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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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Udec: Lighting The Way to Safety Presents: The Tennessee Clothes Dryer Fire

Historical Moment: 2006 Tennessee Clothes Dryer Fire

Two women, one handicapped, died in a fire when the clothes dryer in their rented single-family home malfunctioned. The wood-frame house, which had an asphalt roof, was not sprinklered.

One of the women awoke around 8:30 a.m. to the smell of smoke and telephoned the fire department. The fire had spread up a wall, across the ceiling, and up an open stairwell to the attic, where it traveled the length of the house above the living areas.

The handicapped woman died at the scene. The other woman suffered burns and smoke inhalation when she tried to rescue her roommate and died at the hospital. The house and its contents were completely destroyed.

After the fire was extinguished, investigators determined that the clothes dryer’s motor malfunctioned, causing clothing and carpeting to overheat and ignite.

One of the most common causes of home fires is clothes dryers, usually because of improper care. “Failure to clean” is the leading factor contributing to clothes-dryer fires in residential building. Below are suggested home safety tips for your clothes dryer.

  • Never put synthetic materials such as rubber, plastic, foam, or pieces of cloth that have been used to sponge up flammable liquids in the dryer, even if previously washed.
  • Clean the lint out of the exhaust pipe and the rear of the dryer regularly.
  • Inspect your lint filter for rips each time you use it. If you see any rips, replace immediately.
  • The exhaust pipe should be as short as possible and have limited bends to allow for adequate airflow.

Most home fires happen at night or when people are asleep; emergency lighting or lighting strips can make the difference when you awake, groggy and confused, and need to act quickly in a bad situation. Sprinklers and smoke detectors are a great start to home safety, but emergency lighting can make the difference in helping your family tosafety.


It’s
impossible to avoid every calamity or accident, but prevention and safety are our top concerns. Udec Emergency Lighting provides quality lighting when you need it most.

Udec’s Featured Product: Udec Classic Systems Central Power: Fluorescent Diffuser Type Area Light
The UDEC Diffuser Type Area Light provides evenly distributed illumination for energy conservation, night/security and emergency lighting.

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

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Udec: Lighting The Way to Safety Presents: The Cocoanut Grove Fire

Historical Moment: The 1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire

The Cocoanut Grove, one of Boston’s most elegant clubs, remains one the deadliest nightclub fires in United States history, killing 492 people and injuring hundreds more.

An underage busboy trying to replace a light bulb on the night of November 28th, lit a match to see what he was doing. Almost instantaneously, someone noticed flames along the satin ceiling. Seconds later, a fireball burst across the central dance floor just as the orchestra was beginning its evening show. Within five minutes, flames had spread to the main clubroom and the entire nightclub was ablaze.

Panic erupted as 1,000 patrons, entertainers and employees fought desperately to gain the exits through sheets of flames, crushing, trampling, and burning as they tried to escape. Several exits were locked, trapping scores of screaming victims, and a plate-glass window that would have provided egress for 200 people was boarded up.

Exits that weren’t locked were quickly jammed with panicked patrons. The main revolving door become so jammed and packed with dead victims who tried to escape, that firefighters had to disassemble the door to get in. It’s been estimated that possibly 300 of those killed could have been saved had the doors swung outward.

The tragedy was over in a matter of minutes as flames and fumes swept through the club. Although most victims died that night, it took 90 hours to identify all the bodies.

An investigation blamed the massive death toll on gross violations of fundamental principles and the club’s owner was eventually found guilty of manslaughter.

The Cocoanut Grove fire prompted major efforts in the field of fire prevention and control for nightclubs and other related places . Immediate steps were taken to provide for emergency lighting and occupant capacity placards in places of assembly. Exit lights werw also required as a result of the concern generated by this fire.

It’s impossible to avoid every calamity or accident, but prevention and safety are our top concerns. Udec Emergency Lighting provides quality lighting when you need it most.

Udec’s Featured Product: Exit Signs with Emergency Light Combination: Wet Location
The Wet Location LED unit satisfies both exit and emergency lighting requirements and features a durable ABS, corrosion resistant, UV stabilized housing to withstand wet locations or harsh industrial or laboratory conditions.

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

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UDEC: Lighting the Way to Safety and The MGM Grand Hotel Fire

Historical Moment: 1980 MGM Grand Hotel Fire

An early morning fire on November 21 broke out in The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The hotel and casino had over 5000 tourists and employees inside the 26-story luxury resort with 2000 rooms. The fire claimed 87 lives and injured 785 people.

The fire, caused by an improperly grounded electrical wire that apparently smoldered undetected for hours, was first detected by a hotel employee. Once the fire burst into flames, it moved so rapidly that it spread through the casino at 15-19 feet per second. It spread to the lobby, fed by wallpaper, PVC piping, glue, and plastic mirrors, materials which created toxic smoke and fumes.

The hotel’s fire sprinkler system performed properly, helping to keep the fire out of the high rise hotel area. The fire sprinkler system within the casino and restaurant area kept the fire contained while the firefighters extinguished the fire in those areas.

However, it was the openings in vertical shafts, i.e. the elevators and stairwells, and seismic joints that acted as chimneys and spread the toxic smoke and heat all the way through the 26th floor. While most of the fire damage occurred in the casino, the majority of the deaths were on the upper floors where the victims died from smoke inhalation. Most of the deaths occurred in the stairwells, where the doors locked behind each person.

Guests only learned of the fire upon actually seeing smoke or hearing the warnings from other guests. The hotel’s alarm system was destroyed before fire alarms could activate. Fire doors had recently been installed, but only after complaints from firefighters attending a convention.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) studies show that in this fire the hotel occupants did not exhibit panic behavior. Instead, many took rational steps to preserve their lives, such as putting towels around doors to block out smoke, notifying other occupants, offering refuge in their room, and using wet towels for their face.

The MGM Grand eventually paid $223 million in legal settlements. The hotel and casino was repaired and then sold to Bally’s Entertainment which changed the name to “Bally’s Las Vegas.

It’s impossible to avoid every calamity or accident, but prevention and safety are our top concerns. UDEC Emergency Lighting provides quality lighting when you need it most. Emergency lighting and exit signs are about saving lives.

UDEC Corp. offers powerful, safe, unique solutions and 40 years of experience of emergency lighting and exit signs.
UDEC’s Featured Product: Exit Signs: LED Exit Signs - Edge-Lit Recessed

How do know if an exit sign is working? You don’t—because no one notices if they are on or out! UDEC’s auto-test exit signs automatically test each sign as required by the codes each month and annually.

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Exit Signs and the 2004 República Cromagnon Fire

This article is about Exit Signs, Safety, and The 2004 Republica Cromagnon Fire

UDEC: LIGHTING THE WAY TO SAFETY
Historical Moment: The 2004 República Cromagnon Fire

Argentines awoke on New Year’s Eve to scenes of horror on television: Pictures flashed of dazed, sobbing survivors from a nightclub fire, blackened by soot, outside the club or in hospitals. Others were frantically searching for loved ones, and  fainting, wailing  parents guarded charred bodies lined up outside on the club’s sidewalk.

 4,000 fans at a New Year’s Eve concert by the band Los Callejeros, nearly three times the building’s capacity of 1500 people, fought to reach the exits after a flare ignited the foam ceiling, sparking a blaze that killed 175 people and injured another 714.
 
Four of the six emergency exits were found padlocked or wired shut to prevent people from entering the club without paying. Instead, the barred exits prevented the young adults from leaving the building as burning debris fell on them.
  
Before the concert, the rock band playing at the club warned the crowd not to shoot flares because of the fire hazard. People attending rock concerts in Argentina frequently set off flares and fireworks. But during the first song, a flare was fired, turning the club into a blazing inferno.
 
The fire tore through the concert hall in the working-class neighborhood of Once, filling the club with thick, choking, black smoke. Several small children and babies, found in a makeshift nursery in the women’s bathroom upstairs, were also killed in the fire. 

One of the club’s barman said that a flare fired a week earlier in the same club caused a small fire that was quickly extinguished. It later became known that República Cromagnon was overdue for a fire hazard inspection since late November 2004.  

It’s impossible to avoid every calamity or accident, but prevention and safety are our top concerns. UDEC Emergency Lighting provides quality lighting when you need it most.  

UDEC’s Featured Product: Exit Signs: Self Luminous Exit Signs

These exit signs are entirely self-powered and do not rely on electricity, back-up batteries or generators for its illumination. It can be mounted anywhere without wiring or outlets, and needs no maintenance and is specifically constructed to resist tampering and vandalism and can withstand explosive, corrosive, humid or other harsh environment.

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

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Emergency Lighting and the 1912 Fraser Pier Fire

This article is about Emergency Lighting, Safety, and the 1912 Fraser Pier Fire

UDEC: LIGHTING THE WAY TO SAFETY
Historical Moment: Fraser Pier Fire (Ocean Park, CA)

A fire broke out at Fraser’s Million Dollar Pier in Ocean Park on September 3, 1912.

The fire started by someone carelessly tossing a smoldering cigarette in some bedding in the Japanese servants’ quarters in the basement. A strong late afternoon breeze fanned the flames and within minutes cries of “Fire!” came from a dozen different directions.

Sparks, leaping two hundred feet high, showered down like a fiery bath over the flimsy paint canvas and light wooden grill that adorned the pier’s attractions. Over a thousand visitors were still on the pier heading for the two main exits when the Skating Rink caught fire, blocking one of the exits. 

Fire companies’ efforts amounted to a few puny streams of water until Venice’s high pressure system was used. The Los Angeles Fire Companies speedy arrival only 27 minutes later did little to control the blaze.

Panic on the pier erupted. People, including owner Fraser and his young son, reached the docks and escaped by boat. Other’s leapt into the sea.
 
The fire totally destroyed the pier, all the amusements and five square blocks of the business district. All 225 structures burned, two people died, several were missing, 75 people were injured and 800 people were homeless. The loss was set at $2,000,000 with little of it insured.
 
It’s impossible to avoid every calamity or accident, but prevention and safety are our top concerns. UDEC Emergency Lighting provides quality lighting when you need it most. 

UDEC’s Featured Product: Emergency Lighting Fixtures Accessories: Fluorescent Emergency Lighting Ballasts

The BAL fluorescent emergency Ballast allows the same fixture to be used for both normal and emergency operation.

In the event of a power failure, the BAL switches to the emergency mode and operates one or two of the existing lamps for a minimum of 90 minutes.

The unit contains a battery, charger and inverter circuit in a single package. The BAL can be mounted in the wireway or on top of the fixture, and is UL Listed for factory installation or retrofit applications.

All Ballasts are Standard with Dual 120/277 Volt Input.

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

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