Today's fire safety codes are heavily influenced by the lessons learned from deadly fires. For example, the December, 30 1903 Iroquois Theatre Fire was one of several fires in which people were unable to escape because the doors opened the wrong way. When the panic-stricken crowd tried to flee, they ended up jamming the doors closed. "Panic-bar" style doors which open outwards are now common in public buildings.
In 1913, the NPFA's Committee on Safety to Life began an analysis of notable fires involving "loss of life." This work led to the development of standards for stairways, fire escapes, and exit facilities that were published in 1916 (Outside Stairs for Fire Exits) and 1918 (Safeguarding Factory Workers from Fire). These standards were expanded and merged with other safety standards in 1921, and published as the Buildings Exits Code.
A deadly series of fires between 1942 and 1946 (notably the November 19, 1942 Cocoanut Grove Night Club Fire in Boston, Massachusetts, and the December 7, 1946 Winecoff Fire in Atlanta, Georgia) led to the beginning of a revision of the Building Exits Code from a tool for building contractors to a a potential "model code," and several versions were published before the Committee on Safety to Life was restructured in 1963. For the 1966 version, the name was changed from the Building Exits Code to Code for Safety to Life from Fire in Buildings and Structures. After further reorganization and several versions later, the modern Life Safety Code® had become the modern code which would be widely adopted in the United States as model legislature.
The portion of the NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® that applies to emergency lighting, exit signs, and "means of egress" is presented below (from the 2015 edition). The NFPA 101,® Life Safety Code® is a "model code," and while some states or localities have implemented the code in full, other states or locality have implemented only certain parts and changed others. For the most accurate information on your local codes, check with your local code enforcement agency.
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®
Administered and published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Life Safety Code® addresses those construction, protection, and occupancy features necessary to minimize danger to life from fire, including smoke, fumes, or panic, and establishes minimum criteria for the design of egress facilities so as to allow prompt escape of occupants from buildings or, where desirable, into safe areas within buildings.
Chapter 1 Administration
1.1.1 Title. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, shall be known as the Life Safety Code®, is cited as such, and shall be referred to herein as "this Code" or "the Code".
1.1.2 Danger to Life from Fire. The Code addresses those construction, protection, and occupancy features necessary to minimize danger to life from the effects of fire, including smoke, heat, and toxic gases created during a fire.
1.1.3 Egress Facilities. The Code establishes minimum criteria for the design of egress facilities so as to allow prompt escape of occupants from buildings or, where desirable, into safe areas within buildings.
1.1.4 Other Fire-Related Considerations. The Code addresses other considerations that are essential to life safety in recognition of the fact that life safety is more than a matter of egress. The Code also addresses protective features and systems, building services, operating features, maintenance activities, and other provisions in recognition of the fact that achieving an acceptable degree of life safety depends on additional safeguards to provide adequate egress time or protection for people exposed to fire.
1.1.5 Considerations Not Related to Fire. The Code also addresses other considerations that, while important in fire conditions, provide an ongoing benefit in other conditions of use, including non-fire emergencies.
1.1.6 Areas Not Addressed. The Code does not address the following:
(1) General fire prevention or building construction features that are normally a function of fire prevention codes and building codes
(2) Prevention of injury incurred by an individual due to that individual's failure to use reasonable care
(3) Preservation of property from loss by Fire
1.2 Purpose. The Purpose of this Code is to provide minimum requirements, with due regard to function, for the design, operation, and maintenance of buildings and structures for safety to life from fire. Its provisions will also aid life safety in similar emergencies.
1.3.1 New and Existing Buildings and Structures. The Code shall apply to both new construction and existing buildings and existing structures.
1.3.2 Vehicles and Vessels. The Code shall apply to vehicles, vessels, or other similar conveyances, as specified in Section 11.6, in which case such vehicles and vessels shall be treated as buildings.
1.4 Equivalency. Nothing in this Code is intended to prevent the use of systems, methods, or devices of equivalent or superior quality, strength, fire resistance, effectiveness, durability, and safety over those prescribed by this Code.
1.4.1 Technical Documentation. Technical documentation shall be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction to demonstrate equivalency.
1.4.2 Approval. The system, method, or device shall be approved for the intended purpose by the authority having jurisdiction.
1.4.3 Equivalent Compliance. Alternative systems, methods, or devices approved as equivalent by the authority having jurisdiction shall be recognized as being in compliance with this Code.
1.5 Units and Formulas.
1.5.1 SI Units. Metric unites of measurement in this Code are in accordance with the modernized metric system known as the International System of Units (SI).
1.5.2 Primary Values. The inch-pound value for a measurement, and the SI value given in parentheses, shall each be acceptable for use as primary units for satisfying the requirements of this Code.
1.6 Enforcement. This Code shall be administered and enforced by the authority having jurisdiction designated by the governing authority.
Chapter 7 Means of Egress
7.9 Emergency Lighting
22.214.171.124 Emergency lighting facilities for means of egress shall be provided in accordance with Section 7.9 for the following:
(1) Buildings or structures where required in Chapters 11 through 43
(2) Underground and limited access structures as addressed in Section 11.7
(3) High rise buildings as required by other sections of this Code
(4) Doors equipped with delayed-egress locks
(5) Stair shafts and vestibules of smokeproof enclosures, for which the following also apply:
126.96.36.199 For the purposes of 188.8.131.52, exit access shall include only designated stairs, aisles, corridors, ramps, escalators, and passageways leading to an exit. For the purpose of 184.108.40.206, exit discharge shall include only designated stairs, ramps, aisles, walkways, and escalators leading to a public way.
220.127.116.11 Where maintenance of illumination depends upon changing from one energy source to another, a delay of not more than 10 seconds shall be permitted.
7.9.2 Performance of System.
18.104.22.168 Emergency illumination shall be provided for a minimum of 1½ hours in the event of failure of normal lighting.
22.214.171.124.1 Emergency lighting facilities shall be arranged to provide initial illumination that is not less than an average of 1 ft-candle (10.8 lux) and, at any point, not less than 0.1 ft-candle (1.1 lux), measured along the path of egress at floor level.
126.96.36.199.2 Illumination levels shall be permitted to decline to not less than an average of 0.6 ft-candle (6.5 lux) and, at any point, not less than 0.06 ft-candle (0.65 lux) at the end of 1½ hours.
188.8.131.52.3 The maximum-to-minimum illumination shall not exceed a ratio of 40 to 1.
184.108.40.206 New emergency power systems for emergency lighting shall be at least Type 10, Class 1.5, Level 1, in accordance with NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems.
220.127.116.11 The emergency lighting system shall be arranged to provide the required illumination automatically in the event of any interruption of normal lighting due to any of the following:
(1) Failure of public utility or other outside electrical power supply
(2) Opening of a circuit breaker or fuse
(3) Manual act(s), including accidental opening of a switch controlling normal lighting facilities.
18.104.22.168 Emergency generators used to provide power to emergency lighting systems shall be installed, tested, and maintained in accordance with NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems. Stored electrical energy systems, where required in this Code, other than battery systems for emergency luminaires in accordance with NFPA 22.214.171.124, shall be installed and tested in accordance with NFPA 111, Standard on Stored Electrical Energy Emergency and Standby Power Systems.
126.96.36.199 Unit equipment and battery systems for emergency luminaires shall be listed to ANSI/UL 924, Standard for Emergency Lighting and Power Equipment.
188.8.131.52 Existing battery-operated emergency lights shall use only reliable types of rechargeable batteries provided with suitable facilities for maintaining them in properly charged condition. Batteries used in such lights or units shall be approved for their intended use and shall comply with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.
184.108.40.206 The emergency lighting system shall be either continuously in operation or capable of repeated automatic operation without manual intervention.
7.9.3 Periodic Testing of Emergency Lighting Equipment.
220.127.116.11 Required emergency lighting systems shall be tested in accordance with one of the three options offered by 18.104.22.168.1, 22.214.171.124.2, or 126.96.36.199.3.
188.8.131.52.1 Testing of required emergency lighting systems shall be permitted to be conducted as follows:
(1) Functional testing shall be conducted monthly, with a minimum of 3 weeks and a maximum of 5 weeks between tests, for not less than 30 seconds, except as otherwise permitted by 184.108.40.206.1(2).
(2) The test internval shall be permitted to be extended beyond 30 days with the approval of the authority having jurisdiction.
(3) Functional testing shall be conducted annually for a minimum of 1½ hours if the emergency lighting system is battery powered.
(4) The emergency lighting equipment shall be fully operational for the duration of the tests required by 220.127.116.11.1(1) and 18.104.22.168.1(3).
(5) Written records of visual inspections and tests shall be kept by the owner for inspection by the authority having jurisdiction.
22.214.171.124.2 Testing of required emergency lighting systems shall be permitted to be conducted as follows:
(1) Self-testing/self-diagnostic emergency battery-operated emergency lighting equipment shall be provided.
(2) Not less than once every 30 days, self-testing/self-diagnostic battery-operated emergency lighting equipment shall automatically perform a test with a duration of a minimum 30 seconds and a diagnostic routine.
(3) Self-testing/self-diagnostic battery-operated emergency lighting equipment shall indicate failures by a status indicator.
(4) A visual inspection shall be performed at internvals not exceeding 30 days.
(5) Self-testing/self-diagnostic battery-operated emergency lighting equipment shall be fully operational for the duration of the 1½-hour test.
(6) Written records of visual inspections and test shall be kept by the owner for inspection by the authority having jurisdiction.
126.96.36.199.3 Testing of required emergency lighting systems shall be permitted to be conducted as follows:
(1) Computer-based, self-testing/self-diagnostic battery operated emergency lighting equipment shall be provided.
(2) Not less than once every 30 days, emergency lighting equipment shall automatically perform a test with a duration of a minimum of 30 seconds and a diagnostic routine.
(3) The emergency lighting equipment shall automatically perform annually a test for a minimum of 1½ hours.
(4) The emergency lighting equipment shall be fully operational for the duration of the tests required by 188.8.131.52.3(2) and 184.108.40.206.3(3).
(5) The computer-based system shall be capable of providing a report of the history of tests and failures at all times.
7.10 Marking of Means of Egress
220.127.116.11 Where required. Means of egress shall be marked in accordance with Section 7.10 where required in Chapters 11 through Chapter 43.
18.104.22.168 Exits, other than main exterior exit doors that obviously and clearly are identifiable as exits, shall be marked by an approved sign that is readily visible from any direction of exit access.
22.214.171.124 Horizontal components of the egress path within an exit enclosure shall be marked by approved exit or directional exit signs where the continuation of the egress path is not obvious.
126.96.36.199 Exit Door Tactile Signage. Tactile signage shall be provided to meet all the following criteria, unless otherwise provided in 188.8.131.52:
(1) Tactile signage shall be located at each door requiring an exit sign.
(2) Tactile signage shall read as follows: EXIT.
(3) Tactile signage shall comply with ICC/ANSI A117.1, American National Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities.
184.108.40.206 Existing Exemption. The requirements of 220.127.116.11 shall not apply to existing buildings, provided that the occupancy classification does not change.
18.104.22.168 Exit Access.
22.214.171.124.1 Access to exits shall be marked by approved, readily visible signs in all cases where the exit or way to reach the exit is not readily apparent to the occupants.
126.96.36.199.2 New sign placement shall be such that no point in the exit access corridor is in excess of the rated viewing distance or 100 ft (30 m), whichever is less, from the nearest sign.
188.8.131.52 Floor Proximity Exit Signs. Where floor proximity exit signs are required in Chapters 11 through 43, such signs shall comply with 7.10.3, 7.10.4, 7.10.5, and 7.10.6 for externally illuminated signs and 7.10.7 for internally illuminated signs. Such signs shall be located near the floor level in addition to those signs required for doors or corridors. The bottom of the sign shall be not less than 6 in. (150 mm), but not more than 18 in. (455 mm), above the floor. For exit doors, the sign shall be mounted on the door or adjacent to the door, with the nearest edge of the sign within 4 in. (100 mm) of the door frame.
184.108.40.206 Floor Proximity Egress Path Marking. Where floor proximity egress path marking is required in Chapters 11 through 43, an approved floor proximity egress path marking system that is internally illuminated shall be installed within 18 in. (455 mm) of the floor. Floor proximity egress path marking systems shall be listed in accordance with ANSI/UL 1994, Standard for Luminous Egress Path Marking Systems. The system shall provide a visible delineation of the path of travel along the designated exit access and shall be essentially continuous, except as interrupted by doorways, hallways, corridors, or other such architectural features. The system shall operate continuously or at any time the building fire alarm is activated. The activation, duration, and continuity of operation of the system shall be in accordance with 7.9.2. The system shall be maintained in accordance with the product manufacturing listing.
220.127.116.11 Visibility. Every sign required in Section 7.10 shall be located and of such size, distinctive color, and design that it is readily visible and shall provide contrast with decorations, interior finish, or other signs. No decorations, furnishings, or equipment that impairs visibility of a sign shall be permitted. No brightly illuminated sign (for other than exit purposes), display, or object in or near the line of vision of the required exit sign that could detract attention from the exit sign shall be permitted.
18.104.22.168 Mounting Location. The bottom of new egress markings shall be located at a vertical distance of not more than 6 ft 8 in. (2030 mm) above the top edge of the egress opening intended for designation by that marking. Egress markings shall be located at a horizontal distance of not more than the required width of the egress opening, as measured from the edge of the egress opening intended for designation by that marking to the nearest edge of the marking.
7.10.2 Directional Signs.
22.214.171.124 A sign complying with 7.10.3, with a directional indicator showing the direction of travel, shall be placed in every location where the direction of travel to reach the nearest exit is not apparent.
126.96.36.199 Directional exit signs shall be provided within horizontal components of the egress path within exit enclosures as required by 188.8.131.52.2.
7.10.3 Sign Legend.
184.108.40.206 Signs required by 7.10.1 and 7.10.2 shall read as follows in plainly legible letters, or other appropriate wording shall be used:
220.127.116.11 Where approved by the authority having jurisdiction, pictograms in compliance with NFPA 170, Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols, shall be permitted.
7.10.4 Power Source. Where emergency lighting facilities are required by the applicable provisions of Chapter 11 through Chapter 43 for individual occupancies, the signs, other than approved self-luminous signs and listed photoluminescent signs in accordance with 18.104.22.168, shall be illuminated by the emergency lighting facilities. The level of illumination of the signs shall be in accordance with with 22.214.171.124 or 7.10.7 for the required emergency lighting duration as specified in 126.96.36.199. However, the level of illumination shall be permitted to decline to 60 percent at the end of the emergency lighting duration.
7.10.5 Illumination of Signs.
188.8.131.52 General. Every sign required by 184.108.40.206 or 220.127.116.11, or 18.104.22.168, other than where operations or processes require low lighting levels, shall be suitably illuminated by a reliable light source. Externally and internally illuminated signs shall be legible in both the normal and emergency lighting mode.
22.214.171.124 Continuous Illumination.
126.96.36.199.1 Every sign required to be illuminated by 188.8.131.52, 7.10.7, and 184.108.40.206 shall be continuously illuminated as required under the provisions of Section 7.8, unless otherwise provided in 220.127.116.11.2.
18.104.22.168.2 Illumination for signs shall be permitted to flash on and off upon activation of the fire alarm system.
7.10.6 Externally Illuminated Signs.
22.214.171.124 Size of Signs.
126.96.36.199.1 Externally illuminated signs required by 7.10.1 and 7.10.2, other than approved existing signs, unless otherwise provided in 188.8.131.52.2, shall read EXIT or shall use other appropriate wording in plainly legible letters sized as follows:
(1) For new signs, the letters shall be not less than 6 in. (150 mm) high, with the principal strokes of letters not less than 3/4 in. (19 mm) wide.
(2) For existing signs, the required wording shall be permitted to be plainly legible letters not less than 4 in. (100 mm) high.
(3) The word EXIT shall be in letters of a width not less than 2 in. (51 mm), except the letter I, and the minimum spacing between letters shall be not less than 3/8 in. (9.5 mm).
(4) Sign legend elements larger than the minimum established in 184.108.40.206.1(1) through (3) shall use letter widths, strokes, and spacing in proportion to their height.
220.127.116.11.2 The requirements of 18.104.22.168.1 shall not apply to marking required by 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
188.8.131.52 Size and location of Directional Indicator.
184.108.40.206.1 Directional indicators, unless otherwise provided in 220.127.116.11.2, shall comply with the following:
(1) The directional indicator shall be located outside of the EXIT legend, not less than 3/8 in. (9.5 mm) from any letter.
(2) The directional indicator shall be of a chevron type, as shown in Figure 18.104.22.168.1.
(3) The directional indicator shall be identifiable as a directional indicator at a distance of 40 ft (12 m).
(4) A directional indicator larger than the minimum established for compliance with 22.214.171.124.1(3) shall be proportionately increased in height, width and stroke.
(5) The directional indicator shall be located at the end of the sign for the direction indicated.
FIGURE 126.96.36.199.1 Chevron-Type Indicator.
188.8.131.52.2 The requirements of 184.108.40.206.1 shall not apply to approved existing signs.
220.127.116.11 Level of Illumination. Externally illuminated signs shall be illuminated by not less than 5 ft-candles (54 lux) at the illuminated surface and shall have a contrast ratio of not less than 0.5.
7.10.7 Internally Illuminated Signs.
18.104.22.168 Listing. Internally illuminated signs shall be listed in accordance with ANSI/UL 924, Standard for Safety Emergency Lighting and Power Equipment, unless they meet one of the following criteria:
(1) They are approved existing signs.
(2) They are existing signs having the required wording in legible letters not less than 4 in. (100 mm) high.
(3) They are signs that are in accordance with 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
188.8.131.52 Photoluminescent Signs. The face of a photoluminescent sign shall be continually illuminated while the building is occupied. The illumination levels on the face of the photoluminescent sign shall be in accordance with its listing. The charging illumination shall be a reliable light source, as determined by the authority having jurisdiction. The charging light source, shall be of a type specified in the product markings.
7.10.8 Special Signs.
184.108.40.206 Sign Illumination.
220.127.116.11.1 Where required by other provisions of this Code, special signs shall be illuminated in accordance with 7.10.5, 18.104.22.168, and 7.10.7.
22.214.171.124.2 Where emergency lighting facilities are required by the applicable provisions of Chapters 11 through 43, the required illumination of special signs shall additionally be provided under emergency lighting conditions.
126.96.36.199 Characters. Special signs, where required by other provisions of this Code, shall comply with the visual character requirements of ICC/ANSI A117.1, American National Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities.
188.8.131.52 No Exit.
184.108.40.206.1 Any door, passage, or stairway that is neither an exit nor a way of exit access and that is located or arranged so that it is likely to be mistaken for an exit shall be identified by a sign that reads as follows:
220.127.116.11.2 The NO EXIT sign shall have the word NO in letters 2 in. (51 mm) high, with a stroke width of 3/8 in. (9.5 mm), and the word EXIT in letters 1 in. (25 mm) high, with the word EXIT below the word NO, unless such sign is an approved existing sign.
18.104.22.168 Elevator Signs. Elevators that are a part of a means of egress (see 22.214.171.124) shall have both of the following signs with a minimum letter height of 5/8 in. (16 mm) posted in every elevator lobby:
(1) Signs that indicate that the elevator can be used for egress, including any restrictions on use
(2) Signs that indicate the operational status of elevators
126.96.36.199 Evacuation Diagram. Where a posted floor evacuation diagram is required in Chapters 11 through 43, floor evacuation diagrams reflecting the actual floor arrangement and exit locations shall be posted and oriented in a location and manner acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.
7.10.9 Testing and Maintenance.
188.8.131.52 Inspection. Exit signs shall be visually inspected for operation of the illumination sources at intervals not to exceed 30 days or shall be periodically monitored in accordance with 184.108.40.206.3.
220.127.116.11 Testing. Exit signs connected to, or provided with a battery-operated emergency illumination source, where required in 7.10.4, shall be tested and maintained in accordance with 7.9.3.
7.13 Normally Unoccupied Building Service Equipment Support Areas.
7.13.3 Means of Egress Path.
18.104.22.168 Exit signage shall not be required along the means of egress path within normally unoccupied building service equipment support areas.
22.214.171.124 The minimum illumination of means of egress along the required means of egress path shall be 0.2 ft-candle (2.2 lux), except as otherwise provided in 126.96.36.199.
188.8.131.52 Illumination of means of egress shall not be required in normally unoccupied building service equipment support areas where illumination of means of egress is not required by the applicable occupancy chapter for the remainder of the building.