The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Info and Wayfinding Systems – Part 128

April 17, 2023 11:00 am

LWF’s Fire Safety Engineering blog series is written for Architects, building designers and others in the construction industry to highlight and promote discussion on all topics around fire engineering. In part 127, LWF discussed evacuation simulation models. In part 128, we begin to look at information and wayfinding systems.

In a building, any building that is designed to contain people for any purpose, the life safety of the occupants is of prime importance. The law and all relevant testing, oversight and planning relates to how effectively life safety concerns are met in a building. The exceptions to this might be insurer requirements and anything specifically concerned with property or business continuity protection.

Effective use of information, wayfinding and wayfinding systems and even the architectural design of a building all come together to help achieve an acceptable level of life safety provision.

An informative fire warning system (IFW) will have an electronic visual display to supplement other forms of alarm, and can reduce pre-movement time.

Signage is important when it comes to marking escape and other essential fire safety measures. British fire safety design codes contain recommendations that exits are marked with pictograph exit signs (the “running man” symbol) although, of course, running is not recommended. Information on the correct design and construction of fire safety signs can be found in BS 5499 which is a multi-part standard dealing with all aspects of fire safety signage. Information can also be found in NFPA 101.

Where there may be any doubt about which direction to travel to an exit, directional signs should be used to assist. Other notices, such as ‘Fire door – Keep shut’ signs may be used as appropriate.

Escape lighting may be required in a given building or environment. In this case, all exit and exit route signs should be illuminated if the normal lighting system were to fail. The illumination of signs may be through external lamination, internal lamination or self-lumination.

Emergency wayfinding systems may be installed to assist with evacuation due to fire. When wayfinding may prove difficult for building occupants, a continuous luminous wayfinding system and directional markers can point the way. Such systems consist of low (or floor) mounted tracks of light and marked doorways on exit routes in conjunction with standard exit and directional signs. These systems operate when the mains power fails or the fire alarm system is activated. They may be powered (by a secondary power source) or photo-luminescent.

In part 129 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will begin to look at fire detection and fire alarm systems. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients since 1986 to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact the LWF office on 0800 410 1130.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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