairwell Identifiers
  • Stairwell Identifiers
  • Equipment Location Markers
  • Information Placards

Architects, engineers, developers, building owners, operators, maintenance managers, and many others are affected by and need to be aware of guidelines for egress marking systems. The International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have all created codes around egress to protect the lives of building occupants in the event of a fire or other emergency and are widely accepted throughout the United States.

These codes are enforced by inspectors, zoning boards, fire marshals and other industry or city officials. According to the 2018 IBC and IFC, luminous egress path markings are required in all new and existing institutional, educational, business, hotel, public assembly and R-1 residential buildings having occupied floors that are located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access (generally at least 5 stories or floor levels). According to the tenth chapter of the IBC and IFC, luminous markings are required for all doors, steps, landings, handrails, perimeters, and obstacles. An example of impacted groups, according to IBC and IFC include:

  • Assembly (A) (For Public Events)
  • Hospitality/Hotels (R-1)
  • Residential occupancies containing sleeping units where the occupants are primarily transient in nature, including hotels, and boarding houses (R-1) motels
  • Business (B)
  • Mercantile (M)
  • Education (E)

Stairwells are one of the most critical areas of a building to ensure egress markings are correctly placed because they will be used in case of fire or power outage by many occupants. However, egress marketing guidelines for stairwells are commonly misinterpreted or not followed correctly. Some of the guidelines around egress markings for stairs include:

    Guidelines for egress marking systems
  1. Stair Landings: Stair landings and other floor areas within exit enclosures, except for the sides of steps, shall be provided with solid and continuous demarcation lines on the floor or the walls or a combination of both, according to IBC and IFC. Mark the leading edge of exit stair landings with a solid and continuous marking stripe consistent with the dimensional requirements for stair treads and shall be the same length as, and consistent with, the stripes on the steps (NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.5.2).
  2. Signage Requirements: Stairway identification signs shall comply with all of the following requirements:
    • The signs shall be a minimum size of 18 inches (457mm) by 12 inches (305mm).
    • The letters designating the identification of the stair enclosure shall be a minimum of 1½ inches (38mm) in height.
    • The number designating the floor level shall be a minimum of 5 inches (127mm) in height and located in the center of the sign.
    • All other lettering and numbers shall be a minimum of 1 inch (25mm) in height.
    • Characters and their background shall have a non-glare finish. Characters shall contrast with their background, with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.
    • When signs required by Section 1022.8 are installed in interior exit enclosures of buildings subject to Section 1024, the signs shall be made of the same materials as required by Section 1024.4. (IBC Section 1022.8.1)

    New enclosed stairs serving three or more stories and existing enclosed stairs serving five or more stories shall comply with Sections 7.2.2.5.4.1 – A through M of NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.4.

  3. Stair Handrails: Where new contrast marking is provided for stairway handrails, it shall be applied to, or be part of, at least the upper surface of the handrail; have a minimum width of ½ inch (13mm), and extend the full length of each handrail. After marking, the handrail must comply with 7.2.2.4.4 (NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.4.4). IBC Section 1024.2.3 states that all handrails and handrail extensions shall be marked with a solid and continuous stripe having a minimum width of 1” (25mm). The stripe shall be placed on the top surface of the handrail for the entire length of the handrail, including extensions and newel post caps. Where handrails or handrail extensions bend or turn corners, the stripe shall not have a gap of more than 4 inches (102mm)

    Additionally, the NFPA Life Safety Code addresses exit stair handrails stating that all handrails and handrail extensions shall be marked with a solid and continuous marking stripe and meet the following requirements noted in NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.5.3.

  4. Exit Stair Path Markings: Where exit stair path markings are required in Chapters 11-43, such markings shall be installed in accordance with 7.2.2.5.5.1 through 7.2.2.5.5.11. (NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.5).
  5. Stair Tread Markings:

      guidelines-for-egress-marking-system-3
    • Exit Stair Treads: Exit stair treads must have a marking stripe applied as a paint/coating (or a material that is integral with the nosing of each step) along the step’s horizontal leading edge throughout the full width of the step. The marking stripe must meet the following requirements: 1. The marking stripe shall be not more than ½ in. (13mm) from the leading edge of each step and shall not overlap the leading edge of the step by more than ½ “ (13mm) down the vertical face of the step. 2. The marking stripe shall have a minimum horizontal width of 1 inch (25mm) and a maximum width of 2 inches (51mm). 3. The dimensions and placement of the marking stripe shall be uniform and consistent on each step throughout the exit enclosure. 4. Surface-applied marking stripes using adhesive-backed tapes shall not be used (NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.5.1).
    • Stairway Tread Marking: Where new contrasting marking is applied to stairs, such marking shall comply with the following: A. The marking shall include a continuous strip as a coating on, or as a material integral with, the full width of the leading edge of each tread B. The marking shall include a continuous strip as a coating on, or as a material integral with, the full width of the leading edge of each landing nosing. C. The marking strip width, measured horizontally from the leading vertical edge of the nosing, shall be consistent at all nosings. D. The marking strip width shall be 1 in. to 2 in. (25mm to 51mm) (NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.4.3).

Directional signage placement is also very important, not only for occupants of the building who are not familiar with the nearest exit but also for fire rescue teams as they are trying to exit the building. IBC Section 1007.10 states that direction signage indicating the location of the other means of egress and which accessible means of egress are shall be provided at the following: t exits serving a required accessible space but not providing an approved accessible means of egress, at elevator landings and within areas of refuge.

Perimeter demarcation lines help to show where obstacles, handrails, door hardware, door frames, and other objects or enclosures are. Both IBC (Sections 1024.2.4) and NFPA 101 (Section 7.2.2.5.5.4) state that stair landings and other floor areas within exit enclosures, with the exception of the sides of steps, shall be provided with solid and continuous demarcation lines on the floor. IBC continues on to say the lines can also be on the walls or a combination of both. The marking stripe shall meet the following requirements: 1. The stripes need to be a minimum of 1 includes and maximum of 2 includes wide with interruptions not exceeding 4 inches. 2. The marking stripe shall be applied within 2 in. (51mm) of the wall. 3. The marking stripe shall continue in front of all door openings swinging into the exit enclosure. However, the marking stripe shall not be applied in front of door openings discharging from the exit enclosure. 4. The dimensions and placement of the perimeter demarcation marking stripe shall be uniform and consistent throughout the exit enclosure. 5. Surface-applied marking stripes using adhesive-backed tapes shall not be used.

These are just several guidelines of the extensive codes provided by IBC, IFC and NFPA 101 when it comes to egress marking systems. Incorporating an egress system using photoluminescent technology has become a preferred method over the years for meeting all the egress marking system guidelines. Photoluminescent egress marking systems that are listed and labeled in accordance with UL 1994 provide little to no maintenance, are extremely cost-efficient and offer continued illumination for occupants to safely exit buildings. Organizations and buildings such as the Pentagon, U.S. Department of Energy and Boeing all utilize photoluminescent egress marking systems.

Jessup Manufacturing has a full line of products to provide guidance in the event of an emergency including photoluminescent tapes and treads for marking handrails, stair treads, landings, doors, door frames, and door hardware. To discuss an egress system for your building safety plan, please contact Patty Wiedyk – pattyw@jessupmfg.com to come up with a program that is just right for your facility.

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