Emergency Power Needed for Exit Signs?

Q: We have a physicians’ office building in an existing business occupancy, which has two remotely located exits.  Exits paths are clearly marked with lit exit signs and the egress corridors have battery backup emergency lighting. However, the exit signs have only normal power (no battery backup). Is this practice non-compliant, and should we replace the exit signs with battery backup units?

A: It depends on the height of the building, and the number of occupants. You state that your physician’s office is an existing business occupancy, so the provisions of chapter 39 of the LSC apply. Section 39.2.10 discusses the Marking of a Means of Egress, which refers us to section 7.10. So, section 7.10.4 discusses the power source for the illumination of the sign, which says if emergency egress lighting is required by the occupancy chapter, then the ‘Exit’ signs need to also be powered by emergency sources as well. Back we go to chapter 39 and look for emergency lighting requirements, which we find in section 39.2.9. Emergency egress lighting is only required in business occupancies, where any one of the following exists:

  • The building is 2 or more stories in height above the level of exit discharge
  • The occupancy is subject to 100 or more occupants above or below the level of exit discharge
  • The occupancy is subject to 1,000 or more total occupants
  • All underground and windowless buildings (see section 3.3.197 for definitions of these types of structures)

So, if your physician’s office qualifies for any of the above bullet points, then the ‘Exit’ signs are required to have an emergency power source. The ‘Exit’ signs are permitted to be illuminated by either internal or external light source, as long as it is reliable and the signs remain legible in the normal and emergency lighting mode. As always, remember to check with your local authorities to see if they have more restrictive requirements.