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Complete Guide to Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting helps to make buildings safe during evacuations for fire, power cuts, and other emergency situations. There are regulations that make it necessary for some buildings to have emergency lighting to protect the residents, people who work there, or those who use the building in other ways. It’s essential to understand what emergency lighting is necessary and how to keep it running so that it’s there in case of emergency.

What Is Emergency Lighting?

Emergency lighting is installed so that it turns on automatically where there is no power to the main lighting circuit. It includes two types of lighting: escape lighting and standby lighting. Escape lighting is used to light up exit routes and help people to evacuate the building safely. It is also used in open areas to help provide visibility of the nearest exit and reduce confusion. Standby lighting is used to allow normal activity to continue if the main lighting fails. This type of lighting is used in buildings where operation needs to continue even if the power is lost, such as a hospital.

There are two types of emergency lighting luminaires. They can be self-contained, with all essential components, including a battery. Centrally-supplied luminaires operated from a central emergency power system, rather than operating independently. Emergency lighting can also be on all the time (maintained), or it might only operate when normal lighting fails (non-maintained).

Regulations for Emergency Lighting in the Workplace

There are regulations for what types of emergency lighting are needed in the workplace, as well as for the designs of signs and lighting that are used. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005 requires emergency lighting in non-domestic properties, stating that “Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting”. This means that emergency lighting is a must for almost all buildings.

emergency lighting

Where Is Emergency Escape Lighting Necessary?

Emergency escape lighting is required to highlight exits and escape routes. While there is no need to have individual lights for every suggested area, there are certain areas where you should ensure emergency lighting provides enough light. Emergency escape lighting should be used to cover exit doors, escape routes, corridor intersections, and final exits and external escape routes. Emergency escape signs should also be illuminated, and there should be lighting in stairways and changes of floor level. Windowless rooms, firefighting equipment, fire alarm call points, equipment that needs to shut down in an emergency, and lifts are other places where lighting may be required. Spaces larger than 60m2 should also have adequate escape lighting.

Maintenance and Testing of Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting needs to be maintained and testing to ensure it will work when it’s needed. Government guidelines say that emergency lighting needs to be regularly tested and maintained to a suitable standard. Some emergency lights include a self-test function, but testing is often carried out manually. Trained members of staff can conduct testing to ensure the proper functioning of emergency lighting. A key-operated switch is a common option for carrying out tests.

To test and maintain emergency lighting, it’s necessary to complete daily, monthly and annual checks. Centrally powered systems should have their central controls inspected visually each day. The function of the lighting should be checked each month for long enough to see that each light is working. Finally, a full discharge test should be carried out each year to check that the lamps stay alight for the full discharge period and that the batteries are recharging. While the batteries are recharging, which usually takes around 24 hours, the building should not be occupied to ensure safety.

emergency lighting sign in a building

Who Is Responsible for Emergency Lighting?

The RRFSO defines the person responsible for emergency lighting as anyone who has control over a building or some of the areas within it. This could be someone who works directly for the organization within the building or that owns the building, or it could be an agency such as facilities management companies, letting agents or landlords. Taking care of emergency lighting is a task that could be shared by several people, but it is often best for those with knowledge in this area to be responsible. Anyone not familiar with the workings of emergency lighting and fire safety might find the responsibility a difficult one to manage.

Emergency lighting is a must to keep workplaces safe and ensure efficient lighting at all times.

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