Why Emergency and Exit Lighting is Important in Fire Safety Systems
By Chris Barry
Aug 24, 2020
When it comes to security advice, one of the most important areas has to be fire safety. This is because lives can be saved courtesy of the right guidance and fire security systems. Here our London security experts are looking at the importance of emergency and exit lighting in fire safety systems, complete with advice on where it’s needed, and the different types of lighting available.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 makes anyone in charge of commercial premises and the common areas of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) responsible for the safety of everyone who works, visits or lives in the building. This duty of care includes the provision of emergency lighting.
The legal requirement is that non-domestic buildings must be safe at all times, including in the event that mains power failure occurs. For this reason, almost all such buildings must have emergency lighting fitted.
What is the purpose of emergency lighting?
Fire security systems London wide need to incorporate emergency lighting because it can literally save lives. It is designed to make sure that in the event of the normal power supply failing, illumination is provided promptly, automatically and for sufficient time. This will ensure that occupants of a building are able to evacuate safely in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.
When a fire alarm sounds without warning, and fire starts to spread throughout a building, a sense of panic will often ensue. If the building is plunged into darkness, which is often the case during a fire, disorientation and confusion can arise, increasing the risk of injury, and making it all the more difficult for occupants to find their way out.
A clear escape route signalled by lights however, makes it more straightforward to exit the building safely during a fire.
Emergency escape lighting is designed to illuminate escape routes such as corridors and stairways, as well as the location of fire-fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers, together with security equipment such as key boxes that house emergency keys to exit doors.
What are the legal requirements for emergency lighting?
It is essential that any emergency lighting system is well-designed and adequately planned out in order to protect lives.
In legal terms, the light needs to stay on for one full hour following the main power outage. Where sleeping accommodation is concerned, for example in an HMO, this increases to three hours.
What are the different types of emergency lighting?
There are a various types of fire escape and exit lighting. The most traditional type consists of internal and external bulkhead emergency fittings which are connected to the main electrical wiring. These will usually operate for three hours without any mains power, for example when cables burn through, and will recharge when the mains power has been restored.
LED emergency lighting is becoming increasingly popular due to its energy saving advantages. Battery packs kick in automatically in the event of a power cut.
Illuminated fire exit signs are another type of emergency lighting. These light up to show the location of fire exits.
Photoluminescent marker tape, paint and floor discs are also used to mark escape routes. They are especially useful where there are changes of level in a building, for example stairwells and uneven floors. These markings can be particularly effective when people need to escape through smoke, and for those who are partially-sighted.
What is the difference between maintained and non-maintained emergency lighting?
Maintained emergency light fittings can be operated with a switch. They can be left permanently on, or set to operate in the event of a power cut. Maintained lights are mostly used where groups of people meet, for example, in a cinema. They are designed to prevent total darkness, with the emergency lights able to function even in a power cut.
Non-maintained fittings will not illuminate unless there is a power cut. This type of emergency lighting is often powered by battery, which can charge itself through its own power supply.
Any type of emergency lighting requires regular testing to ensure it meets current, relevant safety requirements.
Where is emergency escape lighting needed?
Each individual building will have its own particular requirements when it comes to emergency illumination. Even within a building, the needs will vary from one part to another. Some areas for example will benefit from natural light, whereas others will have a constant need for artificial light.
For buildings occupied during the night, emergency lighting will usually be required in all areas, including those that benefit from natural light during the day. Exceptions may be where ‘borrowed’ light from the likes of external street lamps will suffice, providing the light source is reliable, and the occupants of the building are familiar with its layout.
In summary, emergency escape lighting will usually be required to cover the following:
- All individual exit doors
- Escape routes
- Corridor intersections
- Outside each final exit and on external escape routes
- Emergency escape signs
- Stairways and where there are changes in floor levels
- Windowless rooms and toilet accommodation exceeding 8m²
- Fire-fighting equipment
- Fire alarm call points
- Equipment that would need to be shut down in an emergency
- Areas in premises greater than 60m²
Whilst it is not a requirement to provide individual lights for each of these items, there does need to be a sufficient level of overall light to make them visible and usable.
Expert fire security advice from Barry Bros Security
When it comes to fire security systems London businesses know they can trust Barry Bros Security for expert advice, long term experience and tailored guidance, and that includes on emergency escape lighting.
To discuss the fire safety requirements for your individual building, you are welcome to get in touch with our helpful specialists.