Smoke fills the room. The lights go out. Fear takes hold. Confusion follows. Even people familiar with their surroundings are inclined to panic. What to do next? Where do they go? How do they get out?
To aid end-users in exiting their buildings safely, Trumbull, CT-based Egress Marking Systems Inc. has installed egress lighting systems at Madison Middle School, Trumbull, CT, and Nathan Hale Elementary School, New Haven, CT. Current codes and standards, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code and UL 1994 Standard for Low-Level Path Marking and Lighting Systems, recognize the light strips as a means of egress marking pathways.
“The lower-level path lighting is consistent with what we’ve always learned about exiting a room in the case of a fire: We get on the floor and crawl out,” says Robert Pescatore, fire marshal, Town of Trumbull. The egress lighting system selected provides an uninterrupted line of floor-level light that can be installed around corners, down hallways and stairwells, and lead a path of safety in case of a fire or power outage. Electroluminescent (EL) light strips installed on or near the floor are easily visible in smoke-filled rooms at a considerable distance; maintain a low-level, blue-green light; and can run on battery for extended periods of time.
In the 2-story Nathan Hale Elementary School, sections of the main hallway on both floors and a handicapped-accessible library ramp have been equipped with the lighting system. In addition to safety concerns, Madison Middle School will test the next generation of controls in its auditorium for use during theatrical performances.
“We are building and renovating schools to prepare New Haven’s children for the 21st century. The emergency egress lighting system has been implemented to advance technology and to incorporate new, state-of-the-art safety measures in our schools,” says John DeStefano, mayor, New Haven, CT. The City of New Haven has made pathway lighting systems part of its own building standards and plans to install electroluminescent technology in 26 additional buildings that will be erected for the city over the next 8 years.
The installation at the schools is part of a larger lobbying effort by the EL industry to have building codes that include low-level emergency lighting systems visible through smoke. Current codes dictate that exit signs should be located near a room’s ceiling. However, once a room fills with smoke, those signs can be rendered useless.
Recent catastrophic events have prompted several of New York City’s building owners to evaluate their emergency egress systems. Pending legislation will dictate that office buildings more than 100 feet tall and higher than 9 stories be equipped with exit path markings by the beginning of 2007.
“The City of New Haven is strongly invested in its children, and I am proud to say that our city will lead the way in fire safety,” says DeStefano.
Lauren Kaufman is the public relations account manager for Mascola, a public relations firm in New Haven, CT.