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Basic principles of an effective safety way-guidance system

Basic principles of an effective safety way-guidance system

Install an emergency egress system that’s safer for everyone.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) produces recommended standards for egress safety way-guidance systems to help reduce confusion and delay in understanding the meaning of egress advice.

Uniform international standards also assist the emergency services in navigating their way around smoke-filled buildings, helping them to fight fires quicker and reduce the levels of damage.

When planning your safety way-guidance system (SWGS), ISO 16069 establishes some basic principles.

Low, intermediate and high level?

High and low level components are the primary visual elements of an SWGS.

In the following information:

  • Low level means a maximum of 0.4m above floor level
  • Intermediate means eye level
  • High level means not less than 1.8m above floor level

Consistency and coherence

Consistent, coherent information improves the success and orderliness of evacuations. Photoluminescent egress markings should be as unbroken as possible. They should guide an evacuee from any place within a building, unambiguously, to the designated assembly area and preferably delineate the boundaries of the escape route.

Visual reinforcement

Continuity and consistency of information should be aided by safety signs and directional indicators. The frequency of sign placement should be determined by the risk assessment, subject to a maximum of 10m intervals for exit signs and 5m for directional signs.

Wherever practical, signs located in high and intermediate positions should be repeated at low locations (to ensure consistency of information whether walking or crawling).

Directional signs at a low level should be close to or incorporated in the way-guidance lines.


The principal position of guidance lines should be at low level, giving perspective over distances up to 30m, with directional signs observable from 5m.

Additional escape route markings (on guide rails, handrails or other architectural features) should be positioned up to 1.2m above floor level.

High location safety signs and directional markers indicating route direction changes, intermediate and final exit doors should be located at 10m and 30m intervals for visibility at medium and long observation distances.

Visibility and colour

Colours, shapes, symbols and contrasts should all conform to ISO 3864-1 and ISO 7010. The Glo-Brite® range of photoluminescent tapes, sheets, films and signs all satisfy the ISO criteria.


The minimum luminous performance of installed photoluminescents should be:

Time following 5 mins’ exposure to ambient light source of 1000 LxLuminance (mcd/m2)
10 mins20
60 mins2.8
340 mins0.3

Ensure component has sufficient ambient light to charge effectively. Minimum operational time for an SWGS is 60 mins.


Assembly areas are the preferred final destination.

Use the SWGS to give specific emphasis to final and intermediary destinations along the escape route such as emergency exit doors.

Avoid confusion

Avoid dead ends, changes of direction and offering alternative escape routes. Alternatives cause confusion and delay.

Increase the frequency of signs at high, intermediate and low locations near dead ends, to steer evacuees towards escape routes.

Minimize competing information

Public information signs or internal notices should be subordinate, or of a distinctly different colour, to any components parts of the SWGS.

Multi-storey buildings

Operate a floor-numbering system in all stairwells and place a floorplan on each floor and major corridors near emergency exits to make navigation easier.

Firefighting equipment

Sign firefighting equipment to ISO 3864-1 standards (ask us for help in identifying the right signage for your location and equipment). Do not use arrows to indicate safety equipment on or near escape routes.

All signs should conform to ISO 3864-1 and ISO 7010.

Jessup Glo-Brite® photoluminescent tapes from Innova Solutions conform to ISO standards. To discuss your safety sign requirements, please call +44 (0) 1282 867 390 or explore our range here.

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