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Published on
March 20th, 2020

Emergency Exit Signs Requirements: Everything You Should Know as a Property Manager

As a property manager in New York City, many decisions will be left up to your discretion. However, emergency exit signs requirements are strictly legislated, so it’s vital to make sure every property you manage is in compliance. Failure to do so can result in citations, fines, and worse, loss of life and legal liability in an emergency.

If you’re new to property management, have taken on a new building, or are in the renovation process, now is the time to learn about the rules and regulations for emergency exit signs. Here’s a quick guide that will bring you up to speed so you can avoid any violations of the law.

Exit Sign Locations

For the most part, emergency exit signage requirements in New York City follow the state laws. Exit signage must be placed in such a way that it functions in every emergency.

Path of Egress

While you may think of exit signs as something directly above doors, they should also indicate a path of egress for building occupants, especially if there is a distance for them to travel to an exit door. In many New York City structures, whether apartments or office buildings, there are long hallways people must travel to leave. Therefore, your exit signs must point the way for them.

Distance Between Signs

Remember, visitors to your building may not know where the exits are. Even regular tenants may become disoriented in an emergency, or their long-distance vision may be impaired by smoke.

Keep these rules in mind when defining your path of egress:

  • Exit signs should be visible from all directions of travel.
  • Chevrons must not be confusing, nor be able to be reversed.
  • There should be no more than 100 feet (or the viewing distance specified for the sign by its manufacturer) between signs, whether in a corridor or between the corridor and the final exit.

Placement of Signs

The precise placement of your emergency exit signs should take into account the likelihood that people will be trying to view them in a smoke-filled corridor or in a panic situation. In some instances, you will have a choice between placing a sign flat against a wall or perpendicular to the wall. Always choose a placement that provides the most visibility from the greatest number of angles.

Ideally, you want to mount your signs as low as possible so they can be viewed through smoke. This also aids people in wheelchairs and children who are looking for signs from a lower angle.

Exit Sign Graphics

The law also dictates what emergency signs can look like. Exit signage must be uniform in appearance so it is instantly recognized by any building occupant in an emergency.

Sign Colors

Both New York State and New York City state that emergency exit signs must be lettered in red on a white background. Exit signs must be illuminated, not painted or drawn. The better the contrast of the letter to the background, the more easily your signs will be read in an emergency.

Letter Size

Letters on an emergency exit sign must be in a standard uppercase sans serif font. Letters should be 8 inches tall with strokes of 1 inch wide. Each letter must be 2 inches wide, with the exception of the letter “I.” There should be at least 3/8 inch of space between each letter.

Other Graphics Requirements

The brighter an exit sign, the better. While some New York City regulations state that 5 foot-candles is the minimum brightness, most buildings follow the rule for hotels and places of assembly and use signage of at least 25 foot-candles.

Self-luminescent signs (tritium-powered) are not permitted. Photoluminescent signs must remain visible for at least 8 hours after light exposure. Better yet are signs connected to an emergency power system that provides at least 90 minutes of power following an electrical outage.

Pro Tips

Looking for some extra tips to make your signage work best in your properties? Here are a few final things to keep in mind.

  1. Get rid of outdated signage: Any signs that don’t meet the above requirements should be tossed, including green exit signs that are still visible in some locations.
  2. Think about building staff and workers: Don’t forget to put emergency exit signs in places where workers or staff may be, although not the public, such as basements and boiler rooms.
  3. Go beyond the bare minimum: Consider adding electrically powered or photoluminescent arrows and lines low on the walls or on the floor for added direction in long or confusing corridors.
  4. Educate building occupants: Make sure regular tenants know the best emergency egress path for them, indicated on building maps like hotels use, and make sure they know where emergency alarms and fire extinguishers are located.
  5. Test your system: Before you have an emergency or fire inspection, make sure your signage system works so you can fix any issues with visibility or power supply.

Having the proper emergency exit signage can protect both you and your tenants in case of an emergency such as a fire. To learn more about emergency exit signs requirements, test your existing fixtures or to get help with your signage, contact Bolt Electric today.

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