Escape route signs can be seen everywhere. A man running toward a rectangular door, with an arrow pointing in the direction of the door and it may even say “Fire Exit”. We may not pay attention to them when we are at work or out shopping but, by law, they are to be in every non-domestic building. They’re there for when an emergency, such as a fire, is present. Employees and visitors require a lighted route of escape and the signs are for guiding them toward safety.

Visitors to an establishment may only have a visual memory of the door they entered. Employees would know of other doors that are not visible to visitors. The escape route signs are very important because an escape route will not necessarily be the route people would use under normal circumstances. In a fire situation, the travel distance to a place of safety must be as short as possible, and the purpose of fire exit signs is to facilitate this by identifying the escape route(s) and enabling people to find the exit nearest to them. Government guidelines state that, if there is only one escape route, the travel distance should not be more than 18 metres. If there is more than one escape route, the travel distance should not exceed 45 metres. The distances are shortened if the area is at a high-risk of fire.

This escape route must be kept clear of clutter. There is no use having an exit door if people can’t get to it. Lighting is also necessary and emergency lighting may be required in order to see the escape route clearly, as well as the signs and equipment along the way. According to the HM Gorverment: “Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Offices and Shops” (May 2006): “The primary purpose of emergency escape lighting is to illuminate escape routes but it also illuminates other safety equipment”.

The escape route must lead to a door, or doors, that will eventually lead outside of the building. The last, external door does not have to be a fire door, as set out in the regulations, but it must be easy for anyone to open. Since this last exit door leads to the outside it will have to be locked, in most cases, to deter anyone from entering into the premises by this door. A push bar on the inside of that door is a good tool to use. It is easy for anyone to use as an escape door and the door remains locked to those on the outside. There must be a sign on or near the door indicating that it is a fire exit. A push bar used to open the door must have a sign on it saying something to the effect of “push”.

The final exit door does not need to be a fire door. A fire door is an internal door designed to cut off parts of a building and keep a fire contained. The regulations put forward regarding escape routes have been well thought out and all businesses must abide by them to keep their employees and visitors safe.


Fire exit routes should be well known by employees and clearly marked and lit for them. Visitors who are not familiar with the building need these exit route signs in case of emergency. Management of any non-residential building should be up to date on these regulations and give training to employees or occupants to ensure everyone can escape quickly.