Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Does "Up to Code" Mean Up to Snuff? Emergency Lighting Expert Urges Building Owners to Go beyond Code

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Does "Up to Code" Mean Up to Snuff? Emergency Lighting Expert Urges Building Owners to Go beyond Code

Article excerpt

Most commercial buildings meet current safety codes for exit and emergency lighting. But does that make them safe? Given the recent state of catastrophic fires in the United States, that answer may be "No." According to one industry expert, existing codes do not begin to reflect the state of the art in building safety.

"Current technology has far surpassed many state and local codes," said Robert P. Cross, president of Mule Lighting Inc., Providence, R.I. He urges business owners to be proactive and go beyond minimum code requirements in making their buildings as safe as possible.

"Many building owners and facility managers I speak with want to do everything they can to maximize safety at their locations, but don't know where to begin," Cross explained. For these companies, Cross offers a number of specific suggestions:

LED Exit Signs: Exit signage is required by code above all doorways, corridors and other exits. But in the case of fire, smoke rising to the ceiling can often block these signs. Consider installing additional exit signage at floor level, suggests Cross. The National Fire Protection Association recommends mounting these low level signs between 6 and 8 inches from the floor. Cross also suggests that emergency signage "speak" the same language as occupants: if your workers or clientele are predominately Spanish-speaking, additional exit signs that read "SALIDA" can be installed.

Alternative lighting sources can provide long-lasting, energy-efficient emergency lighting and signage that offer solid-state reliability and require less maintenance and less battery draw from back-up sources. According to Cross, exit signs that employ light emitting diodes (LEDs) as a light source have a significantly longer life span than conventional lights such as incandescent or fluorescent--and present less chance of failing at a critical time. In addition, the use of LED lights provides uniform illumination, which testing has shown increases visibility and readability.

"Smart" Emergency Lighting: State-of-the-art technology offers several "smart" options for emergency lighting and exit signs, Cross explains. Safety product maintenance can be a time-consuming and expensive part of an operation, with codes requiring system testing every 30, 60 or 90 days. …

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