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Compliant Exit Signs

Written by Steve Hudgik

Proper Placement and Visibility Are Essential for Compliant Exit Signs

best practices safety week
OSHA Safety Signs Best Practices Guide

Why Is Having Code Compliant Exit Signs Important?

People often do not appreciate the importance of exit signs, until there is an emergency. When something goes wrong and the building is filling with smoke, all visitors and employees must be informed of the most efficient way to exit the building. Not everyone is familiar with a building's layout and during an emergency it can be easy to become confused. That's why having code compliant exit signs throughout a facility is important.

What Is A Compliant Exit Sign?

Code compliant exit signs must meet certain standards of visibility, illumination, placement and application.

Compliant Exit Signs - Visibility

The NFPA 1010 Life Safety Code requires that exit signs have a minimum level of visibility. The lettering must be at least six inches in height and the width of the strokes of the letters cannot be less than three-fourth of an inch. Except for the letter "I," the width of the letters cannot be less than two inches. The spacing between the letters is important for legibility. It cannot be less than three-eighths of an inch. These are the minimum lettering size requirements. Larger signs would have larger lettering.

Compliant Exit Signs - Illumination

All exit signs must be suitably illuminated such that they can be seen and read in reduced or no light situations. NFPA 101 requires a minimum of 5 ft-candles illumination for exit signs. In the past this has typically been provided by internal electric powered light with a battery backup. Recently buildings are being changed to use photoluminescent materials, such as DuraLabel's BoldGlo Phosphorescent tape. BoldGlow provides reliable and compliant exit signs that glow in the dark for up to eight hours. This provides a compliant exit sign without the need for wiring and batteries. However, an external light source is required to ensure the exit sign is "charged" and ready when its self-illuminating properties are needed.

Compliant Exit Signs - Exit Sign Placement

To be code compliant there must be two exit signs at each exit door.

The NFPA 101 code requires that there be an exit sign no less than 80 inches from the finished floor to the bottom of the sign. There should be nothing placed near the exit sign that would block its visibility.

For ADA compliance, an additional exit sign must be installed on the wall adjacent to the latch side of the door. The mounting height must be 60 inches above the finished floor to the center line of the sign. Braille should also be printed on this exit sign for vision-impaired persons.

Compliant Exit Signs - Installation and Maintenance

Exit signs must not only be clearly visible, of the proper size, and be illuminated, they also must be in good working condition. For example, exit signs must point in the correct direction and, if damaged, they must be replaced immediately. NFPA 101 requires that exit signs connected to a battery be tested and maintained on a regular basis. Exit signs made using DuraLabel BoldGlow Phosphorescent tape do not require maintenance. All exit signs must be visually inspected on a monthly basis.

Compliant Exit Signs - "NOT AN EXIT" Signs

Doors that might be mistaken for an exit need to be marked with a "Not an Exit" sign to prevent confusion. Signs indicating "Not an Exit" play a similar role as exit signs. Just as exit signs direct occupants to correct exit passageways, "Not an Exit" signs lead people away from incorrect passageways.

Safety Sign Best Practices Guide

A complete reference guide to OSHA Sign Making

Compliant Exit Signs - Staging and Refuge Areas

There is a need for refuge areas for people with disabilities who cannot use the stairwells to exit the building. A refuge area is a safe, protected area in which people can wait for evacuation. A staging area is an unprotected space, typically located by elevator lobbies, where disabled individuals can wait for firefighters or police officers to safely escorted them out of the building.

If emergency conditions become extreme, and it is safer to stay inside the building, all occupants and visitors should gather in the refuge areas. These are enclosed spaces that are protected from heat and smoke where people can wait to be rescued. Each refuge area must be identified by a clear sign, with Braille directing people to the safe area.

Making Compliant Exit Signs

When you need exit signs, turn to your DuraLabel custom label printer. With DuraLabel you can quickly make glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent exit signs that work year-after-year without maintenance. You can also make the signs and labels needed to mark doors as not being an exit, and for marking pathways to exits. Plus, your DuraLabel printer can handle all of your other code required labels and signs including pipe markers, arc flash labels and GHS/RTK labeling. DuraLabel printers are the label and sign printers that do it all.

Call 1-888-326-9244 today for more information.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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