Emergency Exit Signs Are Only Effective if They’re Placed Properly

February 2, 2018

The placement of fire exit signs should never be overlooked. Not only is the effective placement of these signs critical to the safety of the people working or visiting your building, they're also required by building and fire codes to ensure those unfamiliar with a building's layout are directed to safety if a fire were ever to happen.

If a fire ignites and your building starts to fill with smoke:

  • Do you know how to get out quickly?
  • Do you know where the closest exits are?
  • What if your first choice for a fire exit is blocked by smoke or fire?
  • Is there an alternate exit?

Answering these questions before you encounter them will go a long way in keeping the people in your building safe! Placing fire exit signs effectively can keep the occupants safe by directing them to safety even if they're not familiar with the building's layout.

Follow the Green Running Man!

In 2010, the National Resource Council's building regulations group updated its model building code to reflect Canada's changing demographics and bring exit and emergency signage requirements in line with international standards. That included phasing out the familiar red "EXIT" signs and replacing them with a photoluminescent green "running man" sign commonly found in Asia, Australia and Europe.

The "running man" signs are photoluminescent, capable of giving off light without any electricity. Their green colour is meant to depict "go" or "safety," which is a stark contrast to the red "EXIT" signs that traditionally represent "stop" or form of hazard.

Building and fire code requires any photoluminescent signage to comply with and be ULC-approved for luminosity and duration of illumination. The sign must also indicate the direction of the nearest exit or egress itself. These new signs represent not only a new, internationally recognized safety feature for Canadians, new and old, but also a cost-savings to building operators. The signs are environmentally-friendly and don't require any electricity. Compared to the red "EXIT" counterparts, this will now eliminate energy consumption costs completely!

The "running man" signs are ULC 572-compliant for 50-, 75-, and 100-foot visibility.

How is an Exit Route Defined?

An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path to exit a building from any point in a workplace to safety. It must provide:

  • Exit access: the portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.
  • Exit: the portion of an exit route separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge.
  • Exit discharge: the part of the exit route that leads directly to a street, walkway, refuge area or open space with access to the outside.

For additional information, refer to the National Building Code of Canada (2015)

Keeping Fire Exits Safe

Exit routes must be maintained and kept safe. They must be free of materials that are highly flammable or explosive, including curtains or other decorations. They should also direct people away from highly hazardous areas unless the path of travel is efficiently shielded.

Exit routes must be outfitted with sufficient lighting, including emergency lighting that's adequate enough for anyone with normal vision.

General Code Requirements for Fire Exit Signs

Fire codes typically require building operators to provide a map of emergency exits in every public area, along with illuminated signs that will help occupants to a safe place if an incident occurs. Simply speaking, the fire code requires a safe route out of the building if the main doors are blocked.

Emergency exits and evacuation pathways must be clearly marked at all times. Any doorways or other passages that might be mistaken for exits must be clearly identified as well. Authorized signs must be visible and illuminated.

You must also identify any areas that house fire extinguishers and fire hose cabinets, which ensures quick action by emergency personnel and trained employees in an emergency scenario. Be sure that these signs align with corresponding equipment. These should include:

  • FIRE ALARM signs

Proper placement of emergency exit signs can be the difference between life and death and should never be overlooked. Always consult a fire services professional to ensure that your building is up to code with the locations of your exit signs and that they direct people to safety in the unfortunate event of a fire.

Control Fire Systems Ltd. was founded in 1975. We are an international special hazard fire suppression equipment supply company (including fire safety products) that comes equipped with the expertise you need to keep your building protected against the devastating impacts of fire.

Reach out to us today and see how we can assist you with any of your current and or future fire protection equipment and service needs.

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