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Egress signs – they're not just about "exit"

Exit signs can be lit using photoluminescence, radioactive tritium gas, or backup power that only engages when the local circuit shuts down.
It's a horror-movie cliché – chased by villains, the hero runs down a dark hall, trying to open door after locked door, frantically searching for a way out. There's a reason we never face situations like that in reality – red-lettered exit signs are everywhere.

Not only do exit signs tell patrons how to get out of a building, they're often the law, protecting employees and visitors alike.

Building owners aren't only required to erect exit signs, though. They're also responsible for lighting those signs even in emergencies, as well as placement of arrow signs that provide directions when the exit isn't immediately apparent, allowing visitors who may not remember how to leave to find their way out quickly. The state of New York , for example, requires a red arrow below the word EXIT on directional signs. The word EXIT must be at least 3 3/8 inches high or 5 inches high, depending on occupancy type, with a stroke of 9/16 inches in either case.

In addition to arrows and exit signs, the law in many places requires owners to install "not an exit" signs on doors that might be confused with one in an emergency – another form of insurance against the horror-movie cliché. Generally, these laws apply to doors in hallways with many other doors, so that in case of fire, occupants can quickly eliminate nonviable exits in conditions that might make it hard to see the EXIT sign.