Imagine you are in a building and the lights go out due to a power outage. This can immediately create a sense of unease and lack of security, which can result in panic. Thankfully for most facilities, you can rely on emergency lights and exit signs (if properly maintained) to lead you to safety.
In the event of a fire, it is normal for people to become scared. In addition, darkness can cause a feeling of disorientation and a sense of panic that can lead to injury and/or death. Therefore, facilities should have their emergency and exit lighting components fully functional. The basic rule of emergency lighting is it shall indicate escape routes clearly with no uncertainty. This illumination will reveal routes to allow safe movement toward and through exits provided. Exit signs are required to show people either the direct path to or the precise location of the door.
What Color are Exit and Emergency Signs?
Exit and emergency lighting fixtures come in a wide variation of sizes, colors, and architectural styles. Exit signs can be any color or color combinations as long as they are readily visible or distinctive and acceptable to OSHA (Operational Safety and Health Administration) and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 101. However, it is possible that local building codes require a certain color.
So why are most signs red and green? The psychology of colors indicates that red is associated with danger or a warning, such as a stop sign.
Green on the other hand is related to safety which indicates ‘go’, clearly instructing people to remain calm and follow the signs. The color green can also be seen better versus other colors from a distance or in a dark environment. In some jurisdictions traditional “EXIT” signs are gradually being phased out in favor of green signs picturing a silhouetted person, nicknamed the Green Running Man. Currently the NFPA has no immediate plans to mandate this change, but stay informed.
Are Emergency and Exit Lighting Required in a Facility?
Emergency and exit lighting is required for egress in all occupancies and is addressed in the NFPA 101 code, with the exception of one- and two-family dwellings and rooming houses. Building safety codes also require that your emergency lights function for at least 1.5 hours. The 90-minute emergency lighting test makes sure that your emergency lights are ready to handle any situation.
In some jurisdictions it may be required that the emergency lighting system illuminate simultaneously with building fire alarm activation, and or flash on and off when the fire alarm is activated. It is important to work with a company that will be able to assist you in determining what codes would apply in your situation.
How Many Exit Signs are Required?
Every building’s layout is unique. The size and layout of the building plays a determining factor in understanding how many exit lights are required. For example, the number of floors, stairwells, corridors, doors, and elevators will influence the number of lights. Refer to your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) when determining the number of emergency lights and exit lights required.
What are the Testing Requirements for Emergency and Exit Lights?
Regardless of the size or type of facility, the building owner is responsible for the following frequency of tests. 30-second tests every 30 days to ensure required illumination and 90-minute tests every year to simulate a long-term emergency. Written documentation must be kept and presented to confirm both monthly and annual functional testing. The testing involves cutting the power to the facility’s emergency lighting units as in an emergency situation. During the tests, all emergency lighting units must be fully operational. Code requirements for testing and maintenance will vary by jurisdiction. Testing of these devices may seem general in nature but can prove very time consuming for a facility maintenance staff to complete and can require hours of work especially when most units are mounted several feet from the floor which could require a ladder or a lift in most cases. When building owners have their systems professionally tested and maintained, they can have peace of mind that their systems are working properly, code compliant and capable of supporting emergency lights during any power outage.
Summit Fire & Security will help ensure your building is protected and compliant with emergency and exit lighting. Contact us for assistance, including installation, maintenance, testing and service for your emergency and exit lighting.