Photoluminescence can guide occupants out

  November 2, 2012

Today’s tip is to consider photoluminescent egress lighting to guide people out of your building in a fire or other emergency. The technique has been used for years on planes, trains and ships to assist evacuations, particularly when power is out. Today, photoluminescent egress lighting is being adopted by facilities to help guide occupants in emergencies when there is little or no light. The light typically glows in the dark to define a space or path so occupants can orient themselves and identify a safe route.

The components require no electricity, since they absorb energy from ambient light and re-emit it when the light is out. They are measured primarily by brightness and the amount of time they produce light. Performance depends on the pigment concentration, the intensity of light used to charge the pigment, how long the pigment is charged and the type of light used to charge the pigment. Fully charged, most pigments produce light at least eight hours, with the light level slowly decreasing.

Photoluminescent signs and markers require little maintenance and no electricity, other than to power the ambient light sources used to recharge them. They do not deteriorate from use and are nontoxic and non-radioactive.

New York City’s Local Law 26, passed in 2004, law requires installation of photoluminescent emergency markings in any office building more than 75 feet tall, regardless of age. Part of Local Law 26 establishes the technical standard, RS 6-1, for installation of the signs and markings. The standard requires photoluminescent markings on:
  • All exit doors
  • All doors that lead to corridors that serve as exit passageways
  • The entire horizontal leading edge or side markings of all steps
  • The entire leading edge of all landings
  • The entire length of all handrails (in new buildings)
  • The entire length of all building egress paths
  • Edge markings for any obstacle that projects more than four inches into an egress path
  • Direction signs that point towards the means of egress.

In addition, "not an exit" signs must be posted over dead ends in a building.

Pathway marking systems for new and existing high rises are also required by the 2009 International Building Code and the 2009 International Fire Code.


Read next on FacilitiesNet