Beyond ADA: Egress Signs


Beyond the Federal ADA signage guidelines, there are new regulations that you may be unfamiliar with. To shed light on these regulations, we have launched the 2021 Beyond ADA series, designed to empower fabricators, architects, and designers with the knowledge to ensure ADA compliance and optimize their design workflows. 

As part of emergency preparedness, buildings need to provide a reliable and efficient passage to safety in the event of emergencies. Proper signage plays a critical role in enabling these safe evacuations since signs indicate where exits are located. But, beyond the normal exit signs, buildings need egress signs, which also play a huge part in facilitating evacuation efforts.

What are Egress Signs?

Egress signs are markers that direct tenants to safety. However, they are not your typical exit signs; rather, they act as supplements, filling in the spaces where exit signs are spaced far apart. They are often placed within stairwells and near exits to illuminate evacuation routes and highlight safe areas in which occupants can exit. As a result, they play a critical role in a building’s fire and life safety systems and are regulated by international standards including IBC, IFC, and NFPA 101.

Beyond the main codes that permit, and sometimes require, photoluminescent egress signs, local jurisdictions like California, Connecticut, and New York have also further specified design and placement standards in their own building codes.

Egress Sign

Requirements for ADA-Compliant Egress Signs

Self-Illuminating Material

Since they are vital to guiding people towards the exits, egress signs must be visible in the dark, even without access to main electrical power. Egress path markers often use photoluminescent material, like the Novacryl® Permaglow™ series, that absorb light during the day and provide guidance in the dark.

UL1994 Listed


UL 1994 is a safety standard for Luminous Egress Path Marking Systems. Under the NFFPA and IBC/IFC, all photoluminescent egress signs are required to be UL1994 listed.

Sign Placement

Egress signs must be placed in interior exit stairways, exit ramps, and exit passageways. For stairways, the placement is further governed by the 2018 IFC/IBC Section 1023.
Signs identifying staircases must be posted on both sides of the stair door; and, for floor landings, signs in raised characters and Braille have to be located adjacent to the door leading to the corridor from the stair side.

Text and Pictographs

There aren’t a lot of requirements in terms of text and pictograms. Similar to exit signs, egress signs can be marked with the word “EXIT” along with an arrow to indicate the direction.

Stairwell signs need specific elements. These should designate the floor level, the top and bottom end of the exit stairway, and the identification of the stair or ramp. It should also have the floor level and direction to the final exit, as well as the availability of roof access.

Sign Sizing

Stairwell and floor identification signs mentioned above need to be a minimum size of 18 inches by 12 inches. Characters in these signs have to meet a minimum threshold as well, which you can find in IFC/IBC Section 1023.9.1.

Nova Polymers Can Help

Correct and compliant egress signs play a huge role in ensuring safe passage for a building’s tenants. To ensure compliance with both ADA and international codes, it will be critical to use the right materials. Thankfully, Nova Polymers’ Novacryl® Permaglow™ series gives you access to the perfect UL1994 listed photopolymer solutions for all your egress signage.

About Nova Polymers: Nova Polymers is the largest manufacturer and distributor of photopolymer sign products in the United States, Canada, Europe, The Middle East, and Australia. As the world’s most specified manufacturer, we manufacture and distribute materials and equipment that are used to produce Architectural & Accessible Signage that meet or exceed all domestic and international standards for accessibility.

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