Fire safety: How responsible are you?

Fire safety: How responsible are you?

We’re involved in managing buildings; we all know our responsibilities when it comes to fire safety, right?

We all know that should we have a visit from our local fire and rescue authority to check our fire procedures and prevention measures that they can act if they think our measures are inadequate.

We are also well aware that this could result in one of the following:

Alterations notice the building has high safety risks should its use change (and changing use is real possibility these days)

Enforcement notice an instruction to make changes if there are high risks that are not being managed effectively

Prohibition notice an instruction to immediately prohibit access or even close the building based upon the level of apparent risk

We are in no doubt as to the importance of complying with fire regulations and keeping people safe.  Our day job involves carrying out risk assessments and ensuring that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.

However, how often do we give thought to what a breach could cost, not just to the business but to us as individuals?  Have we considered recently that beyond the emotional impact, a breach could result in a responsible person such as ourselves facing a fine and even imprisonment? 

Furthermore, due to changes in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in March 2015, such a fine is unlimited.

The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) suggests: “This (change), in conjunction with new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, almost certainly means that fines for offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order are likely to increase.  Arguably, this makes compliance with the legislation even more important for business.”

A review of 200 cases undertaken by Warren Spencer, a fire safety solicitor who topped the fire safety category in the IFSEC Global Security and Fire Influencers 2018, seems to bear this out suggesting such fines are increasing and have risen by 35% since Grenfell.

The FIA Best Practice Guide to Fire Safety states: “Every year people die or are seriously injured as a result of fires in non-domestic properties. Besides the human risk, fire costs UK business millions of pounds due to property damage, fines, compensation, and insurance premiums. Many businesses find that they are not able to recover from the effects of a fire.”

Some well publicised fines include £200k on the AWE, £200k on the Radnor Hotel, £210k on the Chumleigh Lodge Hotel, £210k on the CoOp, £300k on Shell International and a substantial £400k on New Look following a fire at their Oxford Street store in 2007.

Whether we have considered this recently or not, it’s always a sobering thought. 

So how safe are our buildings? 

There are always things we can do to improve building fire safety, often for very little investment.

The FIA Guide notes that one key duty of the Responsible Person, either on their own or with any other Responsible Person “must do their best to make sure that everyone on the premises, or nearby, can escape safely if there is a fire. You should pay particular attention to people who may have a disability or anyone who may need special help.”

This is what Evaclite dynamic signage has been designed to address.  It can make a significant difference to any building for as little as a few £000 improving evacuation efficiency and helping to better manage risk. 

Evaclite signage is fully compliant, independently certified and easily retrofitted.  In an emergency every second counts and, when compared with conventional signage, it has been proven that in an emergency it:

  • Is seen twice as easily
  • Gets people moving in the right direction in half the time
  • Reduces congestion at fire exits by over one third
  • Reduces the average exit time for every occupant by 18%.

It increases the ‘safety factor’ and a bigger safety factor might just make us sleep that little bit better.

Every day we consider what can be done to keep our people that little bit safer. 

Perhaps now is the time to re-consider whether even simple compliance is truly sufficient and push harder for performance beyond compliance.  

Alan Ward

Exit Signage – can’t see, won’t see

Affordance & learned irrelevance

Conventional emergency exit signage suffers from two significant issues that severely compromises its performance:

  1. Poor, or a lack of, ‘affordance’
  2. Learned irrelevance

Let’s tackle these in reverse order.

Learned irrelevance

Also known as the pre-exposure effect, it may be described as the learning to ignore things that lack meaning or have no impact on us.  We see it all the time, it doesn’t affect us so we don’t see it.

What does this mean for the performance of conventional signage?  It means it doesn’t work at all well.


Mirriam Webster defines affordance as ‘the quality or property of an object that defines its possible uses or makes clear how it can or should be used’ so how intuitive an item is in terms of use or indeed how to react to it.  In simple terms this means we see something but don’t know how to react to it.

Summarily, we are unlikely to see it and if we do see it, we are unsure how to react to it causing us to be indecisive just when a quick, accurate decision matters most.  This is important enough in simple wayfinding terms let alone when we are trying to find our way to safety in an emergency.  This increases stress and more critically slows evacuation, increases risk and puts lives at risk.

These are not only key to the lack of performance of conventional emergency exit signage but are all also key to why Evaclite dynamic signage was designed the way it was. 

It is designed to grab the attention and convey a clear, intuitive message that we know how to react to. 

It has been proven to be seen twice as easily, help you make up your mind in half the time and get you moving in the right direction twice as quickly.  It is the brighter, quicker and safer choice.

Alan Ward

Tall Buildings: Why Dynamic Signage is no Longer Optional

A review of a recent webinar held with Fire Safety Matters Magazine
Buildings are getting bigger. 2019 was a record year, with 26 structures built at 300 metres or higher. With the height of buildings increasing by the day, emergency evacuation has become less one dimensional and complex. An increase in building size creates an increase in complexity. The larger or taller the building is, the more complex the evacuation routes become making decision making more frequent and more critical increasing the time it takes for occupants to escape increasing risk accordingly. This is why dynamic signage is becoming a necessity, not an option. 

Alan Ward, commercial director and dynamic signage expert at Evaclite explained the importance of dynamic signage and why it matters at a recent hour-long webinar with Fire Safety Matters magazine. 

Let’s start with the basics, what’s the purpose of dynamic signage?
Alan starts the webinar by painting a picture of a typical scenario of where and how dynamic signage comes into play: “We’re in a meeting in the office. The alarm goes off. What do we do? Well, we sit there for a while. We stare at each other. We wait to see what happens. We check that we have our phone and wallet to hand. Then we’ll make a decision as to whether to move and in which direction.” 

Ward is referencing a few separate factors, specifically, the detection time, alarm time, recognition time, response time and the movement time. 

Two types of escape time exist; there’s the required amount of time you have to exit the building in an emergency and the available time you have in reality, given the circumstances. The time you need versus the time you’ve got.

The difference between these two times is the safety factor (or risk interval). The available egress time will reduce if the fire worsens. Alan perfectly sums this up in this statement: “The available time minus the required time must be positive to be safe. In order to make buildings as safe as possible, fire engineers typically add-in a safety factor at the design stage and seek to make this as large as possible in order to reduce the risk for occupants. Dynamic signage increases that safety factor.” 

Tall buildings are only getting taller
In 1985 ISO adopted the ‘running man’ legend that we all know and recognise today.  However, a lot has changed since then. In 1985 the tallest building in the world was The Sears Tower, in Chicago.  The tower stands at 443 metres with 110 storeys. However, now the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, standing at 828 metres with 162 floors or nearly twice as tall as the Sears Tower or three times the Eiffel Tower.   

The EU framework, Project ‘Getaway’ and the stats
During the interview, Alan referenced the EU Framework Project named ‘Getaway’. This experiment confirmed Evaclite’s belief; only 38% of us see emergency exit signs when exiting a building. Even if occupants do see the signs, there is a strong likelihood that they will either ignore them and/or simply go out the same way they came in.

Every second counts in an emergency. Larger buildings are three dimensional, of course, making exit decisions even more complicated. With passive signage, such a decision for example whether to go left or right or up or down typically takes 5.5 seconds every time an occupant sees a sign. Using dynamic signage, it is around 2.6 seconds so less than half the time.

Dynamic exit signs display a green pulsing arrow when a fire alarm is activated if the exit route is safe. If the exit route is obstructed or compromised and therefore unsafe, the sign will switch to a red cross. Dynamic signs enable quicker decision making and help ensure occupants head for the nearest, safest exit every time. The can lessen the average exit time per person by nearly one fifth (18%) and enable everyone to walk an average of 12% less distance to an exit. 

Evaclite’s message hits home
The EU framework project confirmed that twice as many people see a dynamic sign in an emergency than a static one. Dynamic signage also reduces congestion when exiting a building by over a third (36%) by ensuring everyone goes to their nearest, safest exit. Blue-chip brands such as AECOM, Barclays, CBRE, Premier Inn and Rolls-Royce also recognise the benefits of dynamic signage and are a few examples of some of the companies talking to Evaclite about dynamic signage.

On the day of the webinar, one of the most asked questions was ‘what are the key issues to be considered by end-users when deciding on the deployment of dynamic signage?’ Alan’s immediate response to this question was “What’s the cost to the host organisation of not making its building as safe as it could be?” and, “How important is the security and safety of the staff? In reality, there’s nothing more important. If an organisation knows an obvious way in which to improve its existing fire safety solutions, then why wouldn’t it?” 

If the end-user is undecided on whether to implement dynamic signage, there’s a broader conversation to be had. Again, there are questions they must ask themselves. Alan questioned, “Do they realise the ineffective nature of the standard, passive emergency exit signage?” and, “What’s their attitude to risk? Is compliance (a minimum standard) enough, or are they looking for greater safety performance? Do they have a specific evacuation or safety problem?” 

A proactive approach to fire safety
The question that the end-user should ask themselves is this; ”Can I sleep well at night knowing that my building is safe enough, or, is there something more I can do?  Should I adopt a more proactive approach to making and keeping my people safe?”  How would you feel if a fire or similar emergency occurred resulting in injury or even death and you knew that this may have been prevented for as little as a few thousand?

Assuming the end-user has direct responsibility for a building or a business, do they understand the liability they carry with regards to building safety? Are they aware that, if a catastrophic blaze happens and deaths and injuries ensue, they can be held personally accountable with the potential of an unlimited fine and even a prison sentence should they be found wanting? It’s a grounding thought, but also reaffirms the importance of having the correct safety system in place. 

What do the standards say?
There is a clear trend in British Standards towards dynamic signage becoming the norm. In May 2016, BS 5266-1 started to reference developments in emergency lighting applications and technology. In June last year, Clause 14 of BS 7273-6 spoke about lighting, intelligent signage and wayfinding. The clause states: “In addition, if dynamic safety sign systems are used to direct users towards escape routes that are still safe and away from those contaminated by smoke or fire, then the information from the fire detection and fire alarm system is one of the major control inputs.”

There is no doubt that British Standards are pointing towards all emergency exit signs being made dynamic. Based on the points made in this webinar alone, it’s difficult to argue with that end game.

So why wait? Make your people safer by specifying or buying dynamic signage today. If you’d like to find out more, watch the full free webinar in conjunction with FSM, click here to view the webinar on-demand now. 


Active vs. Passive fire safety – What’s the difference? 

Ensuring your building is protected from a fire, no matter how severe, should be high up on your list of priorities.

The integration of both passive and active forms of fire protection should be an integral part of your processes to prevent a fire in your building, whether it be a school, a high rise building or a hotel – the two go hand in hand.


Let’s start here, what is passive fire protection?

While active fire protection systems are triggered by the existence of a fire, passive fire protection systems aim to prevent the fire from happening in the first place. In short, passive fire protection systems use fire-resistant capabilities to prevent a flame from first igniting and then spreading.  

Active systems also help the occupants of a building to evacuate safely when a fire occurs. Let’s explore some examples, some forms of active fire protection include fire doors, firewalls, emergency exit signs/luminaires, and dampers. Evaclite would be considered a passive form of fire protection as the use of intelligent and adaptive signage guides you to a suitable and safe exit, reducing bottlenecks and evacuation time. 


So, what is active fire protection? 

Active fire protection systems work to actively put out a fire that has already begun. These systems include individual assets such as fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, and fire suppression systems. Active systems can come in two different forms, they can either be automatic or manually operated. Automatic systems include fire sprinklers and manually operated systems include fire extinguishers. These systems are triggered by the presence of fire and smoke and provide a response that attempts to suppress the fire until the fire department arrives. 

Having active fire protection will help to fight a fire and reduce the damage that a fire causes.


The total package

In order for your building to be protected to the highest possible standard, you will need a combination of both passive and active fire systems that work in conjunction with each other, in order to prevent a fire and control one that may start. 

If you are constructing a new building, no matter what the facility may be used for, you may want to consider using fire-resistant materials for the walls, doors, and floors. You should also install an active fire protection system, such as fire sprinklers. 

Remember, if you are unsure of which systems your facility needs, you should hire the help of a professional fire protection contractor.


Evaclite’s Dynamic and Adaptive Emergency exit signage

Are you looking for a higher level of safety from your passive fire protection system? Evaclite dynamic emergency exit signs have been proven to facilitate a safer evacuation during an emergency. The signs attract the eye and provide a dynamic pulsing array of light within the emergency luminaire, guiding you to a safe exit. Being intuitive the signs are easily understood by all languages. 


Evaclite offers: 

  • Increased rates of detection by more than 60%
  • Improved people decision making by 44%
  • Facilitate a 50% quicker evacuation


Want to discover more? Check out our range of dynamic and adaptive products:


Fire Safety in Tall Buildings: How can Evaclite help?

In London alone, there are 450 tall buildings in the pipeline. Of those, over 90 are being constructed, and the pace of tall building development in the capital is accelerating, with 28 tall building completions in 2017, and 40 more in 2018. 

The rate and complexity of tall building construction are increasing and of course, with our population continuing to grow, cities will house many more people in tall buildings in the future. This being considered, our risk management systems need to align with this rapid growth and meet the growing demand. This is where dynamic and adaptive signage could be the answer for tall building safety regulations. 

The Buildings Regulations 2010 set a list of minimum standards in respect of health and safety which must be abided by when constructing new buildings. These minimum standards include, for example, the requirement that a building must be, ‘designed and constructed so that there are appropriate provisions for the early warning of fire’ and ‘appropriate means of escape from a  fire’. However, It is vital to note that the Building Regulations do not specify exactly how these standards should be met or what provisions should be put in place to meet the standards. This is often up to the construction team, among other contributors, such as fire engineers, to dictate how the standards will be met and what exact actions need to be taken to meet them. 

This doesn’t always result in the highest standards of fire safety, as with lots of things, it’s on a scale and people have different opinions of what the standards are. This is where some people fall into the trap of doing the bare minimum when schedules and deadlines are tight, do we really look at the bigger picture? Do we consider what the best option would be, or simply look to tick a box. 

Key issues in tall building evacuation:
Currently, within the UK, there is no clear, authoritative definition of what constitutes a tall building or a high rise building, they tend to vary by local authority area. For example, in London, a tall building is defined as ‘those that are substantially taller than their surroundings, cause a significant change to the skyline or are larger than the threshold sizes set for the referral of planning applications to the Mayor (30m threshold). 

However, in other areas of the UK, a tall building can be defined as any building over the height of 20m. However, contradicting this again, Approved Document B to the Building Regulations makes reference to a height of 18m. 

If your organisation is located in a tall commercial building, the following issues regarding the safe evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire should be considered: 

  • A standard, safe egress time as taller buildings will take longer to evacuate
  • The capacity of the escape routes to allow occupants to escape safely
  • The continued integrity of escape routes/building structure in a fire
  • The inability for the fire and rescue service to rescue occupants externally to the building above a certain height
  • Disabled guests, requiring assistance in an evacuation
  • How the responsibility is allocated to a person where there is shared occupancy of tall buildings (office blocks)
  • Risks involved with extended vertical evacuation down staircases (eg trips and falls).


How does Dynamic and Adaptive signage help? 

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 to get us out of danger, but with the use of dynamic signage, you see the signs quicker, you are given clear instructions and you can make your decision with 100% confidence. This speeds up the evacuation process and in a high rise building 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 exit routes become compromised, because of either the initial or a developing hazard Evaclite signs become ‘adaptive’. They can adapt due to ‘cause and effect programming’ via the fire panel which identifies using 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, preventing guests exiting towards the known hazard.

Here are a few examples of the benefits some Evaclite customers have shared with us:

Showing people the best routes to use during an evacuation makes people happier and more confident during a stressful time.

Improved affordance for emergency exit signs makes for a quicker evacuation.

Dynamic signs help reduce evacuation times with greater affordance for guests and a better reaction to false alarms.

People can be directed away from the fire and smoke ladened exits automatically and in real-time.

Reducing bottlenecks and congestion during an evacuation at door exits and in stairwells by showing people better more viable and quicker/easier routes away from the fire or out of the building.

Happier customers have confidence in staying in one of your hotels, in preference and hopefully more often.

Your hotel brand gets to show guests you really care about their experience, service excellence and their overall well-being.

Occupancy rates might increase with better reviews and greater confidence.

Reduce or avoid negative feedback and reviews.


So, it’s true, a passive sign does give you regulatory compliance, however when you are faced with a fire alarm activation and don’t know what move to make next, whether it’s a real fire or not, dynamic and adaptive signs come into their own.

Are you prepared? Take a look at our range of Dynamic and Adaptive Emergency Exit Signs.