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Elevator Emergency Signs: Frequently Asked Questions and Regulations

Q. Are emergency elevator signs required by IBC?


As mentioned in 3002.3 of the 2015 IBC, emergency elevator signs instructing the occupants to use the exit stairways and not the elevators during a fire emergency shall be posted next to each elevator call station on all floors. It should be an approved pictorial sign of a standardized design and read: IN CASE OF FIRE, ELEVATORS ARE OUT OF SERVICE - USE EXIT STAIRS.

The standard lists two exceptions to this requirement. Emergency signs are not required where the elevators are part of an accessible means of egress, complying with Section 1009.4. These are also not required for elevators that are used for occupant self-evacuation as covered under Section 3008. 

Q. Does ADA prescribe any specific requirements for elevator signage?


Yes, it does. ADA requires elevator interiors and exteriors to be sufficiently marked to be accessible. The control buttons inside the elevator should have Braille, and there must be a minimum space of 3/16” between a number or icon and the braille underneath it.

ADA also requires the use of signs on elevator jambs. These signs should be placed on each side and convey the floor designation using 2” tall tactile characters along with braille. Further, when there are several elevators in a building, each elevator must be identified with a 2” tall raised letter and accompanying braille.

Concerning exterior elevator signage, an ADA-compliant sign identifying the elevator is required outside every elevator. In addition to braille, these signs must feature the international symbol of accessibility where an elevator is handicap accessible. Emergency elevator signs or “in case of fire” signs that recommend the use of stairs in the event of a fire shall use a suitable font, approved pictogram, and corresponding braille.

You may find more details in the U.S. Access Board guide

Q. Why are ADA-compliant elevator signs important?

ADA-compliant elevator signs play an important role in making your facility more accessible for people with visual impairment. ADA elevator emergency signs convey crucial safety information and guide visitors to an alternative means of exit during a fire or other emergencies. Not having these signs in place can lead to mishaps that could have been easily avoided. Finally, these signs help you achieve compliance with applicable ADA standards and can often act as a safeguard against any liability claims.

Q. Which facilities require ADA-compliant elevator signs?


As per the ADA standards, all the facilities open to the public should take steps to be accessible for persons with disabilities. The ADA accessible design standards include the use of appropriate signs as well, including elevator signs. Any building that has elevators and hosts visitors requires ADA-elevator signage. This includes but is not limited to schools, hospitals, shopping centers, hotels, government buildings, etc. 

Q. Are there any consequences of not using IBC and ADA-compliant elevator signs in public accessible buildings?


Ignoring IBC and ADA requirements for elevator signage created in accordance with accessible design specifications can have some rather serious consequences for any business/establishment. Non-compliance can attract huge fines upon inspection by the relevant authority. Not using ADA-elevator signs makes a facility less accessible for persons with disabilities and can lead to anything from loss of business to a lawsuit being filed against the organization. 

Additionally, the business reputation can be severely tarnished if an unhappy customer or employee publicly voices their opinions about a facility’s lack of accessible design. Hence, using ADA-elevator signs is not merely a matter of compliance but also displays your organization’s commitment to creating a more inclusive environment. 

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