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Exit signs

Exit signs are required by the current fire regulations. They are used to make sure that people know the location of the nearest way out of a building. All exit routes need to be clearly marked using signs that comply with the current fire regulations, and it should be possible to see an exit sign from any point in the building (except where an exit route is immediately obvious and, therefore, does not need a sign).

Styles of sign

To conform to the regulations, signs need to include a suitable symbol (or a set of symbols).  These symbols are used internationally and widely recognised. Signs that only have the words "Exit" or "Fire Exit" without the symbols must be replaced (or an additional sign must be added which includes the internationally recognised symbols).

Exit signs do not need to have any words at all, but including the words "Fire exit" or "Exit" on a sign will help people understand what the sign means if they are not familiar with the symbols. "Exit" should be used for the main entrance, with all other exit routes (that would only usually be used in a fire or emergency) being marked as "Fire exit" to avoid confusion.

There are three styles presently available for use:

ISO Exit Sign

Style 1: British Standard
Style 3: ISO 7010

These styles of exit sign sign have the 'moving person' going through a doorway. The ISO 7010 version is very similar to the British Standard version. 

Preference should be given to using the ISO 7010 sign for new installations.

A version of the British Standard is available with an additional flames symbol, which is intended for helthcare establishments only.

European Standard exit sign

Style 2: European Directive Format (92/58/EEC)

The European style sign shows a separate moving person and a door symbol. Note that the person runs in the direction of the doorway, with the arrow in the middle. This was, up until recently, the recommended sign style but is now being replaced with the ISO 7010 style (although this change is not mandatory at the moment).

The moving person without the rectangular door symbol does not comply with the regulations and should be replaced.

To prevent confusion, only one style of signs should be used in any one building.  In the case of the British Standard (Style 1) and ISO Standard (Style 3) signs, they are very similar and these signs can normally be mixed without causing confusion. Note, however, that many internally illuminated exit signs (emergency lights) are available only with Style 2 legends at present, but more are becoming available with the ISO 7010 Standard (Style 3) symbol.

Position of signs in rooms

Exit signs are needed to prevent confusion as to which is the safe way out of the premises, and are especially important for Public areas.

To start with, place a sign over every 'final exit' door like the main entrance or a fire exit door that leads from the premises to outside.  These signs would not normally have an arrow, but could include words to prevent confusion.

Place signs over every exit door from each room in the building. There is no need to put signs in small rooms like toilets and offices where there is only one exit or in areas where the public are not normally admitted and the exit route is obvious.  These signs should have an up arrow for 'straight on' or a down arrow in the case of the Style 2 European Directive format of sign.

Signs must not be mounted too high and need to be easily seen in the room. It is normal to fit them just above the exit door, at a height between 2.0 and 2.5 metres from the floor.  Avoid mounting signs on the door, as the sign is not easily viewed when the door is open.

Other signs might be needed to tell people about a change of direction.  A sign with a directional arrow (left or right) needs to be used in these situations. On long corridors, it is a good idea to place exit signs at eye level at regular intervals along the length of the corridor, especially where doors from rooms lead onto the corridor.  At stairs, it would be usual to use a sign with a 45 degree arrow to direct people in the direction of the exit route (such as a down and right arrow).  Signs mounted on walls would usually be fitted below 2.0 metres, but no lower than 1.7 metres.

In some situations, signs are also needed outside of a building, especially if the people evacuating the premises could remain at risk if they remain close to the final exit door.  Ideally these signs should show direct people to the assembly point, rather than showing the fire exit symbols.

Fixing signs

Signs can be fitted onto walls using screws, self-adhesive fixings or any other suitable fixing method. Many fire safety equipment companies use a silicone-based adhesive, or 'no nails' adhesive, but these can damage walls and other surfaces and are not recommended for many older and heritage buildings.

In some cases, it might be necessary to suspend exit signs on chains so that the sign can be seen easily or to protect historic building features. Temporarily stands can be used to locate signs during special events when the presence of the sign is not needed at other times.

Some Tips

To prevent confusion, signs should ideally be of a consistent size, shape and style and mounted in similar heights and locations throughout a building.  However, larger signs would be needed if the sign needs to be visible over a larger distance or if the lighting is poorer.

it is useful to check to make sure that you can always see the next exit sign from any point as you move along the exit route.  This is to ensure that any person who is not familiar with the building has the reassurance of seeing an exit sign from wherever they happen to be.

Pholotuminescent (or 'glow-in-the-dark) signs are popular, but the overriding requirement of having good normal and emergency lighting means that these types of sign should not be required for many premises. However, they are useful when the emergency lighting is by means of torches rather than emergency lighting fixtures.

Signs on exit doors

It is likely that some people using the premises will not be familiar with the premises. Some additional signs might be required to inform people how to open a door, which may include  instruction like "Push bar to open", "Push pad to open" or "Turn to open".  Signs with this information should be near the device that needs to be operated to open the door.

Keep clear signs

It is essential that fire exit doors are not blocked and are kept clear at all times both inside and out. It is common to use a sign on the outside of fire exit doors to remind people of the need to keep the area clear. The sign would usually be a 'mandatory' sign (a blue circle) and would typically read "Fire exit keep clear". Please see our Signs page for more information on safety signs.)

Some signs are available that include both the exit sign (usually Style 1) and a keep clear sign in two sections: one green (the exit sign) and one blue (the keep clear sign).  These can be used on the inside of the door. However, this style of sign should not be used on the outside of a building as it could be misleading.

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