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Everything You Need to Know About Maintaining Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting is backup lighting that kicks in should mains power supplies be cut and the usual electrical illumination is no longer functioning correctly.

Losing electricity could occur as a result of a power cut or a fire. No emergency lighting in places such as prisons, hospitals and public areas, could lead to darkness that may present a genuine danger to those within the building.

Emergency lighting solutions need to operate automatically to provide lighting to ensure those within the building can sufficiently evacuate or evaluate their options within the premises.

Most new building constructions will have emergency lighting installed during the build, per Building Regulations and any local or industry-related requirements.

The British Standard specifies that the building designer should have clear lighting guidelines to work with: BS 5266-1, which relates to hotels, hospitals, colleges and schools, nursing homes, pubs and clubs, offices, museums, prisons and multi-storey dwellings such as blocks of flats.

What is Emergency Lighting?

It seems like an obvious question, but emergency lighting is only a general term and can be sub-divided into standby lighting and emergency escape lighting.

Standby Lighting

Standby lighting is a system which enables normal activities to continue mostly unchanged. Standby lighting is not a legal requirement and is something that isn’t always necessary, depending on what the premises is used for.

Emergency Escape Lighting

Emergency escape lighting provides light for the welfare of those leaving a location where normal light has failed. It is a legal requirement under the fire safety provision and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Emergency lighting can itself be subdivided into three categories:

  • Escape Route Lighting – which identifies escape routes and keeps them sufficiently illuminated. This includes fire exit signs and emergency lighting bulkheads.
  • Open Area Lighting – ensures that there is enough light to allow people within a building to reach an escape route.
  • High-Risk Area Lighting – this is part of an emergency escape lighting system that offers lighting for those in a potentially perilous situation and enable them to be able to perform correct shut-down procedures for the safety of others — for example, shutting down machinery in the event of an emergency on a factory floor.

Maintenance & Testing

Whatever system is used in a premises, it’s vital to test lights regularly. To do this, a mains power failure must be simulated for each section of the system. This forces the emergency lighting to draw power from the battery supply – this test can be performed manually or automatically.

Manual Testing

Simulating a mains failure can be achieved by isolating the lighting or individual circuits you wish to test. However, if this route is chosen, there are a few things to remember:

  • In the event that the system is using a single switch or circuit, someone will have to walk around the whole building to inspect whether all emergency lighting is working correctly. After restoring mains power, another inspection will need to identify if the emergency lighting is charging.
  • If the emergency lighting uses separate switches, only one inspection will be required. It’s also essential to ensure that this kind of system is using switches that can’t be tampered with.

Automatic Testing

If the cost of an engineer or the disturbance caused by manual testing is significant, self-testing lighting should be considered.

Different formats are available to satisfy site requirements; however, the results of monthly and annual testing still need to be recorded.

Requirements for Emergency Lighting Testing

BS EN 50172/BS 5266-8 specifies the minimum provision for testing emergency lighting in different premises:

  • Discharge tests must be performed outside regular working hours. In buildings that are always occupied, i.e. hospitals, checks should be incremental, so only alternate circuits are tested.
  • Regular maintenance is crucial. The owner of the premises must appoint a competent professional to overlook the maintenance of the system. This person will also be given proper authority to ensure that the necessary repair work is undertaken.
  • Because of the possibility of mains lighting failure after the testing period or during the recharge, all tests must, wherever possible, be performed outside a window of high risk to allow complete recharge. Otherwise, a temporary solution should be put into place until the batteries are charged.

Daily Emergency Inspections for Central Back-Up Systems

This test only applies to light systems operating with a central back-up battery arrangement. If this is the case, a visual inspection of the central power supply must be undertaken daily to check that the system is functioning correctly.

Monthly Emergency Lighting Inspections

All emergency lighting systems must be inspected monthly, with no exceptions, in accordance with BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8.

The test should simulate a failure for just as long as necessary to minimise any damage to internal lighting fixture components, e.g. lamps.

During the test, all emergency lighting and signs should be checked to ensure there are clean and functioning as they should.

Annual Emergency Lighting Inspections

A test for the full duration of the emergency light battery power must be undertaken annually, and the emergency lights must still be working at the end of the test.

The results of both this test and the monthly inspections must be adequately recorded. If failures are found, they must be fixed quickly to ensure they aren’t a danger to the people using the building.

For most building owners/operators, it’s quite common to have the emergency light drain test undertaken at the same time as fire alarm maintenance, as this fills the waiting time duration with practical activity.

If you have any questions about anything we’ve covered in this blog, or you are interested in any of our other products and solutions, then don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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