Even the most familiar places can become disorienting in the event of a fire, and products now being used in Jacksonville can help light the way to safety when minutes matter.

Zachary Green, a former volunteer firefighter for nearly 15 years, created glow-in-the-dark products for both firefighters and public safety purposes. The parent company, MN8 (a play on the word "emanate"), is divided into two branches; MN8-Foxfire provides products and technology to help firefighters see one another, and LumAware is a series of products to help civilians safely evacuate buildings.

“Think of this as glow-in-the-dark on steroids,” Green said.

The LumAware products use photoluminescent technology. Crystals in the products absorb light and store energy that is then released when the environment is dark, creating a glow.

Since the products don’t rely on batteries or electricity, Green said they are essentially fail-proof.

“You can have the best generator in the world, the best light bulbs in the world, you can test them every 30 days as you’re supposed to by code, but when the emergency happens you’re not guaranteed they’re gonna work,” Green said.

A terrifying event led Green to develop the idea. Early in his career as a firefighter, Green became lost in a smoke-filled room and was initially unable to find his way out.

“It was a primal fear,” he said. “And it hits you to a core that is something that’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there yourself.”

While firefighters train for that type of environment, civilians don’t. Green cautioned that people can become disoriented in even the most familiar environments.

“You take those first two or three steps and all of the sudden you hit a chair or you hit a wall or you hit another cubicle,” he said. “And then panic starts to set in.”

That’s why Green said the products made by LumAware, exit signs and stairwell or pathway illumination, are vital.

“The code here in Florida requires you to have photoluminescence on the handrail, on the leading edge of the step and also around the perimeter of the landings,” Green said.

Green said it’s an honor to help the public stay safe, but he grew emotional discussing how it felt to keep his fellow firefighters safe.

“I remember one of my first lieutenants said ‘leave the fire service better than what you found it,’” Green said. “And it gives me great pride when I travel as much as I do, to go to fire stations, see them using my products and know that I maybe had a little bit, something, to do with helping them do their job a little better and safer.”

LumAware partners with Jacksonville-based Home Depot Pro for distribution.