Areas of work, occupancy buildings and public sites are all required by law to provide an adequate escape route out of a building in times of emergency. These exit routes must not only be readily accessible but they must also be clearly illuminated by emergency lighting in the event of a power failure.
Emergency lights are required to correctly light up an evacuation route to enable all occupants to safely leave a building in times of an emergency and can be required for a duration of up to three hours or longer. Regular maintenance and testing therefore is required to ensure that all emergency lighting systems are functioning correctly. In the UK these requirements are covered by the Regulatory Reform Order and British Standard Codes such as BS 5266. The British Standard BS 5266 for example recommends that emergency lighting systems are serviced regularly.
To test any emergency lighting system, a power failure or power cut will need to be simulated, which then forced the emergency lighting and luminaires to be switched on.
It is also a good idea to keep replacement lamp bulbs, spares and legends, which can be immediately installed if required.
Many emergency lights will have to be manually checked, particularly on old and legacy emergency lighting systems, although some more modern systems are now capable of automatic testing. To manually test an individual light or circuit a test or ‘fishtail’ key is used to simulate an isolated local power failure. This will then trigger the back-up emergency lights to operate.
It is important to systematically check that all emergency lights are working, particularly in a non-maintained system. This will often involve a single walk along the escape and evacuation route.
Many site managers and in particular new builds now have installed automatic testing devices. Automatic testing is more efficient and comprehensive and is also flexible enough to test various elements and sections of a system. The cost of automatic testing against the cost of an engineer manually testing the system is also favourable over the long term.
Daily – Daily checks only apply to standard emergency lighting systems with one central back-up battery. In this instance a visual inspection of indicators is required to confirm that the system is in a suitable condition.
Monthly – Monthly checks involve checking luminaires and legends for any sign of damage. A brief test of the lights can be performed during a simulation power failure, which can be achieved few a fuse box or at a manual test box using a lighting test key.
Annually – at least every twelve months it is essential to perform a full discharge test. This involves a three hour run down test to guarantee that the battery system is able to perform for the maximum time of an evacuation period. Individual lights will need to be examined and it may also be useful to conduct an audit of the system, checking the overall effectiveness and adequacy of the emergency lighting as well as the correct use of emergency legends.
As a general rule a logbook should be kept recording the test results, whether they are carried out daily, monthly or annually. Any faults found within the emergency lighting system should be logged and fixed as soon as possible.