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Photoluminescent Material Tested in Ottawa

Photonics.com
Nov 2006
OTTAWA, Nov. 1, 2006 -- A new fire safety system tested recently at an office tower in downtown Ottawa involved photoluminescent material (PLM) that glows in the dark, helping occupants safely evacuate a building without power or one filled with dense smoke.

The research was conducted by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), a federal organization, with three US photoluminescent manufacturers: Jalite USA, Jessup Manufacturing Co. and Prolink North America Inc.

photolumin.jpg
The four photoluminescent installations tested last month. The three darker photos are dark stairwells with photoluminescent material. In the top left photo, the material was used with emergency lighting at an average of 37 lux. (Photos: National Research Council of Canada, copyright © 2006)
In collaboration with the Office of the Fire Marshall of Ontario, NRC researchers conducted a study of occupant behavior during a fire drill that took place last month in an Ottawa high-rise condominium building. NRC researchers will analyze the data collected during the test evacuation drill over the next months and a final report should be ready in about six months, it said. Results are being used to develop recommendations for improving fire safety in high-rise buildings and defining better evacuation procedures.

NRC fire researchers have established a worldwide reputation for their work in human behavior during fire emergencies. They were invited to participate in the investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, during which several thousands office workers evacuated the building in total darkness. Following their recommendations, a PLM wayguidance system was installed in all the stairwells of the complex. This installation proved invaluable during the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. It is now a requirement to have such an installation in all high-rise office buildings in New York City.

More recently, the NRC's services were retained to help with the investigation of the 2003 Chicago office building fire that killed six office workers. Their human behavior study included several recommendations that have been implemented by the City of Chicago.

In the recent test, PLM was used in the signs on walls, floors, stairs and handrails in different stairwells of the building. During the surprise fire drill, employees were videotaped descending the stairwells to help NRC researchers measure their movement time and ability to find destinations. Different photoluminescent wayguidance installations have never been tested with large groups of human subjects during an evacuation.

Over the next few months, NRC researchers will analyze the data collected during the drill. Results will be used to establish standards for PLM installations.

Robert Bowen, director general at NRC, said, "Our research in photoluminescent wayguidance helps us understand human behaviour in life-threatening situations. This knowledge can be used to improve and develop safety standards, codes and guidelines. What we learn will not only improve the safety of Canadians but also lead to applications worldwide."

For more information, visit: www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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