Focus on Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting (EL) provides illumination when normal lighting fails. Much like a fire system, you hope it will never be needed, but it plays a vital safety role when it is. The features and capabilities of EL have evolved rapidly over the last decade, mainly due to innovations in smart panel technology and the luminaires themselves.

In most countries, EL is a legal requirement for public buildings and, as with fire systems, it must be installed and maintained in full compliance with relevant regulatory standards. The good news is that recent technological developments have resulted in better performance, enhanced efficiency and reduced costs for testing and maintenance.

The basic code of practice in the UK is BS 5266 and the UK's Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (2005), reinforces the requirement for an adequate EL installation and, importantly, the frequent testing required to ensure it is fully functional.

One of the major areas of innovation is the luminaires themselves. Offices and public spaces tend to be more focused on aesthetics, and the use of suspended ceilings and unshielded fluorescent lamps is becoming much less common. The latest EL systems can convert almost any commercial fitting for emergency use, which means that traditional standard designs of emergency luminaire are no longer the only option.

LED solutions for most standard lighting applications are now available, and there are increasing numbers of specialist emergency lights that use the technology. Companies with ICEL 1004 approval, including Advanced, can adapt virtually any luminaire for EL usage including LEDs.

LED luminaries offer great advantages. They will typically last 50,000 hours, compared to 7,000 Hours for fluorescent tubes, and the lower power usage means they need smaller battery packs, offering both visual and practical benefits.

Testing and maintenance regimes have also evolved, with revised standards and procedures. EL systems need to be tested monthly and annually under simulated emergency conditions, in accordance with EN 50172, with test results logged and any corrective work undertaken. Manual testing remains common, but the cost of it is increasingly hard to justify, especially as larger sites may have several testing regimes in place. This is where intelligent EL test panels, such as Advanced’s Lux Intelligent, can help.

Automatic testing systems offer many innovations and efficiencies. The units usually consist of control panels, connected to addressable luminaires, or lights with addressable modules, working in much the same way as addressable fire systems. Some are limited to fixed emergency luminaires, while others allow these addressable modules to be installed within almost any light.





The modules allow communication with the emergency light test panel to facilitate seamless monitoring and testing, to a completely flexible schedule. The modules can provide rich data, as well as controlling the light and monitoring the local power supply, battery condition and lamp status. Any faults or potential faults are automatically relayed to the panel, which provides instructions for any necessary maintenance.

These systems are recommended by ICEL (The Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting) as a benchmark for new and refurbished EL installations. They can allow remote access to installations using the Cloud (internet) to access the very latest reports, even via a mobile phone or tablet.

Organisations with multiple sites can have all their emergency lights on a single network, with all testing, maintenance and compliance data safely stored in a remote location and easily shared with the appropriate managers or local maintenance partner. The Cloud allows FMs to monitor and manage EL across sites anywhere in the world very easily. Automatic phased testing also allows buildings to be tested outside their normal hours of use, reducing interruptions to business operations and making maintenance and testing more cost effective.

Systems can be rolled out in one installation, or extended piece by piece until all emergency luminaires have been adapted/replaced and integrated. Soon, we are likely to see a move towards even more intelligent systems that focus on directing the public towards a specific exit route, as opposed to simply lighting up the area.

Emergency lighting should not be an after-thought. There are now many reasons to consider the latest emergency light testing systems, from aesthetics to energy use, while at the same time enjoying increased compliance and safety for building occupants, managers and owners.