Emergency egress markings are a basic life safety specification. As modern buildings grow in size and complexity, efficient systems for emergency egress are also becoming increasingly important. With safety, sustainability and building efficiency leading the path to building innovation, newly updated fire and life safety codes introduced just last year have strengthened the standard for emergency egress path marking.

The 2009 International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC) and National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code all include provisions for new safety standards with regard to emergency egress. This includes a set of requirements for luminous egress path markings to be installed in all new as well as existing buildings taller than five stories.

Understanding the new code changes
Every second counts during an emergency building evacuation. The updated egress codes reflect this sense of urgency as they serve to better protect the health and safety of the community by including revisions that accommodate innovative design ideas, new technologies, modern materials and methods for building construction. Photoluminescent egress markings are now at the forefront of the new technology available for building safety today.

In 2009, the International Code Council introduced the latest editions of the IBC and IFC codes in which sections of the code changes accounted for enhancing the path of travel in case of emergency, where photoluminescent markings can be easily implemented as highly visible signs, floor arrows and doorway markers.

Now, luminous egress path markings will be required in all new and existing institutional, educational, business, hotel, public assembly and hospitality residential buildings over five stories tall. Local building inspectors and fire code officials will strictly enforce these new codes, where these luminous markings are now required for all of the building’s doors, steps, landings, handrails, perimeters, and obstacles in the egress pathway.

Luminous marking solutions
Luminous egress path markings are critical to safe evacuations because they create visible directional markings and safe exit passageways instead of emergencies characterized by panic and confusion. In the dark, a photoluminescent egress and exit guidance system provides a calmer sense of safety and alleviates panicked and hurried reactions from those seeking a quick exit.

Sections of the IBC and IFC codes require luminous egress path markings that delineate the path to vertical exits, which include any path of travel such as the facility’s stairs, ramps, escalators or a fire escape These exits may be above or below the street level, while horizontal exits are marked by passage from one part of a building to another.

These path markings can be identified by solid, continuous stripes of glow-in-the-dark adhesive tape to provide easy-to-see and easy-to-follow escape routes for the building’s occupants. These stripes will need to be applied to the full length of the stairways (on each and every step), stair landing edges and on the handrail in order to meet code specifications. The NFPA standard update indicates there should be a contrasting color on the leading edge of the stairway that must also be an integral part of the step.

During low visibility evacuations, it’s important to keep occupants moving. If an evacuee has a misstep, an injury or a resulting traffic jam could have dangerous implications to other evacuees. When markings are applied according to IBC and IFC guidelines, photoluminescent egress path markings create a critical spatial awareness of the stairs and steps as if the stairwell were fully lit.

As with the spatial awareness of the steps, evacuees need to see the handrail for balance. The 2009 IBC and IFC codes require photoluminescent egress markings to be placed on all handrails and handrail extensions. To enhance visibility in dark conditions, stairway landings and other floor areas must also have the luminous stripes to mark the floor and walls as the perimeter of the exit area

Obstacles along the egress path at or below 6 feet, 6 inches in height and projecting more than 4 inches into the egress path must be outlined with a marking pattern that alternates equal bands of luminescent and black material. To keep people safe from tripping over these obstacles or bumping their heads, the objects can be marked with photoluminescent lines so these obstructions are visible. When the evacuee reaches the exit enclosure doorway, the door should have a luminous emergency exit sign and the door hardware should be marked with photoluminescent material. Also, the doorframe’s top and sides should be marked with the solid photoluminescent material to help evacuees identify exactly where the exit is, even in total darkness.

Efficient implementations for time-saving evacuation
Photoluminescent emergency signs and egress markings enable the efficient and orderly evacuation of people out of public buildings. There are several easy options for photoluminescent solutions for marking stairs, treads, handrails, floor landings, door frames, door hardware as well as floor identification signs and exit signs. The implementation of these egress systems is also relatively efficient. Plus, the low-cost of the reliable illumination source and the sustainable nature of self-luminous materials make these systems cost effective.

Glow-in-the-dark anti-slip tape can be quickly adhered to clean floors and walls where path markings and directional arrows need to be made. Handrail covers with a photoluminescent glow channel easily snap on and wrap over the top of existing handrails. Durable and weather-resistant handrail covers can be permanently installed with help of an adhesive.

For high traffic stairwell areas, consider stair-nosing with an integrated glow channel as a durable and wear-resistant alternative to photoluminescent marking tapes. Easy to install and maintain, photoluminescent signs, markers and stripes are ideal for retrofit.

For building egress planning and implementation, photoluminescent products are a fail-safe emergency lighting system that will bring your building up to code.