The Four Motivators for Dynamic Signage

The benefits of dynamic emergency exit signage over the conventional, passive ‘running man’ equivalent are proven and well established.  It reduces risk, increases the safety factor and provides you, your staff and visitors with a little extra peace of mind by getting people out faster.

In brief, it is much better at getting your people out safely whatever the emergency.  Modern life has brought us different types of emergency to consider beyond that of fire meaning we need to be flexible and agile in keeping our people safe.  This includes how we direct them around or out of the building under different conditions such as a terrorist attack, a bomb or chemical alert, or even active shooter.

You would imagine therefore that everyone would want it in their building wouldn’t you?  After all, why wouldn’t you want to increase the safety of your people for as little as a few £000’s?  Unfortunately, life is not that simple.  There are other factors to consider.  These include things such as responsibility, compliance and cost.

Firstly, we know compliance is a legal requirement.  Many organisations feel this to be adequate even though they also know it is a minimum standard based upon a signage designed in the 1970’s.

Strictly speaking of course, they are right; it should be adequate.  However, is adequate enough, particularly when it comes to safety?

So, money.  Clearly, change invariably costs, in the short-term at least.  For an organisation working in a small space and/or where money is tight clearly the cost versus benefit argument may seem less conclusive. 

Not all of us have the luxury of being able to consider upgrading any aspect of our working environment, even our fire system, when the budget does not allow or when the return on investment is less apparent and more difficult to justify.  Also, perhaps we are tenants and the fire system employed is not our responsibility so why should we worry? 

However, before you dismiss the idea, there are number of other needs that dynamic signage could help you address and problems it could help you solve.  There are also circumstances where it could actually save you money as well as make your life easier that many fail to consider.

Let us explore the key motivators and reasons for specifying, buying or demanding dynamic signage that you may not have considered and that may enable you to justify upgrading to a performance-based solution even if you had previously said no to the idea:

  1. Structural problem
  2. Operational need
  3. Aspirational want
  4. Personal desire/Moral imperative

Structural problem

A building’s structure, size, shape and layout impact how it is used and how it can be used.

Older buildings provide greater individualism, interest and character and can be great places to work.  Furthermore, they may have historical and architectural significance, provide balance as well as diversity to a cityscape and preserving them may help save the look of the local built environment as well as natural resources.  However, they can be complicated and costly to run, change, update or re-purpose.

More modern buildings typically offer greater efficiency, flexibility and cost-effectiveness than older ones and may be more readily adapted to suit our changing needs.

However, whether old or new, buildings bring their own challenges.  Owners change, tenants move, organisations grow or shrink, and areas may be re-purposed each of which can bring the need for significant structural change.

With older buildings in particular, balancing occupancy capacity with the structural restrictions such as narrow corridors or tight stairwells may create the need for complex remodelling or a more complex fire strategy.  Less open space and less clarity in terms of evacuation routes add to the challenge as does the risk of fewer practicable escape routes.  This may increase the risk of potential delay in decision making when trying to exit the building due to less linear corridors and more route options within a floor or space risking safety and potentially jeopardising compliance.

A re-modelling project may have inadvertently confused one or more exit routes increasing exit complexity and a lack of clarity restricting ease of sign-off by Building Control.

Providing clear, intuitive guidance to a broader, international demographic with differing levels of familiarity of the space and fitness in such circumstances can also be difficult with simple, passive signage.

As responsible people, we need to ensure we have an effective fire strategy in place and that we can ensure the safety and security of all building occupants in a range of emergency situations.

Dynamic signage can help resolve issues that such changes may create, typically much more quickly and cost-effectively than the alternative re-design, re-model or structural change delivering clarity and more efficient egress. 

Furthermore, Building Control is beginning to recognise that dynamic signage offers greater flexibility and control over conventional signage such that they may even suggest it as an alternative to a costly structural change.

Operational need

The growing complexity, size and design of modern buildings brings new challenges to address when trying to ensure an efficient evacuation.  It is often necessary to employ new approaches in terms of controlling people movement and fire strategies are becoming more advanced and elaborate accordingly.

Such approaches include phasing the evacuation by floor or zone, compartmentalisation or directing the occupants in different directions based upon given scenarios.  It may be appropriate to evacuate a single floor or group of floors perhaps simultaneously moving them upwards and downwards to the adjacent, safe floors rather than directing them out of the building.

Given it is not just about a fire, strategies and infrastructure need to be sufficiently flexible to adapt and enable agile solutions that can help manage the movement of people in any emergency situation.  Those of us responsible for managing large, complex buildings in such a variety of dangerous scenarios need all the help we can get.

Dynamic signage not only provides clarity and efficiency it also enhances your ability to manage people movement and adapt at short notice in accordance with the emergency or crisis you might be faced with.  Control that is simply not possible with conventional signage.

Each sign is addressable meaning it can be controlled independently of those around it and how it behaves when (ie passive, dynamic green arrow and adaptive red cross), can be dictated by not only the fire panel through cause-and-effect programming also by manual intervention if necessary.

This enables you to consider, anticipate and predict a range of scenarios and then pre-determine the corresponding signage behaviour.  Should x and y happen then the signs 1-6 will do this.  However, should z happen too then signs 2 and 3 will do this instead.

Similarly, it enables to you to adapt as the environment changes.  It enables the controlled evacuation of different areas or floors of the building to be directed in different directions spreading the loading across the available facilities minimising risk and congestion.

The facility for manual intervention adds an additional level of control to allow for the unexpected or a temporary variable such as an area of the building being closed for refurbishment or being used for an alternative purpose such as event or meeting.

The added performance and functionality over that provided by traditional signage brings your building in the 21st Century making it properly SMART, able to cope with the modern living and working environments whilst bringing the flexibility and agility to adapt to short-term and long-term changes.  You are also able to better plan for the future knowing you are keeping your people safe as they can be throughout.

Aspirational want

Aspirational may be defined as the want to achieve or the desire to perform to a high level, not being satisfied with the status quo.  Where would modern manufacturing or the aviation industry be without the continuous improvement aspiration?  This is very much performance beyond compliance and may be a personal and an organisational imperative.

These days, the values that an organisation or brand live by or stand for make a difference to how they perform.  This also impacts how they are perceived by the outside world so by their staff, suppliers, customers and even competitors.  This might include the culture within the organisation and how staff are treated, who they work with, how they operate, why they do what they do and what is important to them.

Perhaps you just want to be the best, the biggest, the fastest, the most profitable, the best to work for or have the nicest working environment.  Why shouldn’t this include the safest too?

Increasingly, health and safety is becoming a more dominant priority.  Anyone who is familiar with the construction industry will know how it has been transformed by proactively prioritising and embracing health and safety from training and site procedures to how staff and visitors park their cars.

Offices and buildings are simply other kinds of ‘site’ and we should consider the health and safety within them just as much as a Project Manager might consider it on their construction site.  Keeping our people safe is, after all, the first thing any employer must do.

Dynamic signage is at the heart of this want.  An alarm sounds then the number one priority is to ensure that everyone on site can exit quickly, safely and calmly something that dynamic signage was designed to help enable.

Surely our people and hence our buildings should be as safe as they can be, and this is something that should become integral to our personal and organisational missions and aspirations. 

We always consider ways to save costs don’t we? Perhaps it is time we also continuously consider ways to improve safety and save lives.

Personal desire/Moral imperative

Wikipedia defines a moral imperative as ‘A strongly felt principle that compels that person to act’.

We want those people who use our buildings to be safe.  We also expect the buildings we use and inhabit to be safe.

The HSE states that the first responsibility or duty of an Employer is ‘to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.

This means making sure that workers and visitors are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace’.

The Government states the first responsibility of a landlord is to ‘keep the property you live in safe and free from health hazards’.

So as business owners, employers, and landlords we have an obligation and a moral imperative to keep people in our employ, under our care and in our buildings safe.

Shouldn’t we therefore do everything we can to ensure this?  In modern society is simple compliance, or adherence to the minimum requirement enough?  We are rarely satisfied with the minimum of anything so why should we be when it comes to fire safety?  Furthermore, when we realise the inefficiencies of a system that is based upon signage developed in the 1970’s, isn’t it time we all felt obliged to fit the latest and best solution to help minimise risk and keep our buildings and our people safe no matter what? 

Can we really go home to sleep soundly with peace of mind having achieved or maintained the minimum safety levels in our buildings?  Is this the way a truly responsible person should feel? 

If we know dynamic signage is basically twice as effective than the conventional running man, perhaps we have the moral imperative to do something about and buy or specify it today.


If you recognise and appreciate the benefits of dynamic but are concerned about cost or feel compliance to be adequate, please remember that there are many other things to consider before saying no.

Apart from helping to save lives, it can help make your life easier, reducing risk, increasing control and enabling change.  It can save you money through enabling complex structural solutions to pass formal scrutiny without significant and costly change.

When it comes to health and safety, surely as responsible people we have an obligation to challenge the status quo aiming for performance beyond mere compliance?  Even as a tenant, we have responsibility to ensure the buildings and spaces we use are safe and why not demand the best?

Whether your issue or need is structural, operational, aspirational or personal make the time to find out how dynamic signage is the ‘smart’ solution.

Award Winning

Award winning

Evaclite Emergency Exit Signs and the team is multi-award winning and has been fortunate enough to secure some significant awards already:

Winner;            Fire Innovation of the Year – Security & Fire Excellence Awards 2018

Runner-up;       Safety & Health Excellence (SHE) awards 2019

Finalist;            Safety & Health Excellence (SHE) awards 2020

Here we have our beloved MD, Bernard Ashford receiving the award for Fire Innovation of the Year from, amongst others, James Nesbitt:

Reducing Risk

Reducing risk

Anyone familiar with designing, building or managing a property will be familiar with risk.  They will also be keen to manage and minimise this risk.

In the case of an emergency, particularly a fire, every second counts and risk can increase significantly over time. 

When it comes to the alarm sounding and then trying to evacuate a building, several things need to be considered.

This process looks like this:

Firstly, we need to consider people, us, and how we reach to external stimuli, specifically in this case the fire alarm.  We all behave differently depending on the situation.  In an emergency we can take time to realise what we are hearing, decide how we are going to react and then to actually do what we have decided.  This takes time, is slowed by stressful situations and risk increases as this process slows.  Anything that helps speed this up then is a good thing.

Two other critical things to consider are how long you need to get out of the building (the RSET; Required Safe Egress Time – which is generally a fixed amount of time) and how long you have got to get out (the ASET; Available Safe Egress Time – which is variable and generally a reducing amount of time).

Understandably, the ASET minus the RSET must be positive to be safe.  In others words you have long enough to exit the building safely in as many emergency situations as possible.

As such, fire engineers build in a ‘Safety Factor’ something that builds as big a cushion of time as possible between these two numbers.  A contingency for the unanticipated.

This is what Evaclite dynamic signage does.  It helps ensure the maximum difference between the RSET and ASET. 

Not only does it halve decision making time but it also increases the safety margin by increasing the speed and efficiency of the evacuation when compared with conventional signage, whatever the circumstances.

This helps allow for daily life, the bicycle in the corridor, the delivery in the lift lobby or the group of guests being shown round the office. 

It hence reduces risk, makes buildings safer and helps save lives.

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