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Emergency Lighting


Why is emergency lighting required? Emergency lighting (EM Lighting) is lighting for an emergency situation when the main power supply is cut and any normal illumination fails. The loss of mains electricity could be the result of a fire or a power cut and the normal lighting supplies fail. This may lead to sudden darkness and a possible danger to the occupants, either through physical danger or panic.

We ensure that the EM lighting in our clients buildings are kept maintained through the procedure of regular testing. EM lighting is normally required to operate fully automatically and give illumination of a sufficiently high level to enable all occupants to evacuate the premises safely. Most new buildings now have EM lighting installed during construction; the design and type of equipment being specified by the architect in accordance with current Building Regulations and any local authority requirements.

Emergency Lighting Services

The British Standard provides the Emergency lighting designer with clear guidelines to work to. BS 5266-1: 2011 embraces residential hotels, clubs, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and colleges, licensed premises, offices, museums, shops, multi-storey dwellings, etc. Although this standard recommends the types and durations of emergency lighting systems relating to each category of premises, it should be remembered that the standards are the minimum safe standards for these types of building and that a higher standard may be required for a particular installation.

Daily emergency lighting inspection (only for central back-up systems)

This check only applies to emergency lighting systems with one central back-up battery system. In this case, there is a daily visual inspection of indicators on the central power supply to identify that the system is operational. No test of operation is required. This test does not apply to emergency lighting with self-contained back-up batteries in each unit (standard emergency lighting).

Monthly emergency lighting testing

All emergency lighting systems must be tested monthly. The test is a short functional test in accordance with BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004.

The period of simulated failure should be sufficient for the purpose of this test while minimising damage to the system components, e.g. lamps. During this period, all luminaires and signs shall be checked to ensure that they are present, clean and functioning correctly.

Annual Emergency Light testing

A test for the full rated duration of the emergency lights (e.g. 3 hours) must be carried out. The emergency lights must still be working at the end of this test. The result must be recorded and, if failures are detected, these must be remedied as soon as possible.

British and European Standards 

EM Lighting is now covered by a series of interdependent standards that can be seen as forming a hierarchy as shown below.

Base guidance document

BS 5266-1: 2016 Code of practice for EM lighting of premises gives general rules and guidance on the provision and operation of emergency lighting in most premises other than dwelling houses.

System standards

BS EN 1838:1999 / BS 5266-7:1999 Lighting applications – EM lighting specifies the illumination to be provided by emergency lighting (including luminance, duration and colour).

BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004 Emergency escape lighting systems specifies the minimum provision and testing of EM lighting for different premises.

Product standards

BS EN 60598-1: 2008 Luminaires is for General requirements and tests. See the 60598 series for particular requirements.

BS EN 62034:2006 Automatic test systems for battery powered emergency escape lighting. Specifies a test system for battery powered EM lighting

BS EN 50171:2001 Central power supply system specifies central power supply systems for EM lighting luminaries.

Visit your local reference library or purchase copies of the requisite standards from BSI online; insert the BS number to see which titles are current. The links may not be inclusive but will give an indication of the guidance available.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The HM Government entry level guides to the RRFSO for different types of non-domestic premises and the communal areas in HMOs each have a section entitled “Further guidance on emergency escape lighting”, which provide additional relevant information.

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