Understanding Emergency Lighting
You’d be forgiven for assuming that during a fire, the bright flames would make it possible for you to see.
This is not the case. The black smoke emitted by fires often obscures vision or can make a room look pitch black. There is also the possibility that lighting will be lost due to damage caused to wiring. be forgiven for assuming that during a fire, the bright flames would make it possible for you to see.
You need emergency exit lights
- Ensure that people are able to locate fire exits
- Allow people to evacuate your building safely
- Eliminate the physical risks of being in the dark
- Keep people calm
- Illuminate exit routes
- Allow the safe operation of fire fighting tools
This is why it’s so crucial to install and maintain emergency lights.
Where to place emergency lights
Emergency lights need to be placed throughout your building, spaced closely enough so that everywhere is lit.
It is always best to place them near:
- Emergency exit signs
- Changes of level
- Changes of direction
This will highlight escape routes and ensure that people can safely evacuate your building. You should also place them near fire fighting tools. This will make them more noticeable, while making it easier to read safety instructions.
The worst thing you can do is to buy a ceiling mounted light and mount it on a wall or over a doorway. This is because the light will be cast forward, leaving the wall you were trying to illuminate in shadow.
Make sure that you mount the light as directed.
Maintained vs. non-maintained
You can often choose between maintained and non-maintained versions of the same emergency light.
- Non-maintained lights will only come on when there’s a power failure
- Maintained emergency lighting is lit continuously
Normally, maintained lighting will double up with the main source of lighting to further illuminate areas. It will stay lit when if its main power supply fails.
The non-maintained emergency lighting unit is also linked to the building’s main circuit so that it will be able to detect a power failure and light up.
Maintained options are slightly more expensive, and they will cost more to run as they’re permanently switched on. However, they’re extremely beneficial in public spaces where a lot of lighting is needed.
Self-contained vs. centrally supplied luminaries
Self-contained luminaries are the most common type. As the name suggests, everything that the system needs to run is contained in the luminary unit.
This means that they are generally easier to install and no battery room is required. However, they aren’t suited to harsh and hazardous environments.
Centrally supplied units are connected to an emergency power unit and cannot run independently. They are cheaper to install and are easier to test, but you risk a loss of lighting if the emergency power unit catches fire. It is this risk that makes them less common.
Each piece of emergency lighting should have an indicator. This indicator should always be lit, to show that the mains supply is connected. Each unit’s indicator should be checked daily.
If an indicator is not lit, it could be that the emergency light isn’t in working order. Or it could be a faulty indicator.
Each month, you should switch the lighting unit into emergency mode. Most people choose to do this by using the light’s test facility.
Every year, you should again put the emergency light into emergency mode, leaving it to burn for its full duration. This is normally 3 hours or 1 hour.
Be sure to document all checks and maintenance work in your log book.
photo credit: StewC
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