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Exits Signs are Going Green

Everyone in commercial and apartment buildings know to look for the EXIT SIGN during a fire drill. Those glowing red signs that say EXIT or SORTIE lead to a safe exit passage during an emergency. But common sense tells us that the colour red means to stop. And as of 2012 in BC and 2015 in Alberta, exit signs are now green in colour and and use the international Green Running Man symbol without any words to indicate an exit passage.

The green running man exit sign is now mandatory in Alberta in BC for new buildings and renovations of old buildings.

If you think about, green means go while red means stop. The red exit sign didn't match the intent to evacuate and added a level of subconscious confusion during an emergency event. The green man in silhouette fleeing towards a door symbolizes an egress path and exit door to safety.

The ISO symbol for the Running Man was first used in Japan in the 1979 and grew in use around the world. It's a universal symbol that is independent of language and is becoming an internationally and common known method of communicating safe passage.

Existing buildings do not need to upgrade existing red exit signs until the space undergoes a major renovation or a change in occupancy classification.

In popular tourist areas, like Vancouver and Calgary, these international exit signs makes a lot of sense as visitors may not be fluent in English or French. During an emergency, the symbol can easily be recognized as a designation for a safe passage. We've been using these new signs in wineries, office renovations and industrial installations, places where international travelers will not face any linguistic limitations.

Red exit signs are still in use in older buildings in Vancouver and Calgary and will be around for a long time.

The change in this life safety system was mandated by the National Building Code in 2010 and affects new buildings and those existing buildings undergoing major renovation. For existing buildings, the need to upgrade exist signs may or may not be mandatory by the authority having jurisdiction so confirm with your local building inspector. The intent is to not to mix-and-match thereby creating confusion, especially during an legitimate emergency.

Exit Sign Lighting

When the power goes out, the exit signs must still provide illumination and direction to safe passage. There are two methods to achieve this.

Powered units - Exit signs are powered by an electrical circuit and have a minimum 30-minute backup time. As electrical consultants, we place these units on a separate circuit, each having its own battery backup source. This battery backup is separate from those used for other life-safety system such as emergency lighting and fire alarm systems.

Photo-luminescent - Self-illuminance signs and path marking are also an option so long as they conform to CAN/ULC-S572.

As more construction and reconstruction projects take place, the public is going to see more of the green running man exit signs. This is a generational change that is making safety signage truly an international symbol. Green means go!