Emergency Lighting: How Connectivity and Automation Can Ease Functionality and Compliance

When it comes to emergency lighting, connectivity and automation can transform the way you maintain functionality and compliance. In this feature, we’ll explore the reasons why it’s time to leverage the latest technology.

Fire and life safety systems are ever more in tune with the people and buildings they protect. These systems, integrated into the fabric of the building, have become increasingly intelligent and efficient, offering owners and occupants greater protection and peace of mind as well as a lower cost of ownership.

In the event of a fire situation, they are capable of working in conjunction with human intervention to identify and respond to emergencies, prioritise the evacuation of occupants of specific building areas who are most at risk, and even guide them to the nearest exit, or point of refuge, along the quickest and safest route.

More recently, emergency lighting systems have become another of these intuitive technologies with greater value and significance to a building than just their safety capabilities.

Emergency lighting systems enable the swift and safe evacuation of a building by illuminating its escape routes, such as corridors and stairways. Much like your fire system, emergency lighting is a vital tool in any building emergency and helps protect many lives around the world each year. As such, it is a legal requirement for public buildings in most countries, and those responsible for it must guarantee its functionality and compliance to the relevant local standards and legislation. In the UK, this is guided by BS 5266-1:2016.

A typical wired system usually consists of exit luminaires, bulkheads, downlighters, projector luminaires and a control panel. In the past decade, as the support for the adoption of greener technologies has grown, the industry has seen a shift towards the leveraging of LED lighting thanks to its tangible efficiency benefits over traditional fluorescent alternatives.

LEDs offer huge design, power and environmental gains over fluorescent lights – they also last longer. Compare, for example, an LED’s typical 50,000-hour lifespan with fluorescent-based products’ 7,000-hour lifespan. As a consequence, the light source should no longer be the primary reason for failure, which reduces the need for bulb replacement within a planned maintenance strategy. The lower power usage also means that LED luminaires can be installed with smaller battery packs, which has both aesthetic and logistical advantages.

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Demonstrating testing and compliance

Where smart buildings and the systems within them now promise greater energy efficiency and sustainability, perhaps the next most important – and arguably game-changing ability of emergency lighting, is its connectivity.

The concept of connectivity is not new, however the growing acceptance of fully-integrated building management systems (BMS) and the emphasis on smart building technology has brought connected emergency lighting back into the spotlight.

For building owners, and those responsible for the upkeep of an emergency lighting system, key areas of concern remain testing and compliance and the evidence of compliance that protects those in the position of responsibility.

Emergency lighting should be tested monthly and annually in accordance with BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8. Typically, a monthly test of ten minutes in duration will be satisfactory, whilst a fully-rated duration test (usually three hours) should be completed annually. Test results must be recorded, and any remedial work performed within an appropriate timeframe.

However, conducting tests across multiple sites or large systems presents logistical challenges. Although manual system testing is still common, as budgets shrink so the cost of engineers spending significant amounts of time on manual testing is increasingly hard to justify.

To address this challenge, fire and life safety systems manufacturer, Advanced, developed LuxIntelligent, an addressable, cloud-ready, automatic emergency lighting test system. The system automatically, routinely tests a building’s emergency lighting to check for faults, test failures or advisories and to prove that the system is compliant and functioning. Testing can be completed without human intervention, delivering prompt and accurate reporting of test results, as well as providing definitive work instructions for any necessary maintenance, representing significant long-term time and cost reductions for facilities managers.

LuxIntelligent’s cloud-storage functionality eliminates the task of having to record test results by hand and the hassle associated with filing such records – a particularly useful feature when managing a large portfolio of buildings and sites that require secure storage of test and maintenance reports.

 

Recording evidence securely

In the wrong hands, sensitive data and information recorded by fire and life safety systems can pose a threat to businesses and organisations. As buildings’ systems become ever-more intelligent, integration into BMS (building management systems that centrally control and automate functions such as ventilation, lighting, power and building security) is becoming the norm. Ensuring that cloud-connected emergency lighting and other critical building systems are highly secure is therefore a vital step.

A high-performing system will be designed to ensure that your data is not compromised at any time. LuxIntelligent safeguards communication between users’ monitoring stations and the LuxIntelligent cloud and between the panel and users’ mobile or web apps via secure HTTP. This means that no-one can ‘listen in’ on the data being sent over the internet.

Whether responsible for a single site or a collection of buildings with differing uses and fire safety priorities, having peace of mind that secure, uninterrupted data is flowing between your fire and life safety system networks is paramount. The data within the LuxIntelligent cloud is stored securely within Advanced’s datacentre and can only be accessed via a user account with encrypted credentials. Data stored by the system is anonymous, so there is no personal information attached to it.

 

Enabling remote working

It’s not very long ago that the idea of working from home with the level of ease that most of us are now experiencing would have seemed virtually impossible. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and cloud-based technology has provided many industries with the ideal remote working solution. In the fire and life safety sector, cloud technology allows facilities managers and engineers to carry out routine maintenance tasks much more quickly and conveniently.

LuxIntelligent provides cloud monitoring and system management via mobile and web apps. This makes routine tasks that may have ordinarily required site visits, now possible to do remotely. With data stored securely in the cloud, those responsible for the emergency lighting system can access live details on status, test and maintenance reports from a smartphone, tablet or via a web browser. Integrating emergency lighting control panel data with portable technology in this way, enables users to monitor all their sites, anywhere in the world, right down to individual devices.

Indeed, being able to do things quickly is why cloud infrastructure has been created. As technology is increasingly embedded into the commercial spaces, transport hubs, leisure facilities and infrastructure so many of us use each day, facilities managers stand to benefit from its data-handling capabilities, despite the limitations and restrictions of the current global pandemic. The smartest, highest-performing systems also enable users to share the data on sites or panels with colleagues such as engineers and maintenance staff and e-mail maintenance and test reports at the click of a button.

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Leveraging automation

As workplace and facilities managers prepare buildings for reoccupation within the limits set by social distancing regulations, the numbers of staff returning to commercial settings is likely to be lower than pre-Covid-19. A recent YouGov poll, which surveyed 2,000 office workers across the country in April and again in late June, revealed that the number of employees who do not want to return to the office has nearly doubled since the start of the lockdown – rising to 34 per cent, from 19 per cent in April.

Although recent global events may see lower building occupancy, in the short-term at least, the need to meet monthly and annual emergency lighting test requirements remains of high importance. Ineffective testing and maintenance schedules, even during times of reduced occupancy and perceived lower risk, can result in prosecutions such as fines and custodial sentences depending on the level of non-compliance.

Building owners have the same legal obligations for an empty building as an occupied one and will be far more likely to attract new tenants if they can demonstrate that they are fully compliant. This is where automatic emergency lighting test systems come into their own – ensuring the safety of buildings and their occupants isn’t compromised.

A system with automatic testing allows checks to be undertaken at any time and without the need for a physical presence at the panel. This is particularly advantageous for areas like offices or operating theatres where testing must be planned carefully to fit around operating hours. Automatic testing also eliminates the possibility of human error, as well as immediately flagging up any remedial requirements. With no intervention or engineer time required, an automatic test system offers less disruption, cuts labour costs and alleviates the concerns relating to fulfilling legal obligations.

 

The buildings in which we work, rest and play are required to do more than ever to keep occupants protected and secure. This in turn places new demands on facilities and building managers, which cloud-based technologies and automation are ideally placed to help meet.

As building owners and facilities managers rise to the challenges of meeting the needs of their tenants whilst also ensuring high levels of fire safety; connectivity and automation are the key to fulfilling these responsibilities more efficiently and reliably – whether under normal, or unprecedented, circumstances.

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