What Exit & Emergency Sign Lighting Is Required For Buildings?

Seconds count during an emergency, and when a quick exit is needed, emergency signage and lighting shows the way. Much of this signage must conform to certain standards to ensure they are easy to see during an emergency and from a distance. In general, these standards require emergency signage to be:

  • Installed at every exit route – Under Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 29, builders and employers must adequately illuminate each exit route, so that a person with normal vision should be able to see. Further, each exit must be clearly presented with a sign that says exit.
  • Within line of sight – If the exit route is not easy to detect right away, then signage must be installed along the exit access that direct people toward the route. An exit sign must also be within line of sight at all times.
  • Adequately illuminated – All exit signs must be lit to at least five foot-candles on their surfaces by a reliable source of lighting. That’s the same level of brightness that’s required in commercial storage areas.
  • Colored for contrast – Contrast is something our eyes pick up on quickly, so regulators require signs to be colored so that they are distinct from their environment. Red and green are the most common choices for exit signs.
  • Easily legible – Exits signs must be easily read from a distance by someone with normal vision, so the letters in the word “exit” must be at least six inches high.
  • Available when power is unavailable – If the building’s power is cut, all emergency lighting and exit signs must remain on for at least 90 minutes.
Exit & Emergency Sign Lighting

Given the stringent requirements above, most builders and employers opt for proven light and signage designs, including those offered by lighting experts like Bulb Daddy.

How Is Exit & Emergency Sign Lighting Regulated?

Exit & emergency sign lighting were adopted as necessary by multiple regulators starting in the early 20th century, in response to building fires that resulted in tragic loss of life. The worst was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan, which caught fire on March 25, 1911, and left nearly 150 people dead. In the fire’s aftermath, many safety issues were revealed, and the city put together a commission to review factory conditions elsewhere.

Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are responsible for regulating emergency lighting. In addition, emergency lighting is often governed by local building codes, and there may be additional requirements in some cities.

What Are Some Different Exit & Emergency Sign Lighting Designs?

Most builders and employers adhere to standard emergency signage and lighting designs, but emergency lighting is available in an array of builds, so there’s a fit for every environment. Some of your options include:

  • Material – Emergency lighting fixtures can be housed in different materials, and the right choice is a balance between durability, cost and appearance. Thermoplastic fixtures are inexpensive and reliable but are only a good fit for indoor settings. Steel-housed fixtures are more appropriate for commercial and industrial settings, including warehouses and factories.
  • Hazard protection – Waterproof emergency lighting is also available and recommended for environments where moisture is a common problem. Some emergency fixtures are also designed for freezing temperatures and are built with an internal heater to ensure the lamp’s reliability. Emergency lighting is also available for environments where flammable gas and materials are present, and it is manufactured for safety.
Exit & Emergency Sign Lighting

What Makes LED Technology The Best Fit For Exit & Emergency Sign Lighting?

LED lighting is quickly replacing other lighting technologies in many applications, and this is also true of emergency lighting. LEDs possess several advantages that make them an ideal fit for an emergency role. Some of them include:

  • Long-term performance and reliability – LEDs are, by far, the longest lasting lights on the market. Where an incandescent lamp will last a little over 1,000 hours and fluorescent tubes between 20,000 and 30,000 hours, an LED diode can provide between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of light. LEDs can do this while requiring close to zero maintenance, as long as the lights are tested annually. The expectation is that your emergency LED lighting will last for many years before any replacements are needed.
  • Durability – LED lighting is built on solid state circuitry, which is much more durable than fragile filament or gas chamber engineering. In the event of a significant natural disaster, your emergency lighting’s durability may be tested. LEDs are more likely to survive that test than other forms of lighting.
  • Energy efficiency – LED lighting is also the most energy efficiency lighting available. Measured in terms of lumens-to-watt, LEDs are up to 10 times more energy efficient than incandescent, providing more than 100 lumens with every watt of power. No other lighting technology can match that, including fluorescent, metal halide or HID.LED’s efficiency and lifespan advantages are something to keep in mind when considering cost effectiveness. While LEDs usually cost a bit more upfront, their extended lifespan and low operating cost means they can be the long-run cost effective option.
  • Intensity – Early generations of LED lighting couldn’t compete with established lighting technologies in terms of brightness, but that has changed. Some LED lights are among the brightest lamps available, and LEDs produce brilliant white illumination as a baseline, which is ideal for better visibility. Modern LED lighting is also effective at rendering color, so they do not alter color perception of nearby surfaces.

Exit & emergency sign lighting is an important safety measure that no building can do without. Given their importance, emergency lighting is tightly regulated for appearance and reliability, but there are established designs that builders and employers can opt for. No matter the choice, though, LEDs represent the most efficient, effective, and durable lighting option. There’s a lot of LED fixtures to choose from, though, so working with an established lighting expert like Bulb Daddy is recommended. This will ensure you get maximum performance and reliability out of your emergency lighting system.