An emergency situation is stressful enough — now imagine trying to evacuate in the pitch black.
Not only does this cause panic, but the risk of accidents and injuries increases without proper illumination, slowing down the evacuation process.
This is why emergency lighting is essential and should be installed at all commercial premises.
But how does emergency lighting work?
And is it legally required at your property?
The team at ASCO Fire Group is here to guide you through this essential piece of fire safety equipment.
What is emergency lighting and why is it important?
Emergency lighting is a vital feature that should be found in all commercial buildings.
Its purpose is to ensure the safety and well-being of occupants by providing illumination when standard lighting systems fail to function. Under the terms of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, ‘emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity.’
Therefore, if your property is not equipped with emergency lighting then it does not meet regulatory standards, potentially exposing the designated ‘responsible person’ for the building to substantial financial penalties.
How does emergency lighting work?
Emergency lighting relies on rechargeable backup batteries that are typically connected to the building’s main power supply — this allows for continuous charging.
In the event of a power outage, the backup batteries take over, ensuring that the emergency lights remain lit for a significant period. This is usually up to three hours, allowing sufficient time for all occupants to safely evacuate.
There are two primary categories of emergency lighting:
- Maintained – These lights are connected to the main power supply and are part of the regular lighting system. However, in an emergency, they automatically switch to backup battery power to provide continued illumination.
- Non-maintained – Non-maintained lighting is specifically designed for emergency situations. These lights remain off during normal operation and only activate during an emergency or when there is a power outage.
Types of emergency lighting
There are three main types of emergency lighting:
- Escape route lighting – As the name suggests, escape route lighting illuminates designated evacuation routes, helping occupants safely navigate their way towards the nearest exit with confidence.
- High-risk task area lighting – This is a specific type of emergency lighting that is designed for use in hazardous environments, such as warehouses. It provides a high level of illumination that allows potentially dangerous equipment, such as major machinery, to be shut off prior to an evacuation.
- Anti-panic lighting – Also referred to as ‘open area lighting’, this style of emergency lighting aims to alleviate panic and disorientation during an evacuation by providing widespread illumination in large, open spaces, such as shopping centres and arenas.. This type of lighting is strategically positioned to ensure brightness and visibility, promoting an orderly evacuation that allows people to remain calm.
How often should emergency lighting be tested?
Whilst having an emergency lighting system in place is undoubtedly important, it must be frequently maintained to be truly effective.
Regular testing must be carried out to identify any issues.
Every month, a ‘flick test’ should be conducted and recorded; this short test simulates a power failure and ensures that all lights are still operational.
A comprehensive annual service must also be completed to comply with BS 5266 standards.
This must be performed by a qualified fire safety technician to guarantee it has been executed properly. During this test, the primary lighting circuit must be switched off, relying solely on emergency lighting for three hours.
If any defects are spotted, these must be promptly repaired to maintain functionality.
Our BAFE-accredited experts have years of experience and can also perform regular inspections and maintenance work on your emergency lighting to ensure it is performing to the necessary standard.
To discuss your needs in more detail or learn more about our services, get in touch with us today.