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As technology begins to change the very basis of a sign into a fluid message, the very nature of an exit signs may be changing. Recent patents, for example patent application 20070203840, are creating the notion of a ‘community’ sign.

The technology being proposed integrates planned retail messages into display signs, through an “open content” network. By the same token, technology will eventually make the classic exit sign susceptible to other messages related to emergency exiting.

Content can be selectively downloaded to particular signs. Imagine the possibility of an emergency exit sign actually tailoring its message to the emergency: “Hurry. Buy New Shoes at Billing’s Department…Exit Here.” A more likely use, however, of smart signs will integrate other detection devices into exit information…perhaps even radiological detectors.

In the short term, “smart” exit signs are already seeing some networking to benefit discreet groups of people. A wireless network system is enabling those with visual impairments to use a transmitted signal from exit signs, in order to be guided accurately into appropriate egress. To make the system work, it was necessary to create a self-organizing mesh of data signals.

The exit light emits a digital signal, reaching a prescribed distance to someone’s handheld unit. Information will help orient (e.g.) a blind person’s distance and direction to the exit.

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Signs of Weakness

Exit signage must meet at least the minimum standards for use, found (as one prominent example) in the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code (NFPA). This section also develops rules for the installation of exit signs (section 5-1, “Marking of Means of Egress”). As history has shown, the rules are always changing. It’s as though fire, and obviously terrorists, are always looking for signs of weakness.

Many of the last centuries exit sign standards came about because of the catastrophic Triangle Fire. The fire struck on March 25, 1911. Of the five hundred workers in the nine-story building (a high rise in those times), almost one third died.

The news caused an immediate investigation, as stories of women, trapped behind locked doors, with inadequate safeguards, had suffocated and (in several instances) leapt to their deaths. Many of the women were no more than children. The rage of the fire was intense, and estimates placed the carnage as lasting no more than fifteen minutes.

Though technology was not the harbinger of change, there were commissions established to investigate safety standards. Because so many of the workers had limited English skills, the first efforts to create ‘universal language’ signs had their footholds in the ashes of the Triangle Fire.

But problems with inadequately protected, designated, or maintained exits remain, to this day, a major factor in deaths.

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Mind the Signs

Exit signs can be interesting plot devices, in the theater of life. On a freeway, there are generally eight shapes and sizes and exit signs. And exit signs are generally always going to be on the right-hand side of the designed exit, whether in a building or alongside a road. These rules suggest the certain ways the human mind functions, where ‘right’ predominates, and the rules of the right-handed tend to be followed in most countries around the world.

In real life, many of the signs we see are actually functions of how the mind works, regardless of better processes. An effective exit sign design now has to meet standard coding, so that people can literally be taught what to see, albeit subliminally. For example, some studies have suggested that people do subconsciously see the ubiquitous exit signs in (as an example) their own high-rise buildings, even as they cannot specifically state where it is, on a conscious level. “Design psychology” has emerged since the 1980’s as an essential part of modern life, extending its function even as people become increasingly unaware of its wide reach.

Culture, of course, can also rewire what people expect. In England, for example, one sign suggests the way to leave is ‘Way Out.’ In America, this sign would be more suggestive of the counter-culture from the 60’s.

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Exit Signs Kneeded

One current interest is the best, or varied, placement of exit signs. Very often, the placement of exit signs is calculated to be use before an emergency…to help people plan ahead. There’s no reason to suspect that the use of exit signs above eye level have not been helpful. The emerging issue, however, addresses the need to go behind minimal safety standards. Just as illuminated aisle lights in a plane are designed to be useful ‘signage’ for someone who is crawling on their knees to safety. So is the issue of signs at crawl level an interesting aspect of enhanced use of exit signs for safety.

Called “floor proximity” exit markings or signs, these low-level safety signs are going to become standard, experts predict. So far, the IBC has gone far enough to add new language to make floor proximity signs a part of future building codes…especially in high rises. This same attitude of starting with newly constructed high rises is reflected in two American states…so far. Rhode Island may be a small state but it’s looking ahead (and up), by requiring the same thing as New York. These are undoubtedly the first of many states due to adopt the IBC goal.

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Speaking Freely

One of the earliest, wise uses of exit signs was in the arena of indoor movie theaters. For that matter, a Supreme Court justice has even contributed to the lore that surrounds safe exiting from a movie theater. As hard as it is to believe, people once caught a fad of yelling “fire” in a theater. Justice Oliver W. Holmes noted the limit on free speech in 1919–of all things, using the urgency of a supposed theater fire. “It is not allowed to falsely yell fire in a crowned movie theater.”

Like most good advice, there has been a wide misquoting of Justice Holmes. The key word is falsely. One corporate theater chain actually runs an on-screen request to viewers: “please take a moment to familiarize yourself with…exits… .”

As progress in building codes have made theaters safer, an increased use of emergency lighting has also made exit signs more reliable. But the importance of the theater exit sign is also coming home: literally. Many of the more imaginative “home theater” buffs are also buying and installing those classic EXIT signs for home…presumably using the sign in the right place. Hopefully there won’t be a lawsuit over someone being misdirected into a closet. There’s no doubt Justice Holmes would be shaking his head about any such false direction. Besides, Holmes’s opinion was eventually overturned.

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Safety First, Rest Later

With the sudden influx in people moving to different towns and industries picking up pace and building multi story complexes, the fear of power overload lingers in every ones mind. Since most computer companies need power round the clock, it is safer to go for a reliable mode of emergency lighting.

This will ensure that there is undisturbed power and that important data and transactions are carried out smoothly. The lighting fixed in the campus should be one that automatically turns on when the main power breaks down or is switched off. And the minimum working time should be at least six hours within which time the main power would have been fixed and back in action.

Also, the electrical engineers of the building should do periodical checks to make sure these lights are in working condition or else it does not serve the purpose. In an office space or shopping mall, the need for emergency lighting is very important to be able to avoid panic and chaos from breaking out. This also gives the reassurance to the people that they will not have to be stranded but can find their way around the building and reach a place of safety.

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Prominent Exit Signs Needed

Shopping malls are not the only places where people are found in large numbers, other places such as public service offices and hospitals also have this issue. So, it is very essential for prominent Exit signs to be placed in more than one location around the building and near the doors too.

Not only in the corridors and elevators, but also in wet areas where people might be trapped due to an accident or fire breaking out require these sign boards. The sign boards are enclosed in a sturdy fiber glass casing, which protects it against any kind of erosion or damage. Also since these signs have arrows it is easier for the person to follow them even during dark. With an extended of life of nearly 25years these lights are most recommended for places where lives are at stake.

Since they come with back up emergency batteries, the Exit signs are absolutely maintenance free and are suitable for wet locations as well. Water splashing on it, or spraying at it will have no effect and the light shall continue to glow in full brightness. Some of these come with direction indicators, which can be placed, based on its location.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel Not Far

An exit is the way people get out of a building and the emergency exit is to be used in case of fire or any other accidents within the building. There are separate entrances for both these and there usually are multiple Exit Signs indicating the way to the same.

These sign boards are made using various materials and the most preferred models are the self powered kinds. These don’t need batteries and require no wires or power connection to serve the purpose. Not only this, but the lights are visible from long distances and provide effective guidance to all those in need. Also being cost effective, these last for years together with no maintenance required.

The main purpose of the Exit Signs is to indicate the way out to the people stranded within the premises. They also give a reassurance to the employees or shoppers or visitors that safety is just a few steps away making sure panic doesn’t set in. In places like cinema halls and museums where visitors flow in during the day, these signs enable the staff guide them towards the door and safety. With the lettering in bold and red these signs can’t be missed.

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UDEC: Lighting The Way to Safety Presents: The Amsterdam Airport Jail Fire

UDEC's Historical Safety Moment

Historical Moment: The 2005 Dutch airport Jail Fire

A fire in a prison complex at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport broke out on Oct 27, 2005 shortly after midnight, started by a discarded cigarette. The fire raged for 3 hours, killing 11 prisoners and injured 15 more, including 4 firemen and policeman.

An unidentified detainee reported that initially the guards did not take the prisoners’ warnings of a fire seriously and told them nothing was wrong. They didn’t open the door,” he said, “They kept us locked up. Our throats started hurting. We were kicking and screaming.”

Approximately 350 prisoners were being held in the complex at Europe’s fourth largest airport when the fire broke out. Some 43 were in the wing that caught fire. Police searched for an unreported number of escaped prisoners. Helicopters were called in to assist during the fire to track down possible escaped detainees.

Nine men and two women from Ukraine, Turkey, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Libya, Georgia, and Romania, died trapped in their cells.

The Dutch Justice Minister and the Housing Minister resigned following fierce criticism of their ministries. A report concluded that the fire would have caused fewer or no casualties at all had the government observed fire safety regulations.

Hundreds of cocaine smugglers, mostly from the Caribbean and Curacao, are detained at the airport every year, as are immigrants caught trying to enter the country illegally. Prison cell capacity was greatly expanded in 2002.

Are you aware that not every exit sign, emergency light, or emergency light fixture is safe? Just because you can see an exit with the light shining, doesn’t mean it works with the power off.

UDEC’S auto-test is the difference between safety and Russian roulette with the lives of the people inside your building. Auto-test makes emergency lighting easy, but more important; it is the safest way to ensure emergency lighting is there when it’s needed.


UDEC’S Featured Product:
Exit Signs with Emergency Light Combination: Self-Diagnostic
For areas requiring enough ambient light to allow for a safe evacuation during a power outage.


Emergency lighting and exit signs are about saving lives. Udec Corp. offers powerful, safe, unique solutions with 40 years of experience of emergency lighting and exit signs.

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UDEC: Lighting The Way to Safety Presents: The Göteborg Discothèque fire

UDEC's Historical Safety Moment

Historical Moment: The 1998 Göteborg Discothèque fire

Just before midnight on 29 October, 1998, a fire raced through an upstairs discotheque jammed with almost 400 teen-agers at a Halloween dance in Goteborg, Sweden. The investigations after the fire estimated over 400 people to be in the building, for a facility licensed to hold 150 persons.

A group of boys, as a revenge for being thrown out of the party for fighting, set the fire in the emergency exit stairway using furniture stored there, which left only the main stairway free.

The fire grew unnoticed and warm gases filled the stairwell until the DJ smelled smoke and opened the stairwell door to investigate. He left the door open, inadvertently creating a chimney effect. In a matter of minutes the entire dance hall was filled with smoke and the floor covering ignited creating a pool fire. Authorities concluded later that the catastrophe could have been avoided if the door had been equipped with a door-closer.

Despite the rapid response from the Fire and Rescue Service, 63 teenagers died entrapped in the burning building and over 200 were injured. Fire fighters reported that their access to the hall was blocked by a wall of bodies inside the doorway that reached the top of the doorjamb. One firefighter said later, ”It reminded me of the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Medical treatment on the scene was hindered by the reactions of the bystanders and friends of the injured.

A 15- year-old survivor was on the dance floor when the blaze started. He said, ”It was chaos. Everybody was trying to get out and people trampled on each other on the way to the exit. . . . Others kicked out the windows and jumped out.”

The building had passed previous inspections, meeting all safety requirements for fast evacuation. The arsonists were tried and convicted.

Are you aware that not every exit sign, emergency light, or emergency light fixture is safe? Just because you can see the EXIT with the lights shining, doesn’t mean it works when the power is off.

UDEC’s auto-test is the difference between safety and Russian roulette with the lives of the people inside your building. It’s easy, but most important, it is the safest way to ensure emergency lighting is there when it’s needed.

UDEC’S Featured Product: Exit Signs: NYC Approved - Steel

Universal Steel LED Exit Sign w/Battery Backup

Emergency lighting and exit signs are about saving lives. UDEC Corp. offers powerful, safe, unique solutions with 40 years of experience of emergency lighting and exit signs.

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