Do Emergency Exit Signs Need to be Illuminated?

Emergency Exit Signs: The Basics

For businesses of all sizes, you must provide the safest environment possible to your clients. Therefore, you want to make sure that your business has clear, easy-to-see and identify emergency exit signs.

No matter the size, location, or industry of your company, be prepared to clearly mark for your customers and employees how they can exit any area of the building, in case of an emergency.

You must clearly mark:

  • The pathway to the exit door
  • The exit door itself
  • The point where the exit meets a public path or area

In addition to visual cues, you may also need to consider emergency exit signage that takes into consideration the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A well lit emergency exit sign in a hallway helps lead people to safety.
A well lit emergency exit sign in a hallway helps lead people to safety.

Yes, Light Up Your Exits! Lighting vs. Illumination

As a business owner, you may be well-aware of the need to lead people inside your buildings to the most convenient, safest exits. But, do the signs need to be visible if “no one” is there? Outside your operating hours, or in businesses that require lower lighting conditions, what is the requirement with “lighting” your emergency exit signs?

Safety regulations state that all emergency exit signs must be lit. Now, they can be illuminated – meaning, they can light from inside – or non-illuminated. Non-illuminated signage may be lit from an outside source.

Signs that are lit from the outside must:

  • be clear and readable from 5 feet away
  • have a reflective disk or patch of a certain size to make them easier to spot

Choose illuminated emergency exit signs

Illuminated lighting is one of the surest ways to maintain safety for people at your property during an emergency. People rely on clear, easy-to-follow directions to guide them in case of an emergency. Proper emergency lighting make your property safe and pleasant, and it could help save lives.

When planning emergency lighting, consistency is key. Maintain consistency throughout your building or across multiple properties under the same brand. In most cases, you can choose a combination of two or three signs and coordinate them. As customers become accustomed to one area of the building, or one business location, they look for those familiar elements elsewhere.

Types of Illuminated Emergency Exit Signs

Today’s emergency exit signs come in a variety of designs to mix with the aesthetic of your building and your brand. Choose from a spectrum of colors, different materials, and mountings from the ceiling or the surface of your choice.

You can still get basic designs that clearly spell out “EXIT” for people, you can also find designs that include motion-sensor lighting, sirens and bilingual auditory alarms, flashing lights, and more.

You can choose from engineering for wet or high-moisture areas, or specialty designs for children, elderly, or people with special needs. Many designs now include images, arrows, and more than the simple word.

Choose the emergency exit signage that's the right shape, size, color and message for your business.
Choose the emergency exit signage that's the right shape, size, color and message for your business.

More: Illuminated Emergency Exit Signs

Illuminated signs include a few additional requirements:

  • You need at least 90 minutes of emergency lighting if the building power fails.
  • Emergency lighting should be set at a lower lighting level and uniform throughout the building.
  • Light design must comply with all safety laws.
  • They must undergo regular and standardized testing to prove functionality and compliance with all regulations.

Although businesses range in size, design, operations and management style, and more, they are all held to the same standards of safety. No matter your industry, your business must place emergency exit signs as s a priority.

In addition to the federal requirements, consider the local, state, or industry-specific regulations.

Last safety tip: Keep the lights on

Yes, you'll have regular inspections conducted by security companies or government agencies, but you should visually inspect your emergency exit signs daily. Ideally, you can prevent long-term disaster. Look for tampering, power backup failure, or other conditions that can make your lighted exit signs inoperable.

Get the help of professionals. Get your questions answered. There's nothing more important the safety of the people at your business.