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Regulations Surrounding Exit Signs and Emergency Lighting

Last Updated: May 21, 2013

In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulates the fire safety of commercial and large residential buildings. Often considered the foremost authority on emergency egress issues in the country, the NFPA’s guidelines are routinely legalized by city governments—including those throughout TN, AR, and MS—and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Both exit signs and emergency lighting are required by law in public and private facilities across the nation—making it very important you understand relevant codes, requirements, and regulations. Exit signs and emergency lighting are crucial components of any evacuation plan and a necessary link to safe escape when danger strikes.

For more information, call State Systems at 901-531-6550 or keep reading to learn more.

What Are Exit Sign Requirements?

Required exit signs must be suitably illuminated by a reliable light source and be visible in both normal and emergency lighting modes. The illuminated surface of the exit sign should have a value of not less than 5 ft. candles. NFPA 101 requires 5 ft. candles for internally and externally illuminated signs with some exceptions, such as approved self-luminous or electroluminescent signs that provide evenly illuminated letters. Signs cannot have decorations, furnishings, or pieces of equipment that impair the visibility of an exit sign. Other brightly illuminated signs, displays, or objects must never be placed in the line of vision of a required exit sign.

OSHA has established further requirements for exit signs:

  • Exits must be marked with a visible sign.
  • Exit access must be marked with readily visible signs whenever the exit or the way to reach an exit would not be immediately visible to occupants.
  • Any door, passageway, or stairway that is not an exit or way of exit access, but is located or arranged in such a way that it could be mistaken for exit, should be identified by a sign reading “Not an Exit” or something similar; alternatively, a sign indicating its actual character, such as “To Basement” or “To Storeroom,” should be installed.
  • Signs designating an exit or a way of exit access must be distinctive in color and contrast with decorations, interior finish, or other signs.
  • Every sign must have the word “EXIT” in plainly legible letters not less than 6 in. high, with the principle stroke of the letter being .75 in. wide.
  • Where the direction of travel to the nearest exit is not immediately apparent, a sign reading “EXIT” or similar designation with an arrow indicating the direction to the exit is required.

What Are Emergency Lighting Requirements?

Requirements for emergency lighting are established by NFPA 101. Emergency illumination, if required, must provide a minimum of 1.5 hours of light. Emergency lighting should be installed to provide initial illumination of not less than an average of 1 ft. candle. This level can decline to a minimum average of 0.6 ft. candle or 0.06 ft. at any one point at the end of an emergency lighting time of 1.5 hours. The maximum illumination at any one point can be no more than 40 times the minimum illumination at any one point to prevent excessively bright and dark spots.

As you can see there are strict requirements surrounding both exit signs and emergency lighting. Additionally, these components must be inspected in timely intervals—according to guidelines established by NFPA 101. Contact us online today to learn more.

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