Building safety regulations require that every commercial facility be fitted with a minimum number of lit emergency exit signs. Anywhere the closest fire escape route is not immediately evident must have a visibly lit exit sign with an arrow pointing in the correct direction. Exterior doors must be marked with a similar exit sign, letting everyone know which door leads them to the safe outdoor areas. However, you have no reason to stop at the bare minimum of what the fire marshal demands.
Particularly in large buildings that often hold a large number of employees or customers, panic and complex hallway systems can cause people to get lost, turned around, and even fail to see the obvious exit signs glowing nearby. This is why many facilities choose to augment their emergency exit lighting with clever and architecturally appealing ways. Arrows pointing people in the right directions, glowing paths, and alternate escape routes can all save lives when panic and smoke are in the air. Let's look at five effective and clever ways to guide your building occupants safely outdoors in case of a fire or other evacuation-worthy emergency.
1) Glowing Arrows Along Walls
In an emergency where people are afraid and pushing into each other to escape, many people will stick to a wall and try to follow that to the nearest exit to avoid getting trampled and provide themselves some stability. People may also find themselves unsure which way to go in a long corridor or a maze of office hallways. A simple progression of glowing red arrows that light up with the fire alarm can make a world of difference for someone who is frightened and possibly a first-timer in your building.
The best place to put these arrows is embedded into your wall design at approximately elbow to shoulder height. This is where eyes fall when people are worried and they will find themselves instinctually following the glowing arrows to safety.
2) Chevrons Embedded in the Floor
Cleverly designed commercial buildings have been using tile patterns as guide paths for centuries. While it may not be obvious to guests, staff and regular clients may know that the yellow line will take them to the cafeteria, the blue line to the bathroom, or that a cluster of green tiles means there are elevators nearby. You can use the same trick to guide both regulars and first-time visitors alike to the exits by using red emergency-lit floor tiles in the shape of arrow-chevrons pointing toward the nearest emergency exit.
Most of the time, these tiles will appear to be a simple part of the floor pattern. But if the power goes out or the brightness is turned up, people will have no trouble figuring out that the glowing arrows on the floor will lead them to safety.
3) Inside Handicap Safety Rails
Not everyone can follow the exit signs in the same path. Facility occupants who are bound to wheel chairs, walkers, crutches, or other mobility limitations may need to find a handicap ramp before they are able to escape, and evacuating from an emergency is no time to be unsure about where the next ramp is.
You can make finding escape-route handicap ramps easy by lighting the handrails themselves along these paths. Simply embed a thick line of glowing red light into each safety rail or on posts near the ramp ends to help people in need find the safest path outdoors.
4) In or Above Directory Signs
Many more complex facilities like hospitals, tower office buildings, and department stores place directory signs all over the building to help people get where they're gong. Sometimes these signs are placed helpfully at every corner and sometimes only in central locations. But either way, people who traverse your building will be use to looking to these signs for direction. So why not make them part of your emergency exit strategy?
By placing battery-powered emergency exit arrows in your directory signs, you can use the familiarity of these signs to the advantage of everyone in the building. Staff, clients, and visitors who know how to navigate will all instinctually glance to the directories for help during their evacuation and will be grateful for the helpful arrows pointing them toward the nearest emergency exit.
5) Beside Fire-Escape Window Exits
Finally, it is possible that your building was constructed with windows that open to allow people to escape either out from the ground floor or onto fire escapes. If these fire escapes are well-maintained, you have every reason to use these emergency exits as they were designed to be used. However, not every business with window-access fire escapes uses these to their advantage in emergency situations.
If your building features fire escapes, it's worth your while to have these inspected, approved and then to hang emergency exit signs by them. This way, building occupants cut off from the standard escape routes can make their choice to escape through a window instead.
The fire marshal requires you to use certain methods to indicate your emergency exits to help everyone escape in a safe and timely fashion from interior fires. But there's no need to limit your emergency lighting solutions to regulation-minimums. For the safety of your staff, clients, and building guests, these clever additional uses of battery-powered emergency lighting can help everyone stay calm and follow the best path to their nearest exit. For more information about both regulation and optional emergency lighting installation, contact us today!