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Faster evacuation saves lives

The market leader in dynamic guidance lighting systems, MariMils invented the MILS® Dynamic System for guiding people to safety in fires or other emergencies when rapid evacuation is called for. MILS® Control Software enables evacuation scenarios to be simulated and optimum routes developed ahead of time. The MILS® System is also now being designed into non-emergency applications, such as metro stations, tunnels, buildings, and airports.

The MILS® Dynamic System, based on LEDs, offer the safest, fastest, and most reliable escape routing for emergency evacuation needs, and provides numerous advantages over more conventional systems based on overhead Exit signs or ‘glow-in-the-dark’ photoluminescent marking strips.

The Dynamic Low Location Lighting System ensures that the optimum exit routes are used – and quickly – by giving people a clear indication of the direction they need to go in. Most buildings or structures include a number of possible escape routes, and it always takes time for people to weigh their options and choose which route to take. But time is something that you do not have in an emergency.

The MILS® System avoids these problems by using lighting strips with light running in sequence to show people their optimal route, which is not necessarily always the nearest one.

The MILS® System – or Modular Intelligent Lighting System – is a fully integrated, multicertified system for guiding people, based on state-of-the-art technology and super-bright, extremely long-lasting micro-LEDS.

Greater flexibility

This guiding capability is in itself a definite advantage, but the MILS® Dynamic System can do more. Thanks to its ability to integrate with fire and other detection systems and review all relevant evacuation scenarios, it can re-route people automatically if a primary route becomes blocked or too dangerous.

Exit lights and signs remain un-illuminated when inactive, and turn on when active. Embedding LED strips in the floor or on the wall near floor level gives them the best chance of being seen in a fire, as smoke rises and can quickly obscure lights and signs mounted higher up on walls, especially those near the ceiling.

The MILS® System also allows separate routes to be established for people being evacuated and emergency services personnel entering the building. This prevents routes becoming overloaded, especially by people travelling in opposite directions, which can delay an evacuation and/or fire fighters’ access to a fire.

Given the sophistication and capabilities of the MILS® System, its initial purchase and installation costs will most likely be higher than those of an overhead Exit sign only or photoluminescence one. These costs will be recouped, however, by the long service life of an installation – by the extremely low power consumption and minimal maintenance it requires, and the benefits it offers in real-time fire emergencies, guiding people to safety.

Conventional systems, such as those based on ‘photoluminescent tape’ or maintained ‘light bulbs’ need to be replaced regularly. The MILS® Dynamic System constantly monitors itself, reporting any problems and highlighting their status. The LED strips themselves are IP68 rated and are very durable, and can survive heavy wear and tear and all normal cleaning agents, which results in a much longer service life than conventional systems.

In the very near future, the functionality of the MILS® System will be enhanced by adding real-time capabilities, linking live feeds from floor sensing systems to safety control centres, to locate or monitor people’s behaviour during emergency or non-emergency situations.

It’s all in the LEDs…

The only part of a MILS® System that the public are ever likely to see – and the only part they need to see – are the LEDs embedded along escape routes and the compact light and symbol panels. And even these only come on in an emergency.

The LEDs and a copper conductor are contained in strips of transparent polyamide about 22 mm wide and 2 mm thick installed like grouting between floor tiles or along carpeting. These units are highly energy-efficient and around 350 metres of LED strip or over 200 light panels can be powered by the equivalent of a 60-watt conventional light bulb.

These LED strips are connected to MILS® Control software, which is used for designing evacuation plans, simulating evacuation scenarios, and real-time monitoring and reporting and remote controlling in an emergency situation. The software features an open interface with other safety systems to guarantee maximum flexibility.

… and the dynamism

The research and development work behind the technology began at sea, or more specifically with various major fires that took place aboard ships in the mid-1980s. The first installations of the MILS® System have been on cruise ships and Mega-yachts, and the company is now promoting the benefits of the technology for land applications. The MILS® System has already been installed in tunnels in the Netherlands and Spain and in some of the world’s largest metro systems.

Its dynamism is a major advantage over traditional static safety markings, as it enables people to be directed to the routes that will give them the best chance of escaping a structure safely and in the minimum time possible. The MILS® System can also react not only to fire, but also to other emergencies, such as flooding, power outages, and terrorism.

After discussion with building management personnel and members of the emergency services, a 3D software overview of evacuation routes and their use in an emergency is made using a building’s CAD design data.

The inbuilt intelligence of the technology is already being used in non-emergency applications, such as the metro system in Madrid to direct passengers at stations during the rush hour. Retailers, museums, hospitals, airports, and stations are being piloted for business-related guiding of people using the MILS® System.

> Richard Eggleton
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)