Emergency lighting helps occupants to evacuate a building safely, and its value should never be underestimated, says Richard Merchant.
02 July 2018 | Richard Merchant
1 Understand the risk
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires a designated responsible person within an organisation to carry out assessments to identify, manage and reduce risk, and put appropriate measures in place. This includes making sure the emergency lighting system is fit for purpose and is regularly tested and maintained.
There is no 'one-size-fits-all' way to assess the risk within a building, as they are all built differently and have specific uses. For instance, a hospital or home for the elderly will have different fire safety needs from an office.
2 Obey the rules
Legislation will to help identify a building's specific emergency lighting requirements. The Workplace Directive 89/654 says signs, in accordance with national regulation, must indicate specific routes and exits.
Additionally, the Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC says the purpose of an emergency lighting installation is to make sure lighting is provided promptly, automatically and for a suitable time in a specific area when normal power supply to the lighting fails.
This is all encapsulated in BS 5266-1, a code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises. It gives information on the correct lighting provision, minimum levels of illumination, duration of operation and the maximum brightness levels needed to prevent glare.
Emergency lighting systems should always be designed, installed, commissioned and maintained in accordance with this standard.
3 Choose wisely
Modern emergency lighting systems offer intelligence that combines high levels of reliability, energy efficiency and ease of use.
Good-quality products will have a higher output and better spacing performance, so fewer units are needed to achieve the required level of illumination.
This may not only reduce the outlay on products but also the installation costs, as well as energy costs over the long term. FMs should seek to verify what supporting evidence is available from an emergency lighting manufacturer to confirm their solution complies with building, legal, safety and quality standards.
Light-emitting diode (LED) luminaires offer significant additional benefits in terms of size, lifetime and energy efficiency. LED luminaires offer impressive features and 3W fittings are available that run at 700mA and come in standard format three-hour duration.
4 Achieve the right lux levels
Achieving the correct lux level is a must and BS 5266-1 recommends a minimum of 1 lux in escape routes and 0.5 lux in open areas.
Emergency lighting should also be positioned in such a way to make sure that people are free from disability glare, which can prevent obstructions or signs from being properly seen.
There are also other areas identified in BS 5266-1 part 10 where higher levels of illumination are required. These include kitchens, first aid rooms, treatment rooms, plant rooms, reception areas and crash bars at exit doors.
It's important to remember these figures represent the minimum requirements, so certain circumstances may need higher lux levels - something to be considered during the risk assessment.
5 Pass the test
To comply with BS 5266-1, all emergency lighting systems must undergo a short duration test on a monthly basis and an additional annual test for the full rated duration of the emergency lights.
A full record sheet must be maintained for each emergency luminaire and entered into a logbook that is available for inspection by the authorities at any time. Failure to provide full test records can lead to legal action and closure of a building and, if the system is defective, render the building's insurance policy invalid.
Modern systems use the digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) protocol, so that full remote operation and self-test is possible. DALI assigns an address to each luminaire, allowing management of each individual device, and this can be as simple as a single luminaire containing a driver and a sensor. Monthly self-tests and annual duration tests can be set up on the internet, with all test results automatically logged.
Richard Merchant is commercial director at TheisCraft