24th January 2022
The purpose of Emergency Lighting is to provide a safe path for those in the building to evacuate in the event of a mains power outage. This type of lighting is also important being that a power outage that causes people to be plunged in to complete darkness can cause panic amongst occupants of the building, and the most effective way for anyone to conduct themselves in an emergency is to stay calm.
Emergency Lighting is not just vital for the occupants exiting the building, it is just as important for the emergency services that may be called to the incident so that they can enter the building just as safely as the occupants left.
Incorrect placement of your Emergency Lighting can have a detrimental effect on your escape route and therefore the safety of the occupants.
When a fire risk assessment is performed on the building, it will highlight the specific areas that Emergency Lighting will need to be installed. According to regulations, an illuminated sign should be installed when it is not clear to the occupants of the building where the final exit is located.
However, you can never be too cautious. On top of the required areas, it is suggested that Emergency Lighting should also be installed in:
· Toilet areas that are greater than 8m2
· Intersections in corridors
· Changes in the direction of escape routes
While these other areas are not necessary, they will ensure that everyone in every section of the building has an illuminated exit route.
The regulations for the duration that Emergency Lighting needs to stay illuminated for is dependent on the evacuation time necessary for the specific premises.
Buildings that cannot be evacuated immediately must be equipped with Emergency Lighting that is able to stay on for a minimum of three hours. Premises that fall under this category are mainly buildings that are used for people to sleep in such as hotels.
On the other hand, buildings that can perform a quick evacuation only need Emergency Lighting that is able to stay on for a minimum of one hour.
It is said that Emergency Lighting does not have to be especially bright according to regulations. This lighting needs to be just bright enough to create a clear path for occupants to exit the building.
BS 5266 regulations give a general guide of floor level Emergency Lighting being no less than one lux, and anti-panic areas to be no less than 0.5 lux.
To give some context, one lux is the equivalent of one 70-watt lightbulb.
The most important section of these regulations is the rigorous testing that Emergency Lighting must undergo to meet the particular standards needed to ensure consistent and effective safety measures.
Certain organisations must abide by a strict servicing schedule to make sure the lighting is operating correctly at all times. This servicing schedule must be overseen by a designated person that is responsible for making sure these tests are carried out on time.
Most variations of Emergency Lighting will involve conducting manual testing, which consists of cutting off the mains power supply to see if the lighting works as it should. However, automatic tests and even self-performing tests can be used if your lighting allows it.
The testing of Emergency Lighting involves a different process depending on whether it is a daily, monthly or yearly test, all of which should be carried out.
Daily testing involves a simple visual inspection of the central power supply to make sure the system is working how it should. Bare in mind this is only applicable to Emergency Lighting that is operated by central battery systems, but a visual inspection every day is still recommended with other systems.
While daily testing is always recommended, BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8 regulations state that all Emergency Lighting systems must be tested monthly and be clean and visible upon inspection. The monthly test also involves what is known as a flick test, to ensure switches are on and operating correctly.
Finally, the annual test ties in with the regulations involving duration. This test involves keeping the lights on for the duration needed (three hours for certain premises, one hour for others) to determine if they are functioning correctly for the entire duration.
In the instance that your Emergency Lighting fails one of these tests, repairs or replacements will be required.
Now you know the basics of Emergency Lighting Legislation. It is important to keep in mind that the legislation and regulations are slightly different from building to building, so it is strongly recommended that you do your research on the specific requirements of the building/organisation you are working with. This will ensure you are fully prepared to take on the job and have the end result be a safe environment for every occupant.
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