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Fire Exit Signs Around The World: Subtleties Of Style

Jul 15, 2008
What could be more reassuring than classic red fire exit signs to an American? Around the world, people have plenty of answers to that question. It's the strange truth that the reliable red exit signs of the United States are by no means standard worldwide--and also are by no means the best option in the world of fire safety.

Even the red color, symbolic the world over of threats and danger think of the charging bull, for example, isn't a given. In most of the world, including the EU, China, and New Zealand, emergency exit signs are posted in green. It makes perfect sense if you think about it--red signs do get people's attention, but they're also a major source of psychological stress. If you're caught in an emergency situation, the last thing you need is more stress. Green is a soothing and inviting color which in theory helps to calm people down in emergencies. There's also the issue that red is used in EU signage to indicate illegal or dangerous activities--no one wants people to associate an emergency exit sign with a sign against smoking, for example.

A nice feature in exit signs around the world that hasn't quite caught on yet in the US is the directional indicator. In the event of a fire or other major disaster, visibility is often the first victim. Even though modern exit signs are required to be shown at a certain level of brightness, it can still be difficult to track down exactly where the emergency exit door or fire escape ladder is supposed to be in the middle of plumes of noxious smoke or collapsing plaster. That's why EU exit signs include a helpful arrow to let you know exactly what direction you need to go in to find your escape from disaster. Strange how something so simple can make so much difference.

And then there's the avant garde of emergency signage. Since all most emergency signs require to be legal are a clear font, the proper color, and the proper luminosity, some forward-thinking business owners have begun to produce emergency signs in striking glass-cut designs, meant to evoke holograms and other futuristic techologies. Although these designs aren't for every business, they can--if used properly--provide a little bit of panache and class to what is, after all, a functional piece of equipment, put up in accordance with the laws of the land.

It's hard to say what's so fascinating about fire exit signs around the world. Perhaps it's the thrill of analyzing the history behind simple objects that we see every day. Or perhaps it's the subtle variations around the world that make fire exit signs so delightful--like discovering the twin brother we never knew we had.
About the Author
Which fire exit sign should be used on which doorway? www.FireProtectionOnline.co.uk to have it all become clear
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