Dynamic and Adaptive Signage: Product Explanation

What is dynamic and adaptive signage?

Dynamic and adaptive signage is a very recent phenomenon. It’s still in development and newly emerging into the market, so people are only just beginning to get their head around how it works and why it’s effective. There’s a huge variety of acronyms around ‘dynamic’ signage, it’s been referred to as: dynamic, intelligent, adaptive, smart, among other terms. All of these terms essentially mean the same thing and they all lead to one unique selling point of the product. Instead of being ‘passive’ like the other fire exit signs on the market, they are both ‘reactive’ and ‘adaptive’ to their environment.

Up until now, when the alarms go off in most buildings, emergency exit signs don’t do anything more than they did before the alarm went off. They’re illuminated. They show you which exit to go to. The only problem is that the arrow is pointing to the right. That could be where the fire is, so this is a pain point that the Evaclite product targets and is able to solve. Currently, fire exit signs are passive and that’s the issue, Evaclite is making the move to dynamic signage.

How do dynamic signs work?

The signs have been made both adaptive and dynamic at the same time. The emergency exit sign is attached to the ceiling and connected to a smoke detector, which may only be a metre or two away from the emergency exit sign. This is one of the triggers for the sign to activate into adaptive mode.  A fire engineer would then inspect the fire panel and do some cause and effect programming, this would determine if smoke is detected in a specific zone and acknowledge that we don’t want people going out of that specific exit, this would then activate a red cross to appear in the form of a 3 pulse array across the sign. This is now a negated X. It’s no longer a fire exit, but people are still able to see that it was a fire exit.

A lot of design for the product takes into account people’s behaviour. Evaclite could have flushed the red sign with a constant flashing X. But then this creates some confusion, is the sign faulty? Should we ignore the X? I’m not sure it’s working. This all cuts into valuable time and in a fire, the second’s matter.

Why use LED pulses?

To try and combat any confusion that could be caused by a flashing X across the sign, Evaclite uses LED lights that pulsate at the outer corners, so the sign is static yet eye-catching. It’s important to note that the lights aren’t just there for purely practical reasons, there is a psychological reason for the pulses. It’s intuitive and people have to instinctively understand the message without stopping to think about its meaning. The 3x pulsing array only activates when the alarm has sounded, ensuring that building occupants will not become too familiar with the concept, reducing the likelihood of learned irrelevance. The enhanced design also has the advantage of being fail-safe – if the LEDs failed to operate, the sign would remain compliant, as a standard passive emergency exit sign. The way the flashes present is from left to right, if you’re to follow the flashes with your head, you’re turning your head from one side to the other and saying ‘no’. This may sound a little simplified, but psychologically it’s another effective deterrent.

How do we know they work?

Evaclite have conducted a number of trials on the dynamic signs. Evaclite found that 60% of people don’t actually notice passive signs (standard emergency exit signs) during an evacuation. It all comes down to what is known as ‘learned irrelevance’. When you see something every day it loses its impact. It’s not something that’s relevant to you now, so you block it out and gradually this becomes a learned behaviour. During a trial conducted at the University of Greenwich.  Participants had to run down a corridor with the passive signs present and the majority of people didn’t notice them, and if they did, they didn’t follow the way that the sign recommended.

Evaclite replicated that trial, and this time, they put in the dynamic exit signs, and received twice better detection. The majority of the people not only noticed but verbally acknowledged the signs. The key in this trial was the time it took to make the decision. In the first trial participants were spending on average 6 seconds deciding which way to go. However, when presented with the dynamic signs they didn’t stop and think they just acted, and these few seconds could be vital in the event of a real fire.

Why is this so important?

As we’ve said multiple times, if you’re in an emergency, every second is crucial. If you find yourself in a high rise building, you start to multiply the seconds and quickly the seconds turn into minutes and suddenly it’s been 10 minutes. This is really the USP of the product, reaction time. Although the design is brilliant and loved by architects the product focuses heavily on human behaviour and instinct to get you out of danger as quickly as possible.

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Want to discover why hotels are making the move to dynamic and adaptive signage?

Download our free eBook: ‘Dynamic Emergency Exit Signage: Why the time is now for the hotel sector’ to discover the wider problems facing hotels and how they deal with some very practical customer experience issues.

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Hotels: 2023 Dynamic and Adaptive Signage

It’s no secret that large scale hotels have a serious evacuation problem and the majority of the exposure to this issue is revealed through social media. When there is a real fire or even a practice fire drill, people live tweet or post to facebook.  Social media posts may go along the lines of, ‘it was a nightmare’, ‘people were queuing down the stairs’, ‘it took us 45 minutes just to get out of the building’. `If it was a real fire everyone would have been burnt alive.’

Does this sound familiar? Let’s discuss how Evaclite solves this issue.

Why is emergency evacuation such a huge issue in hotels?

There’s a definite divide in hotels between the large scale and the small and the old and the new. A lot of old hotels are built with a maze of corridors, with multiple exits and multiple staircases. Practically, you may start to think, ‘that’s great, there are more escape routes’, but in reality, it’s extremely confusing and can cause panic in a real emergency evacuation. Typically, when you haven’t been to a hotel before, almost without exception, you’ll go out the way you came in, it’s human nature.

Everybody knows that you shouldn’t use a lift in the event of a fire, but generally there is also a staircase situated next to a lift and one you may have used already, so you head towards that. You’ll come up in a lift or a staircase off reception and therefore go back out the same way. The problem is EVERYONE heads toward this single staircase and single escape route

Relying on this natural behaviour is where we can get into trouble.

The larger newer hotels will have multiple exits, and so the nearest, quickest and safest route to get out of the building may be away from the crowds heading in the direction of the lifts.

Let’s consider the newer big hotels, with 1,000 rooms and long corridors often 100 yards long.  The issue arises when the fire alarm signals, you come out of your bedroom door and without looking (or thinking) you turn right and make your way back to the stairs, near the lift where you came in; 100 yards away, when actually there is a nearer, quicker exit  10 yards around the corner to your left.

This is because you didn’t see or notice the exit sign pointing left to the nearest exit . Up until now, this has just been the way it is, this combination of what is called ‘learned irrelevance’ and the instinct to go out the way you know, can be the cause of bottlenecks in corridors and stairways, panic and reduction in evacuation times. But Evaclite offers a solution.

How do dynamic and adaptive signs solve the problem?

It all comes down to two key factors – ‘increased affordance’ (you can see the sign clearly and quickly) and confidence (the dynamic pulsing green arrow emphasises the best route out).

Relying on our human instinct isn’t enough but with the use of dynamic signage, you see the signs quicker, you are given clear instruction and you can make your decision with confidence. This speeds up the evacuation process and in a large hotel with multiple corridors and exits, this will reduce the bottlenecks. People will now disperse to the nearest exit, as guided by the signs, instead of returning to the first exit they can think of, inevitably being the way they came into the building.

Dynamic signs will give you a clear indication to the nearest exit, but if the nearest egress routes become compromised, because of either the initial or a developing hazard Evaclite signs become ‘adaptive’. They can adapt facilitated by the  ’cause and effect programming’ via the fire panel which identifies via sensors or human instruction that an exit route is now compromised and the emergency exit sign will change from green to red – indicating a negated exit route – alternate safe exit routes will then be highlighted via the green dynamic flashing signs – thus preventing guests exiting towards the known hazard.

Real life application: Large scale Hotels

With Evaclite emergency exit signs, hotels now have a solution to what could quickly become a dangerous evacuation problem.

Evaclite is working with many hotels, but the biggest problem is in the biggest hotels. New Hotels with more than 5 storeys and with 300+ bedrooms often have 3 exits per floor, with one next to the lift.

You can immediately see where the problem lies. During the event of a fire drill, people automatically gravitate towards the exit near the lift, because this is the way they entered the building. This can cause a backlog of 30 minutes or more to exit from the top floors of the hotel as they queue to get to and down the stairs yet people are often oblivious to the fact that there are two more exits at either end of the corridor. This is where the natural human response takes over, we’re programmed to both follow the crowd and go out the way we came in.

The successful modern hotel businesses put the customer experience at the forefront of everything they do.  they do a lot of brilliant work around hiring and training great people, providing state of the art facilities, luxurious rooms and quality food. Safety too is now also being added to that list as a must have and Evaclite dynamic signs is a  significant element of this adding another service to uphold that valued customer experience reputation.

How will it work?

The Fire ALARM sounds You come out of your room at the hotel into the corridor, you look to the right and you see an exit sign with an arrow pointing to the right, if you look to your left you’ll see an exit sign pointing to your left. Both are viable exits, but, which one is closest? At this point, we don’t know. Evaclite can solve this problem through dynamic 3-pulse array dynamic exit signs. In practice, If you left your room and turned right, looked towards the lift and it’s 50 yards away, it will be a standard, passive (no flashing indicator), illuminated sign. However, if you turn left, where the staircase is just 15 metres around the corner, it will be a flashing green arrow within the exit sign, so the sign is now dynamic. If your bedroom is halfway along the corridor, both the exit sign to your left and the exit sign to your right will have a 3-pulse array green arrow, if you’re nearer to one exit than another, the sign to the nearest exit will become dynamic.

So, it’s obvious that due to the sheer scale and size of new hotels, there will be an issue evacuating quickly and efficiently in an emergency.

However, there is an easy solution and that is Evaclite’s dynamic and adaptive emergency exit signs. It’s time to leave passive static signs in the past and move on to a safer and more visible form of emergency exit signage with dynamic and adaptive emergency exit signs fully integrating into your existing Fire Evacuation Systems. 


Want to discover why hotels are making the move to dynamic and adaptive signage?

Download our free eBook: ‘Dynamic Emergency Exit Signage: Why the time is now for the hotel sector’ to discover the wider problems facing hotels and how they deal with some very practical customer experience issues.

Download the eBook