What are Emergency Exit Signs?

An exit sign is a device installed in a public facility (such as a building, aircraft, or boat) pointing towards the location of the closest emergency exit in case of fire or other emergencies. Most germane codes (fire, building, health, or safety) require exit signs to be permanently lit or illuminated.

Exit signs are designed in such a way that they are absolutely unmistakable and understandable to anyone. Earlier, this generally implied exit signs that display the word "EXIT" or the equivalent in the local language. However, substantially exit signs around the world are made in pictogram form, with or without supplementary text.

Story of Emergency Exit Signs

In the early days, exit signs were generally made, either of metal and lit by a nearby incandescent light bulb or were a white glass cover with "EXIT" written in red, put directly in front of a single-bulb light fixture. There was an inherent flaw with these designs, in case of a fire, most of the time the power to the light failed. Moreover, the fixtures could be difficult to see in a fire as visibility was reduced due to smoke, despite being relatively bright. The most substantial problem was that the exit sign was hardly differentiable from an ordinary safety lighting fixture commonly integrated above doors in the past. The problem was partially solved by utilizing red-tinted bulbs instead of normal ones.
Improved signs were soon developed that looked more like today's modern exit sign, with an incandescent bulb inside a rectangular-shaped box that backlit the word "EXIT" on one or both sides. Being bigger than its ancestors, this version of the exit sign provided answers to some of the visibility problems. The sign was only helpful as long as the mains power remained on.

As battery-backup systems transformed into smaller and more efficient versions, some exit signs started to utilize a dual-power system. Under normal conditions, the exit sign was lit by mains power and the battery was in a charged state. In the case of a power outage, the battery would supply power to light the sign. Early battery-backup systems were hefty, heavy, and costly. Modern systems are lightweight, handy, can be installed virtually anywhere, and are integrated into the fixture, rather than needing an isolated box. As batteries improved, so did the amount of time that a fixture could remain lit on batteries.

Modern Days Fixtures

With the development of fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diode technology, exit signs have become even brighter to compensate for the limited visibility in a fire situation, while using less electricity. Fluorescent lamps operate in the same way as incandescent bulbs, back-lighting both sides of an exit fixture from within. LED signs integrate a large number of bright light-emitting diodes to illuminate the sign from inside. An exit sign is persistently lit; fluorescent bulbs require to be changed more often than LEDs. However, the absence of frequent on/off cycles amplifies the life of fluorescent lamps substantially. Generally, LEDs have a very long life and may work for 10 years or more of persistent use, although their brightness may gradually fade with time.

The majority of exit signs in the world are pictogram type, except in countries such as the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Singapore. Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong have adopted transformations to their respective life safety codes to bolster pictogram use.

Usually, modern fixtures are in rugged plastic or metal housing securely bolted to the wall or ceiling. The signs have the word "EXIT", or a picture representing exit, on both sides. Single-sided signs are also available for wall-mount installations. The signs often have metal or plastic knock-outs which can be removed so that an arrow is also lit pointing left or right. Modern exit signs are often combined with other safety devices, such as emergency floodlighting for supplementary area illumination [11]. Exit signs draw a relatively small amount of power, and can generally be added onto any existing electrical circuit without adverse effects. Modern exit signs are also, to some degree, flame retardant.

In addition, specialized LED lamps with "candelabra" sized screw-in bases are available to replace the always-on incandescent lamps in older exit signs. This allows the existing fixtures to be easily upgraded to save energy, without the expense of complete replacement.

Most recently, LEC (light-emitting capacitor) exit signs have come to market. Also called electroluminescent (EL), these signs only consume 1/4W of power and have an operational life of 30+ years which far exceeds the typical 10-year life of an LED sign.


In the US, NFPA needs text-based exit signs for all standard mounted applications. However, pictogram supplements are permitted as long as approval from the local authority is collected and complies with NFPA 170. The NFPA has also approved the ISO pictogram as an option for low-level glow-in-the-dark signs. New York City local law 26 needs these low-level symbolic signs in every high rise buildings.  In tunnels, the Transportation Research Board recommends utilizing the ISO symbol. Latest Airbus, Bombardier CS100, and Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes began utilizing the new pictogram exit signs, which were approved by the FAA in 2012 and 2014 (depending on aircraft type). The newly renovated Government Center subway station in Boston, as well as MBTA's newer Type 9 streetcars for the Green Line and new Orange Line trains by CRRC, utilizes exit signs with white-on-green "EXIT" text with the ISO pictogram next to it. Recent terminal renovations at the Albany International Airport have included supplemental ISO pictogram exit signage on terminal way-finding signage near the emergency exits.

Most of the time, modern exit signs can be seen pointing towards the path to an exit in commercial and large residential buildings that comply with fire code. Some circumstances, such as the year a building was built, may leave it exempt from some of these codes. In the majority of the situations, the owner of the building is responsible for complying with exit sign requirements. This is especially right for older buildings that act as multiple residences, such as apartment buildings, hotels, and campus dormitories.

Market Outlook for Emergency Exit Signs

According to a detailed report by Growth Market Reports the global emergency exit signs market was valued at around USD 965 Million in 2019 and is anticipated to reach about USD 1,306 Million by 2027 flourishing at an approximate CAGR of 4.2% during the forecast period, 2020-2027. Emergency exit signs products are majorly utilized for safe evacuation by offering the right direction in case of emergency. As explained above an emergency exit sign is a display in a public facility, such as a building, aircraft, or boat, which symbolizes the location of the nearest emergency exit in the event of a fire or other type of emergency. Many applicable codes such as fire, house, health, or safety need a permanent illumination of the exit signs. The modern emergency exit signs are integrated with different features such as materials, colors, types, and bulb types. These signboards are also available with pictograms that have been approved by different government bodies.

Growth Factors for the Market

  • Public safety and security functions keep citizens, communities, and public spaces safe with a quick response; it improves operational efficiency and reduces costs.

  • Factors such as surging investment in public safety lead to high demand for public safety and protection in exit sign applications.

  • Deepening IoT implementation in public safety and security across the globe and the growing number of providers of public security solutions is projected to support market growth. Hence, growing investments in public safety boost the growth of the emergency exit signs market.

  • Moreover, surging investments in IT-based solutions and services are boosting commercial building globally.

  • The surging number of startup companies is leading to a rise in the number of commercial buildings. These companies aim at the employee’s safety measures to offer better facilities in the company premises to improve employee work output. This, in turn, bolsters the demand for emergency exit signs for emergencies in the office.

Market Segmentation

Based on type the market is bifurcated into the following types:

  • Electrical Exit Sign - Electrical exit signs offer red or green EXIT lighting with LED (light-emitting diode) light strips. LED exit signs are given more priority if the electrical supply is readily available. Basic LED exit signs consist of a thermoplastic white or black housing and can be utilized in single or double-sided applications. All LED exit signs consist of a battery backup device that holds the exit sign on when a power outage happens. Aluminum LED exit signs are electrical exit signs that need less than 5 watts of electricity, which is compatible with LED technology and have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years.  Aluminum LED exit signs are believed to be budget-friendly, in terms of electricity usage, and have a considerable life span as compared to other electrical exit signs. Aluminum exit signs are considered to be durable and appealing for industrial applications. Electrical exit signs consist of both AC powered and battery-powered exit signs in the scope.

  • Non-electrical Exit Sign - One type of non-electric signs of exit illuminates in the dark by absorbing energy from the sunlight in the day time. Another form of the non-electrical exit sign, called self-luminous, utilizes flickering hydrogen gas called tritium to make EXIT illumination. Non-electrical exit signs are becoming increasingly common because of their ease of installation, long service life, and lack of operating costs. The non-electrical exit sign is ideal for applications where electrical power is not available for emergency exit signs. These signs have an approximated lifespan of 25 years. The second most preference is for outdoor applications is the non-electrical auto-luminous exit signs. Since they are self-powered by tritium gas, they can be utilized outdoors and can adhere to harsh conditions. These exit signs are considered to be an attractive option for outdoor sign applications, as they can be installed within minutes and need less maintenance. The non-electrical exit sign does not need other testing or maintenance after installation.

The electrical exit sign segment accounts for a major share of the market because of its high-grade acrylic panels, which easily connect to the ceiling or wall. These signs are visually more appealing and easy to install. LED exit signboards are a preferred variant for indoor applications such as shopping centers and hospitals. The non-electrical exit sign segment is anticipated to flourish at a substantial CAGR attributing to its exit signs come in sealed fiberglass and can adhere to harsh weather conditions such as snow, sleet, and rain; therefore, the demand for non-electrical exit sign is steep for outdoor applications. Surging outdoor applications for public facilities are transforming the demand dynamics from electrical exit segment to non-electrical exit signs because of the several benefits provided by non-electrical exit signs over electrical exit sign such as durability, efficiency, low energy consumption, and inexpensive, in terms of lifespan.

On the basis of applications, the emergency exit signs market is segmented into, residential, commercial, industrial, and public facilities. The public facility segment accounts for a substantial share of the market and is projected to expand at an impressive CAGR during the forecast period.

The commercial segment accounted for a substantial share in terms of revenue in 2017 and is anticipated to expand at an impressive CAGR by the end of the year 2027. The use of emergency exit signs in the industrial sector is surging due to subsides which are offered by the insurance company and government initiatives to protect the people working in the industry. The residential segment is expected to grow at a substantial CAGR during 2020-2027 to account for a major share by the end of the year 2027.

Regional Analysis of the Market

In terms of regions, the market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. North America's emergency exit signs market accounts for the highest value share in 2019 which totaled close to 40% of the global market. The demand for emergency exit signs is anticipated to be highest in Asia Pacific because of growing commercial activities, establishments, surging awareness, and spending on public safety. The Asia Pacific market is projected to expand at more than 8.0% CAGR during the forecast period.

North America is expected to account for a major share of the market because of stringent fire codes and safety regulations enacted by government bodies in the region. The demand for emergency lights and power-free photoluminescent emergency exit signs has boosted in North America. The market in Asia Pacific is anticipated to grow at a substantial pace during the forecast period because of an increasing number of public facilities buildings such as shopping malls, educational institutes, and religious places, which needs emergency exit signs to avoid chaos during emergencies.

Most of the world's exit signs are considered to be pictogram-type, except in countries such as the US, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Singapore. Currently, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong have made transformations to their respective life safety codes to integrate pictograms into their designs.

Insights about Major Players

The list of key players in the market consists of Eaton, Signify Holding (Philips), Schneider Electric, ABB, Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc., and others.

These companies are considered as key manufacturers of emergency exit signs depending on their revenue, research development (R&D) activities, regional presence, and supply chain management system. The players are utilizing key strategies such as acquisition, and geographical expansion where the potential opportunity for the Emergency Exit Signs extraction is included in the company’s capacity. For example -

  • In July 2020, ABB Ltd. rolled out emergency lighting, known as Stanilite NexusRF Infinity. The satellite infinity enables customers to install emergency lighting digitally. The Sanilite provides a real-time overview of the system.

  • In March 2020, Signify Holding acquired Cooper Technologies from Eaton. This move supported Signify Holding to bolster its presence in North America.

  • In December 2019, Hubbell Incorporated acquired Cantega Technologies along with the brands associated with it. The acquisition supported Hubbell Incorporated to widen its product portfolio.

  • In November 2019, NVC International Holdings Limited started a new plant in Vietnam, Hanoi city. The company plans to manufacture and distribute products in Vietnam and other countries in the region.

  • In October 2019, Eaton divested the lighting business to Signify N.V.