When a fire breaks out, your first thoughts will turn to getting out quickly and safely.
However, that becomes difficult when the fire causes a power cut, and the room is filling up with thick black smoke. Finding your way out is then made a lot harder, regardless of how familiar you are with your surroundings.
And that’s why emergency lighting is so important. One day, you may rely on it to help you see your way through a building to the emergency exit.
There were 322 fire-related deaths in Great Britain between 2013 and 2014, and of these, 41% were the result of the victim being overcome by gas, smoke or toxic fumes.
But many deaths are avoided thanks to emergency lighting. And that’s why all non-domestic buildings must have it installed in case of fire.
What Does Emergency Lighting Do?
When the lights go out, the emergency lighting stays on. When there’s a power outage, the lights will shine for around 3 hours, and then recharge themselves when the power is back on.
That means everyone can still find their way to the nearest emergency exit, even in the event of an electrical fire.
Emergency escape lighting will illuminate signs, exit routes and doors, stairways, firefighting equipment, and more besides. They ensure that everyone can make a swift exit, even if they don’t know the premises at all. And it’s this type of lighting which the law says you must have.
Standby lighting is different and not a legal requirement. This provides lighting so that normal activities can continue. For example, these may ensure that a school can remain open despite a lack of power.
What Lighting Is Available?
There are many different types of emergency lighting from which you can choose.
Illuminated emergency exit signs tend to glow green and display the silhouette we’re all familiar with. When placed above the door, everyone can easily identify it. Or, it may point towards the direction of the nearest exit.
Ideally, these should be placed above every emergency exit door, and whenever people need to change direction to reach one.
Bulkhead emergency lights are usually contained in the ceiling. These help to provide light to the emergency exit route. They ensure there is enough light so that everyone can see what they’re doing and to reduce the levels of panic. Plus, it reduces the likelihood of further accidents.
The bulkhead lighting needs placing along the center light of the escape route. However, to ensure you’re placing them as frequently as needed, expert advice is highly recommended. The level of illumination needed depends on how certain areas get used, and by whom.
What Do Emergency Light Regulations Say?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the installation of emergency and safety lighting. Article 14 of the regulations states that:
“Emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs; and emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.”
Any breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 are likely to result in the person responsible facing fines or imprisonment. But this isn’t the only reason why you should fulfil your safety obligations.
These provisions help to save lives every day. And they help to prevent businesses from burning to the ground.
What Else Should I Do?
When you have emergency lighting installed, you need to be checking that it remains in good working order. That way, you know everyone can depend on it when they need to most.
All emergency lighting systems need testing monthly. To do this, you would simulate a mains power failure. By isolating and turning off the lighting circuits, or by having a test switch installed, you can test them efficiently.
You should then walk around the whole premises to ensure they’re all working. And then again once the power is back on, to check they’re recharging.
Annual emergency lighting tests also need carrying out. With these, you’ll turn the power supply off for longer to test the full duration of the emergency lights (for example, three hours). Fire alarm servicing companies often carry this out along with their fire alarm system maintenance.
The results of every test need recording, and any faults you detect need rectifying as soon as possible. Also, make sure to carry these tests out when no-one is around, especially the full discharge test.
The emergency exit route needs clearly defining so that everyone is aware of it, including the assembly point.
And you also need to ensure that these emergency exit routes remain clear of obstructions. Items stored in corridors can slow people down and are a trip hazard, especially to people who are rushing out of the building.
Emergency lighting does a stand-up job of keeping everyone safe. So make sure you have it installed and kept in good working order.