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When your usual power supply fails due to a situation like a fire or power cut, emergency lighting is designed to come on automatically to provide immediate illumination. While it has several vital roles to play during an emergency, its main role is to avoid people panicking and struggling in low light or the dark and instead help them leave the building quickly and calmly.
What are the different types of emergency lighting?
There are several different kinds of emergency escape lighting: escape route lighting and open area lighting provide illumination for the safety of people leaving a location while high risk task area lighting provides light in areas where dangerous situations could occur and a safe shutdown of operations is needed. Recent revisions to BS 5266 also added in another emergency lighting category of ‘safety lighting’ to cover lighting needed by occupants who have to remain in the premises (in a hospital for instance).
You may also hear the terms non-maintained and maintained emergency lighting. Essentially, non-maintained lighting is designed to react to power failure by switching on immediately whereas maintained emergency lighting is lit continuously but has a backup battery to continue working if there’s a loss of mains power.
There are many variables that must be taken into account when determining the correct emergency lighting provision. They include the design of the building, nature of your business and activities carried out within it, and the needs of the occupants themselves – and that’s why getting professional advice about which emergency lighting should be installed and where is so important.
Maintaining your emergency lighting system
As with all emergency equipment, it’s essential emergency lighting is tested and maintained. Most businesses will appreciate this but there can be some variability about the understanding of exactly what’s needed! While this will be determined by individual emergency lighting systems, as a general guide most systems need to be checked over every month, then given a full duration test each year.
This only needs to be a short test to check everything’s functioning correctly. Ensure all emergency lighting’s illuminating when the mains power is switched off using your test key, and check over the casings to make sure they are clean and aren’t showing any signs of damage. Once mains power is restored, check they are fully charging up again. Keep a record of results in the log book and if any failures are detected, sort them out as soon as possible.
It is really important that emergency lights are given a full rated duration test every year. That means if the emergency lights back up should provide 3 hours of illumination (which is often the case), they need to be tested for the full 3 hours to ensure they’re still working at the end of the test.
Think about when would be the best time as there are several factors to consider.
One of the most important ones relates to the risk of a genuine failure of the mains lighting supply just after the test when the battery hasn’t yet fully recharged. So identify when would be lower risk times to do it. Is testing outside of working hours be an option? Can phased testing be considered if the building’s permanently occupied? Are there shutdowns that offer safe opportunities? Are there suitable temporary arrangements that can be put in place until the batteries have recharged?
Other considerations include the time of day: testing emergency lights in daylight isn’t always ideal as it doesn’t always give a true representation of how effective they are. It’s also sensible to think about doing the annual emergency light tests when your fire company is carrying out other activities like fire alarm system maintenance to use the time constructively.
Is your emergency lighting meeting its legal requirements?
If you have any questions about the installation or maintenance of emergency lighting then please do contact us. We can carry out a free detailed survey of your premises and will advise you about complying with your fire safety legal obligations.