Published 11.11.22

Are Your Emergency Exit Signs Ready To Guide The Way?

Whether it’s a power outage or a fire, properly working emergency exit signs are critical for clearly marking exits and showing the path of egress during evacuations.
  • Solutions
    • Fire Protection

In fact, these familiar signs have become synonymous with safety in emergencies, because most people will immediately look for them as they seek to exit a building.

Fully functioning emergency exit signs aren’t just a practical precaution, they’re required by law. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 101, all occupied structures must have approved exit signs that are illuminated and visible from all directions.

The fact is that businesses open to the public or operating with employees are responsible for the safety of all building occupants. So if exit signs to help with safe evacuation aren’t in proper working order, there could be a fine for fire code violations.

Another key consideration to keep in mind: many insurance companies won’t cover damages caused by fire unless a company has fully documented that ongoing checks and maintenance have been performed on all emergency lights and exit signs.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be left in the dark wondering if your exit signs will work in an emergency. Regular inspection, testing and maintenance can detect broken parts before the unexpected happens and help ensure that your exit signs are in peak condition when the time comes to guide your building occupants to safety.

Monthly maintenance checks are an NFPA requirement.

Your emergency exit signs should be inspected every month to check for:

  • Dependable battery backup: Many exit signs are lit by incandescent bulbs, which are often internally wired into backup power to ensure continuous lighting during an emergency. The batteries in these backup power sources should provide enough power for the unit to stay illuminated for 90 minutes, so it’s critical to test them regularly to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Fully operational lighting: In addition to all bulbs being checked for proper illumination, your inspection should include verifying that the AC ready light is on and the lamps are connected to backup batteries. Your lamps should also light up when the test switch is depressed for a 30-second hold.
  • Potential damage: It’s also important to check for signs of damage and wear and tear that may affect exit sign function.
  • Proper location: Exit signs must be properly placed for optimal visibility — clearly seen from any point of view where the exit sign is accessible.

Yearly inspections are also required by the NFPA.

Along with your standard monthly maintenance checks, NFPA Code 101 also requires that emergency lights simulate being on battery backup for a full 90 minutes every year. Also referred to as a “burn test,” this measurement will verify battery integrity.

Your exit lights should be visually inspected to look for loose or exposed wiring, and to ensure that the unit is securely mounted to the wall or ceiling.

Your lights should also be physically inspected to check for: 

  • Proper operation, verified by activating the test button
  • Verification that your lamps are working and aligned correctly
  • Tightness and cleanliness of your battery terminals
  • Damage to the exterior of your lights

Defective parts should be replaced immediately, and proof of both monthly and annual inspections must be recorded and kept to show your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) when requested.  

Most important of all, having your emergency exit signage properly serviced and functioning can save property and lives during an emergency. Manufacturers’ documentation typically includes instructions for completing these vital tests — however, they do recommend that a trained and licensed technician performs your monthly and annual inspections.