American Permalight picFor nearly 30 years, American PERMALIGHT has been guiding customers to safety with its products.
By Marina Batzke, general manager, American PERMALIGHT Inc.

Back in 1993, during the first terrorist bomb attack at the New York City World Trade Center (WTC), an explosion in the parking garage disrupted the WTC’s main electrical power line and knocked out the emergency lighting. The smoke that was generated rose up to the 93rd floor of both WTC towers, even into the emergency staircases. Building occupants evacuated for hours, many through smoke. As improvement following this event, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (owners of the twin towers) installed photoluminescent exit path markings on each step edge, each landing and on both sides of the handrails inside the emergency staircases in 1994.

Then, seven years later, Sept. 11, 2001 happened and these glow markings came to good use. The National Institute of Standards and Technology interviewed survivors of the events: 33 percent of people from Tower 1 and 17 percent of people from Tower 2 mentioned the yellowish markings that aided their escape. Based on numerous NIST recommendations, the City of New York implemented a range of new requirements after Sept. 11, including photoluminescent exit path markings in high-rise office building emergency staircases, covered by NYC Local Law 26 and Reference Standard RS6-1. 

Originating with its 2009 edition, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has non-electrical exit stair path marking requirements in Chapter 7: Means of Egress of NFPA 101-Life Safety Code. Also in 2009, the International Code Council added non-electrical, luminous egress path marking requirements for high-rise building staircases to its nationwide codes, International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC). The markings are now required in high-rise buildings of groups assembly (A), business (B), educational (E), institutional (I), mercantile (M) and hotel/motel (R-1). The markings get applied to each leading edge of a landing and on each step inside an enclosed emergency staircase. The top surface of all handrails gets marked. Perimeter demarcation lines mark the egress path along all horizontal areas, i.e. on landings along the wall base and in any vestibules/ corridors that are part of the enclosed egress path. Obstacles that project more than 4-inches into the egress path (e.g., pipes, evacuation chair metal cabinets, fire hose cabinets) get highlighted with a black-photoluminescent contrasting warning marking to avoid people bumping into a protrusion in the dark. Floor identification signs illuminate the stairway information. Doors from exit enclosures through which occupants must pass in order to complete their evacuation get marked all around on the door frame. The door hardware (push bar or door handle) is highlighted, and an emergency exit symbol sign is installed no higher than 18-inches above the floor. American Permalight box

Project Specifications typically detail photoluminescent signage and markings in Division 10 1443. Sometimes the metal step edges are covered by Div. 05 5500.

Another term for these photoluminescent egress path markings is Low Location Lighting, as they are installed on or near the floor to be visible underneath a smoke layer. During a building fire, typically smoke forms, rises under the ceiling and obscures the electrical lighting. Occupants should drop to the floor where breathable air remains the longest and evacuate under the smoke layer. Down there, the photoluminescent floor proximity markings are installed.

One important aspect is that these egress path markings are non-electrical, so they work during power outages. Photoluminescent markings get activated by ambient lighting. They are typically UL1994-listed by the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), like Underwriters Laboratories or ETL Intertek Testing. The markings get activated by only one foot-candle of ambient lighting and - just like electrical emergency lighting – are tested for 90 minutes in the dark. The markings then continue to emit their glow for hours until they are re-charged again by ambient lighting.

Markings installed on the floor, such as metal stair nosing and anti-slip tape, additionally have to be UL410-floor suitability tested. 

American PERMALIGHT Inc. was established as a California Incorporation in 1988 and will celebrate its 29th anniversary in 2017. Since its founding, the manufacturer has had a strong focus on standards-writing and code-development for photoluminescent safety products. These are not glow-in-the-dark Halloween gimmicks, but Life Safety products. In 2014, the new One World Trade Center in New York City was, again, equipped with PERMALIGHT® photoluminescent exit path markings in the emergency staircases to make the prominent high-rise building safer with lights on and off.

Marina Batzke, general manager of American PERMALIGHT, Inc., Torrance, California is ASTM Committee E12.13 ‘Photoluminescent Safety Products’ Chair, member of the UL Standard Technical Panels UL924 and UL1994, and NFPA member. American PERMALIGHT, Inc. manufactures Photoluminescent UL924-listed Signs and UL1994-listed Egress Path Markings. The company has Certified Installer Partners nationwide that are well-versed in the Code requirements and how to install for durable, long lasting performance. 

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