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Published on
December 3rd, 2020

Exit Sign Placement: Best Spots to Install Exit Signs

If you own or manage a property in New York City, you must hang exit signs throughout the building. This is so tenants and visitors can find their way out in case of an emergency. It’s particularly important that these signs are highly visible and strategically placed. If people have to leave the building in the dark due to a power failure or in heavy smoke from a fire, they’ll look for exit signs to show them the way outside to safety. Here are some tips for exit sign placement, so you can both comply with local laws and make your property safe for occupants.

What the Law Says

Minimum requirements

Many types of buildings in New York City are required to display exit signs. These include:

  • Residential properties over a certain number of units
  • Hotels and rooming houses
  • Office buildings
  • Commercial, industrial, and manufacturing facilities
  • Educational institutions
  • Daycare providers
  • Places of worship
  • Medical and dental facilities

The New York City Building Code, Title 27 Subchapter 6, determines the minimum requirements for exit signs in your property. This includes how bright the exit signs must be, the size of the lettering, and how long they must be powered during an emergency for people to find their way out of the building. It also dictates where signs must be placed. There are variations on the code depending on the type of building use and its occupants, so it’s best to scrutinize the code carefully for your particular situation.

Some common rules include:

  • Every exit must have an exit sign that says “EXIT.”
  • There should be no more than 100 feet between signs, either between signs in a corridor or pathway or between signs in a corridor and the final exit.
  • Exit signs should be placed perpendicular to the exit opening for better visibility.
  • Directional signs with chevrons (arrows) should be placed on long corridors or pathways leading to exits.
  • Open workspaces containing cubicles should have exit signs marked in a manner similar to walled corridors.
  • Doors leading to an exit pathway should also be marked with an exit sign.
  • Stairs and landings are required to have exit signs as well.
  • Doors leading from stairways must have the floor number posted.
  • Doors that are not an exit, or do not lead to an exit, but might be confused as such should be marked “NOT AN EXIT.”
  • If no re-entry is permitted from a stairway, the door must be marked accordingly, along with information telling users on which floor they may find the nearest re-entry.
  • Every elevator landing should have a sign that reads “IN CASE OF FIRE, USE STAIRS UNLESS OTHERWISE INSTRUCTED.”
  • Buildings in Occupancy Group J1 (day-to-day or week-to-week rental for sleeping accommodation) must have a diagram posted on the interior of the door leading to the corridor. The diagram should indicate the location of the room on a map of the building’s floor, along with the pathways to egress.

As well as the New York City Building Code some properties may be subject to additional laws regarding the placement of emergency exit signs. These may be imposed by:

  • Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Using Common Sense

Supplementing minimum required signs

The guidance given to property owners by the New York City Building Code is the bare minimum required by law. However, you may find that you want to add extra signage to make egress even easier or to mark the exit path more clearly for certain populations that frequently use your building, such as children or people in wheelchairs. Adding signs at lower levels, for example, makes visibility easier for groups who may miss signs above doorways. Take a walk through the entirety of your property, including where staff work, and make sure your exit signs are adequate and logical for emergency evacuation.

Getting Expert Assistance

NYC exit lighting pros

If the New York City Building Code or other legal requirements aren’t clear to you, we’re happy to make a call to your building to help you set up your exit signs to comply with the law. We understand applying the code can be confusing. Besides the placement of the signs, you will need to consider things like regular and emergency power sources, which usually requires the help of a licensed electrician. We frequently help new building owners, those who are upgrading their properties, and owners who may be changing the building use and therefore have new signage requirements.

Failure to comply with emergency exit sign requirements can result in fire inspection failures, citations, and stiff fines. Furthermore, it could leave property owners liable for injury or loss of life in an emergency. To make sure your building has the right exit sign placement, call Bolt Electric at 212-434-0098 or use our online form to schedule an appointment. Don’t wait until you have a problem with the city. Reach out today.

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