Emergency Lighting Explained
Emergency Lighting – What is it?
Emergency lighting is an essential element in the contemporary business environment. In the UK, the current law demands that all occupied buildings be fitted with adequate escape lighting to allow safe exit in the case of a mains power failure.
According to the Fire Precautions Regulations 1997 & BS5266 Part 1 for the workplace, building owners must have in place luminaries to aid successful escape throughout the entirety of an emergency exit. Furthermore, owners are also required to test their emergency lighting systems frequently and conduct regular maintenance checks to ensure that the emergency systems are always in good working order. An LED indicator within the lighting source shows the charge of the internal batteries. The LED will shine green if the battery is fully charged, although some older models may display a red LED. Regardless, the units should be tested regularly. This is best done by a qualified engineer, such as our brilliant team at MCFP.
How Does Emergency Lighting Work?
Emergency lights use rechargeable backup batteries to function normally throughout the duration of an emergency evacuation. These batteries can be fitted directly within the light or supplied to the light source from a secondary backup battery power supply. Each emergency light should remain active for at least three hours after a mains power supply outage, although the minimum duration requirement falls to one hour in cases where occupants can evacuate the building rapidly. This is to give all occupants sufficient time to exit the building and to make time for emergency services to be called if required.
Examples of businesses requiring a three hour duration light system:
- Sleeping accommodations (hotels, hospitals, boarding schools etc.)
- Treatment or care facilities
- Recreational facilities (restaurants, theatres, sports halls etc.)
- Non-residential public buildings (town halls, libraries, shopping malls etc.)
Examples of businesses requiring a one hour duration light system:
- Teaching, training and research facilities
- Industrial facilities
HOWEVER, should the premises also fall into one of the three hour categories, a three hour lighting system is required unless the buildings are separated with unique escape routes.
Emergency-use Requirements and Locations
It is essential that all emergency lighting, exit signs, escape routes and fire safety signs are lit to a minimum number of lux (unit of illuminance) as per their use and location. Also, it is crucial to know that there are different emergency light fittings, each in accordance with the legal requirements and particular needs for their use. As such, there are different emergency lighting requirements for different areas of a building:
- Emergency Lighting For Open Areas
Otherwise known as anti-panic areas. If the open area is used as the quickest and the safest escape route during an emergency, it must be lit by at least 1 lux. In the case where the open space is not part of the escape route and is less than sixty square metres, emergency lighting is not required. However, the emergency exit doors must display illuminated emergency exit signs to help and guide the occupants to safety. Open areas are most often illuminated by bulkhead emergency lighting and, particularly if the open area is part of the main escape route, emergency exit signs.
- Emergency Lighting For Escape Routes
Similar to the emergency lighting for the open area, the escape route must be lit by at least 1 lux during an emergency or evacuation of personnel. Moreover, if the escape route is a corridor, it must be unobstructed and clear of any objects that could impede the flow of people or cause further injuries. Typically escape routes are lit by your traditional emergency exit sign.
- Emergency Lighting For Stairwells
Due to increased chances of hazards and accidents during an emergency, the required amount of light for these areas is a minimum of 2 lux. Stairwells are particularly dangerous in situations of panic or smoke, when people can trip over and impede the flow causing irremediable damage and even loss of life. Therefore, a minimum of 2 lux is required by law as adequate lighting.
- Emergency Lighting for High-risk Task Areas
While some areas of a building may simply contain desks and computers, other areas may contain complex, high-risk machinery, chemicals or appliances. Therefore, due care and attention are required when shutting and powering down this equipment – operators cannot just immediately make their emergency exit. As such, BS 5266 Part 1 states that these areas require luminaire fittings of at least 15 lux.
- Standby Lighting
This is similar to emergency lighting in that a separate backup generator keeps the power supply going even when the mains are down, but it is not required by law.
As well as the above examples, it is also crucial that businesses use an appropriate luminaire system to highlight problematic or potentially dangerous areas within the building. Examples include:
- Sudden changes in floor level
- Toilet facilities (if they are greater than eight square metres)
- Corridor intersections
- Lifts and moving staircases
- Every change of direction en route to an escape exit
They should also be placed near (within 2m) all emergency equipment, fire safety tools and first-aid posts.
A fire risk assessment can help you to locate specific and necessary areas to place emergency-use lighting within your building. However, to ensure that your lighting systems are 100% effective, we recommend using a registered and experienced third-party company such as MCFP. Our highly-skilled team of engineers can conduct a site survey and risk assessment to help you identify key emergency areas and can then supply, install, test and maintain your emergency systems all at a competitive price.
Types of Emergency Lighting
There are a wide variety of emergency light fittings in the workplace, and MCFP can provide, install, and maintain them all. Some of the most popular light systems to date are ‘maintained fitting’ and ‘non-maintained’ fittings.
- Maintained Emergency Lights
The ‘maintained’ system works as a standard light fitting, connected and controlled with all the other lights together. However, when the power fails the emergency fitting lights continue to work, just at a much lower lux level. As the name suggests, maintenance is required.
- Non-maintained Emergency Lights
Normally, these lights are switched off, but the built-in green LED displays that the batteries are completely charged. If there is a power cut, the fitting turns on the battery supply and illuminates the light fitting. Such units are not connected to the mains lighting and are typically used as emergency exit signs.
However, there are several other emergency light units to be aware of:
- Combined Emergency Lights
Combined emergency lights comprise two or more lights, where at least one of them is powered up from the emergency lighting supply and the other one via the normal supply. This combined lighting system can be both maintained or non-maintained, depending on the situation. If unsure, ask the MCFP specialist when on site.
- Compound Self-contained Emergency Lights
A compound self-contained emergency system is a luminaire able to implement either the maintained or non-maintained emergency lighting, in conjunction with the emergency power supply for satellite lighting.
- Satellite Emergency Lights
A satellite emergency lighting system is a luminaire for maintained or non-maintained operations which derives its supply from a self-contained associated compound.
If you are unsure which emergency lighting system is suitable for your business, contact one of MCFP’s specialists today for a free assessment. Our trusted engineers will assess your workplace and walk you through the most suitable recommendations for your building.
Testing And Servicing Of Emergency Lighting Systems
Regular testing of your emergency lighting system is required by law. Penalties for not complying with testing and maintenance regulations can include enforcement notices, building limitations, hefty fines and even imprisonment. Regular testing is the easiest way of ensuring that your system is working effectively and detecting any faults in the system before they become life-threatening – as well as avoiding unwanted and unnecessary penalties.
Testing can be done manually or automatically. However, when testing manually, an MCFP engineer is highly recommended as this requires the simulation of a mains power failure on the regular lighting circuit, forcing the emergency lighting system to switch to the battery supply.
The tester must walk the whole circuit and ensure all emergency-use lights are operating correctly. After restoring the mains supply, the entire line must be re-checked again to guarantee the emergency lights are recharging. Finally, after the tests, the completion and status of the system must be logged in the fire safety logbook. This is a lengthy and complex process and is best left to the experts.
Should any faults be detected in your lighting fittings or emergency system, our engineers won’t leave you hanging. MCFP can provide rapid, high-quality maintenance and installation of any necessary parts.
To arrange a free assessment or talk more about our testing and maintenance process, just give us a call.