Workers come and go through doorways, in and out of various offices throughout the day; it’s a no-brainer, right? But in the event of an emergency, even the most basic of tasks can be more difficult than the most complex of mazes.
Imagine a chemical plant with a major spill: it’s not always easy to find an exit when you can’t see or perhaps even breathe easily. Or, a fire in a high-rise office building, when smoke and no lights make it difficult to get down flights of stairs and out to safety; or an airplane that may require careful routes to evacuation doors during an in-flight emergency.
In these and other situations, it’s not only the physical challenges of seeing your way to safety, but in an emergency, the ensuing panic and confusion can make it harder to follow the most basic of directions. For these reasons and more, clearly marked evacuation routes can mean life or death for workers, travelers or residents.
Clearly marked egress routes not only help people get out of buildings, but they also help rescue teams get in. Having clearly labeled entry routes enable them to seek alternative entrances, such as through back doors and windows, in the event that main entrances are not safe.
Ensuring that safety routes are clearly marked at all times and will guide people to proper exits in the event of an emergency is not only a safe business practice, but it’s required by law. Building codes for residences require two modes of egress for bedrooms, with specific sizes for doors and windows. In business, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that exit routes meet specific design and construction requirements, that there must be a number of exits based on the number of employees and other specific requirements that ensure safe evacuation of workers.
While OSHA does not require facilities to have a printed map for evacuation in the case of an emergency, other governmental agencies, such as state and local agencies, fire departments or even insurance carriers, often do. In fact, most companies, jobsites, homes, healthcare facilities, schools and nursing homes provide clearly marked safety egress plans. So how can such plans be implemented?
Below are five best practices and procedures for safe egress:
- Make sure all plans are visible and understood. It’s wise to have an evacuation map and procedure that is clearly understood by all workers or inhabitants. Evacuation maps should be clearly displayed throughout the building, including corridors and rooms where exit locations are not as obvious.
- Practice safety drills. Regardless of the type of building – whether a place of work, residence or facility – regular safety drills should be performed to practice safe exiting, as well as work out any kinks in the process.
- Clearly articulate when it’s best to shelter in place. While many dangerous incidents require fast exit, there may be cases when it’s safer to shelter in place, for example in the event of an earthquake. Make sure you run through these scenarios with inhabitants or workers and everyone understands the protocol.
- Provide highly visible exit signs and pathways. It’s important to provide clear markings toward exit routes, that are visible in the dark and can light the way to safe exits.
- Account for everyone. Identify and train personnel on each floor of a building who will be responsible for getting people out, and making sure everyone is accounted for. A visitor management system can assist by providing a digital visitor log, which can help to account for any non-employees in the building.
Lighting up the Path to Safety
While it’s key to make sure exit paths are clearly illuminated, what happens when the electricity goes out and you’re in complete darkness? Traditional protocols have used electric lights that show the way, or relied on back-up battery power to keep the lights on. Safety standards require that emergency lights last for 90 minutes in the event of a power outage. Today there are new options to choose from.
Photoluminescent paints can provide light without electricity to provide safe egress and disaster recovery. Safety managers can use these types of coatings as well as ink and tape products. Unlike traditional glow-in-the-dark products, these luminescent types of coatings can provide a broad spectrum of high intensity day or night-time colors that are extremely resilient, bright and can be applied to many different surfaces, such as wood, plastic, asphalt, cement, metal and fabric.
Photoluminescent coatings can be used for safe egress markings on roads, pathways, stair treads, railings, or even on safety apparel, both indoors and outdoors. Also, during an age when sustainability is a key goal of companies and public institutions alike, these types of coatings use zero energy and require no maintenance.
Today, protecting your facility or venue and the people in it requires a clear exit strategy, visible and reliable egress maps, and a clear pathway to safety. Properly illuminating the route to safety – even when the lights are out – can minimize the impact of disaster and ensure peace of mind in today’s often chaotic environments. The consequences of lax egress planning are simply too big to ignore.
For additional information about how Bambu Global is applying chemistry, physics and advanced materials to solve real-world challenges, please check out our blog, or call us at (978) 459-4500.