What Are the Requirements for Exit Signs and Emergency Lighting?

by | Nov 14, 2023 | 0 comments |

When it comes to exit signs and emergency lighting, strict laws and requirements apply to all commercial businesses. Why laws and regulations are in place is for a good reason. Exit pathways must be well-lit to ensure safe passage for building occupants during an emergency. Understanding and complying with these requirements is crucial for ensuring everyone’s safety.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the exit sign and emergency lighting requirements for commercial buildings.

Emergency Lighting and Exist Sign Requirements

Exit signs and emergency lighting are essential for the safety of employees and visitors. Emergency lighting guides building occupants to the exits, helping ensure everyone gets out safely and quickly.

Different agencies are responsible for setting the regulatory standards and we’ll take a look at each one.

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Exit Sign Requirements and Emergency Lighting Standards – National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

The NFPA 101 Life Safety Code provides detailed guidelines for emergency lighting and exit signs.

Exit sign requirements state the signs must be visible and legible in both color and design. The walkway to the exit door must also be marked with visible signage.

Emergency lighting requirements include lights automatically turning on in the event of a power failure. The lights must also be able to provide illumination for at least 1.5 hours. The illumination level should average one candle foot (10.76 lux) and be placed at floor level along exit pathways.

Emergency Lighting Requirements and Exit Sign Placement – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA requirements for exit signs and emergency lighting apply to all occupied commercial buildings across the United States. OSHA guidelines are listed in Standard 1910.37 and include the following.

  • The exit route must be adequately illuminated
  • Exit signs must be placed for optimal visibility at all times. The exit sign design must include either a reliable light source or constructed from a self-luminous material
  • Exit doors must be properly marked with signage reading ‘exit’

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)

JCAHO’s standard EC.02.05.07 EP 1 states battery-powered emergency lighting systems must be tested once a month for at least 30 seconds. Monthly visual inspections of exit signs are also required.

Along with performing a 30-second test, battery-powered emergency lighting systems must also be tested once a year for 90 minutes. In medical facilities, all battery-powered emergency lighting must be tested monthly for 30 minutes or longer.

Action Services Group offers National Life Safety Lighting Services. No matter your footprint or number of locations, we have the experience and electricians necessary to provide your organization with a National Life Safety Lighting Solution. Schedule a call and talk to one of our experts today!

International Building Code (IBC)

Section 1009 of the International Building Code lists requirements for exit signs and emergency lighting. The guidelines include,

  • All exit doors and pathways must be adequately illuminated when the building is occupied
  • Emergency lighting systems must be installed in facilities where artificial lighting is necessary to illuminate emergency pathways and exits. The emergency lighting must come on automatically in the event of a power failure. The emergency lighting must also remain on for at least 90 minutes.
  • All exit signs must be clearly marked and installed in locations above or on exit doors. The signs must be easy to distinguish from other decorations or types of signage. The lettering on exit signs must also be legible from a distance.
  • Emergency lighting systems and exit signs must use a reliable power source that can include batteries, generators, or other types of backup power systems. The power source must be able to illuminate pathways and exit signs for a specific amount of time.
  • Exit signs and emergency lighting must be regularly tested and maintained. This includes tests, inspections, and records about the system’s operations.

Local Municipalities

Along with the above-mentioned national exit sign and emergency lighting regulations, local municipalities often have specific codes for commercial buildings. These codes often vary by region, so it is best to check with your local fire marshal or fire safety inspector for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions About Emergency Lighting and Exit Sign Requirements

Here are the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions about exit signs and emergency lighting requirements.

Where Should I Install Emergency Lighting?

All exit routes including hallways, stairwells, and corridors must have emergency backup lighting installed. Bathrooms, storage rooms, and other windowless internal areas larger than a standard broom closet must also be equipped with emergency lighting.

Where Should I Install Emergency Exit Signs?

Emergency exit signs should always be illuminated when the building is occupied. The signs should be installed on doors designated as emergency exit routes.

Contact Action Services Group for Your Emergency Lighting Needs

Whether you are retrofitting your emergency lighting and exit signs or you need a life safety lighting solution, contact Action Services Group today. We will review the regulations with you and ensure your commercial building meets all safety compliance requirements. Call 610-558-9773, email [email protected] or schedule a call to discuss your options.


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