Emergency and exit lighting includes any lighting designed to illuminate and identify hallways, stairwells, and exits to facilitate safe and orderly evacuation from a structure. In the event of an emergency, it’s critical that all emergency lighting is in working order.
Almost all buildings require exit lighting; and for good reason. These battery-backed lights activate automatically to illuminate exit corridors when a building loses power. Exit lighting ensures everyone in the building can safely exit a building in the event of an emergency.
If you’re a building/business owner, understanding the requirements and importance of emergency lighting is imperative for the safety of your customers and employees.
It’s a requirement
There are several regulatory agencies and codes that govern emergency lighting and exit sign requirements. These regulating authorities include: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), and International Building Code and International Fire Code.
These agencies dictate requirements for the placement, visibility, and acceptable forms of illumination for exit signs. Some requirements include:
- Exit routes must be adequately lighted so an employee with normal vision can see along each exit route
- Each exit must be clearly visible and marked by a sign reading “Exit”
- If the direction of travel to the exit isn’t immediately apparent, signs must be posted along the exit access indicating the direction of travel to the nearest exit
- The line-of-sight to an exit sign must be visible at all times
- Any new exit signs must be located so no point in an exit access corridor is in excess of the sign’s rated viewing distance (or 100-feet), from nearest sign
- Exit signs with directional indicators must be placed in every location where the direction of travel to reach the nearest exit is not apparent
Above and beyond the requirements of these agencies, employers must also follow the requirements of their local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The local AHJ is whoever’s responsible for monitoring and enforcing local building codes and/or fire codes.
Your building may be out of compliance
Also called “egress lighting,” emergency lighting must be arranged to offer illumination automatically in the event of any interruption in normal lighting. If anything interferes with this purpose, you’re out of compliance and in danger of a potentially serious situation.
While exit signs are usually installed in the correct location, occasionally the sign is blocked. A more common issue is the door/area directly in front of the door is partially blocked. This keeps occupants from quickly exiting your building. If the travel path is anything other than a straight line, it’s blocked. If the exit door and access can’t be seen, additional exit signs directing to the exit door must be installed.
Remodeled buildings can be another pitfall to compliancy for emergency lighting requirements. When building interiors are changed, requirements may be missed in the planning. It’s important to ensure compliancy if you plan on remodeling or rearranging your business’ space.
There are strict testing requirements
Section 7.9.3 of the Life Safety Code addresses the NFPA’s requirements for periodic testing of emergency lighting. It essentially requires both a monthly and annual test. The monthly activation test requires lights to remain illuminated for a minimum of 30 seconds. The annual test requires that lights are activated for 1.5 hours to simulate a long-term emergency event. Written records of the monthly and annual tests must be maintained for inspection by the AHJ.
Emergency lighting and exit signs must also be tested annually to ensure the battery is charged and capable during an emergency situation.
Failure to address the need for repair or maintain necessary testing may result in serious consequences that may include:
- Property damage/loss
- Serious injury/fatalities
Choosing a fire protection company
It’s critical that you choose an experienced fire protection company to perform required lighting inspections and address any maintenance issues or repairs you may have.
Fire Systems, Inc. can inspect, repair, and replace existing emergency and exit lighting. Our technicians are cross-trained to inspect and repair exit lights, kitchen hood systems, and fire extinguishers.
Contact us to have all of your fire protection inspections completed at one time: fire alarm, sprinkler, suppression, kitchen hood, fire extinguisher, and emergency and exit lighting. Call us at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for more information.