ICS Engineering Inc.
Electrical Consulting | Communications | Automation

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 will now be green in colour and will using the international Running Man symbol with no language to indicate an exit passage.

Old red exit signs previously used in Canada
Old red exit sign.

If you think about, green make sense to indicate movement while red means to halt. The colour didn't match the common-sense intent and added a level of sub-conscience confusion during an emergency event. The green man in silhouette making his way towards a door symbolizes an exit doorway.

New green running man exit signs used in BC and Alberta
The new green running man exit signs are being phased in on new constructions and major renovations. Green means go!

The ISO symbol for the Running Man was first used in Japan in the 1970's 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 safety information.

Existing buildings do not need to replace the older red exit signs until they undergo a major renovation or a tenant improvement.

In popular tourist areas, like Vancouver and Edmonton, this 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 safe passage. We've been using these new signs in wineries, office renovations and industrial installations, places where international travellers will not face any lingual limitations.

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, electrical engineers recommend that all exit signs in the facility should be changed to maintain consistency on all storeys. This may or may not be mandatory by the authority having jurisdiction so confirm with your local building inspector. They may be allow for a floor-by-floor change-out.

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 and have an emergency power backup source. In Canada, a battery backup pack is common and 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 is also an option so long as they conform to CAN/ULC-S572.

As time goes on and more construction and reconstruction take place, people are going to see more of the green Running Man exit signs. This is a generational change that is making safety communication truly an international symbol. Green means go!