Emergency Lighting Options That Ensure Your Building is up to Code

January 4, 2018

In an emergency, it's not only critical to provide employees and customers a quick and easy way out of your building, it's also required by law. Businesses must provide "a continuous and unobstructed exit" to ensure all people inside a building are able to exit safely and efficiently. Doing so requires the installation of emergency exit signs and proper lighting, each with specific requirements for different situations.

It's vital that you understand the rules and regulations around proper exit sign and emergency lighting requirements to make sure your building is up to code to get people out safely in the case of an emergency.

Emergency Lighting Requirements

Emergency exit lighting is designed to provide enough light to allow easy identification of hallways, stairs, and pathways to exits in case of an evacuation. Each exit route should be clearly visible and account for power failures.

If power service is interrupted, occupants need to be able to get out safely. Depending on building type, operations, and application, different types of lighting needs to be installed to reflect the environment its in:

  • Regular: Applications where extreme weather or hazardous materials are not present. Typical installations include apartments, office buildings, or retail stores.
  • Waterproof: Applications where signs and lighting need to be protected from weather, including locations with high humidity which may interfere with operation, such as an indoor pool or greenhouse.
  • Industrial: Applications that might be exposed to damage or vandalism, such as a warehouse, industrial operation, or public venues.
  • Hazardous: Applications that need to be protected from vapours or debris, such as a facility that houses hazardous chemicals.

Emergency Exit Signs

Emergency exit signs have size requirements, and must be at least 15.2 cm (6 in.) high. “Exit" must be clearly visible and at least 1.9 cm (3/4" of an inch) wide. Signs can be any color under national regulations as long as they are highly visible. Local regulations may require specific colors.

It's not just exit signs that lead occupants to safety. You may need to mark exit routes as well. In some cases, doorways and stairways that aren't exits will also need to marked either with a "No Exit" sign or in such a way that t hey won't be mistaken for an exit.


Most buildings are required to perform regular monthly testing on emergency lights as well as an annual inspection and certification. Inspections should show battery power or other illumination that can keep emergency lights visible for between 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the application.

Code Requirements

You need to make sure your emergency exit lighting and emergency signage meets four standards:

  1. All exit pathways are adequately illuminated
  2. Appropriate exit pathway and exit signs are posted
  3. Signs and lights are maintained in working order
  4. Monthly and annual inspections are conducted

There are a multitude of specific codes that apply to emergency exit signage and emergency exit lighting. You can find a list of codes, standards, and best practices at the National Fire Protection Association.

In addition, there are often provincial, state, and local building codes. It's important that you work with a company that knows the rules and provides you with the right solution for your building.

When it comes to investing in emergency lighting and exit signs, you want to make sure the product you're buying meets necessary requirements and keeps your building's occupants safe.

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