The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005, which came into force in October 2006, charges the responsible person in control of non-domestic premises and the common areas of a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) with the safety of everyone in the building, whether working, visiting or living there. This duty of care includes the provision of emergency lighting. Article 14 (2) (h) of the RRFSO states:
“Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting”.
As noted in the local government LACORS publication Guidance on fire safety provision for certain types of existing housing (August 2008, p 26):
“When a fire occurs, people will be escaping in haste and in a probable state of distress or even panic. At night, when they have been awoken abruptly, they may be disorientated. With this in mind, the staircase and escape route must be adequately lit”.
Local government guidelines indicate that the only exception to this may be in the case of “small blocks of flats of no more than two storeys, with adequate levels of natural or street lighting (borrowed lighting)”. However, “where borrowed lighting is not reliable, e.g. the street lighting is switched off during part of the night, emergency escape lighting will be required even in two storey blocks” (Fire safety in purpose- built blocks of flats, July 2011, p 102).
What is emergency lighting?
The British Standards Institution (BSi) publication A Guide to Emergency Lighting Second Edition (2012) defines emergency lighting as follows:
“For the purposes of the British and European standard BS EN 1838, ‘emergency lighting’ is the generic term for equipment that provides illumination in the event of failure of supply to the normal lighting” (p. 1). There are two main types of emergency lighting: (i) emergency escape lighting; (ii) standby lighting (p. 2).
Emergency escape lighting is defined as “that part of emergency lighting that is provided to enable safe exit in the event of failure of the normal supply”.
Standby lighting is defined as “that part of the emergency lighting provided to enable normal activities to continue in the event of failure of the normal mains supply”.
The important distinction between these two types of emergency lighting is that, while emergency escape lighting constitutes part of the fire protection of a building, standby lighting does not (unless it meets the same equipment design and installation requirements as emergency escape lighting systems). As such, from the point of view of fire safety provision, emergency escape lighting is the significant issue for the responsible persons (e.g. landlords) and their tenants.
The responsible person
The umbrella standard for emergency lighting is BS 5266-1 (Code of practice for emergency lighting). On p 111, The BSi guide referenced above describes the duties of the “responsible person” as follows:
“The responsible person has to be able to demonstrate that the hardware of fire safety systems and their maintenance are adequate to protect the occupants. Fire protection products and related services should be fit for their purpose and properly installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions or the relevant British Standard”.
The responsible person can be anyone who has some control over a building or areas within it, including inter alia facilities management companies, landlords and lettings agents.
Where is emergency lighting necessary?
In detail, as noted in the LACORS guide referenced above (p 28), emergency lighting luminaires should be sited in the following positions:
• Near any intersection of corridors;
• Above each final exit door;
• Near each change of direction (other than on a stairway);
• Within each stairway so that each flight of stairs receives direct light;
• Near any change of floor level;
• Outside any secondary escape exit if the street lighting is poor;
• Near each fire alarm call point; and
• Near fire fighting equipment
‘Near’ is normally considered to be within two metres when measured horizontally. The route should be reasonably uniformly lit.
An emergency lighting system is designed to automatically illuminate upon the failure of the power supply to the conventional artificial lighting, including a localised power failure within the lighting circuit.
What are emergency lighting luminaires?
There are two main types of luminaire, the relevant standard for which is BS EN 60598-2-22: self-contained and centrally supplied.
The self-contained luminaire, as it name suggests, contains all the essential components (i.e. battery, charger, control unit, lamp, diffuser and any test or monitoring facility) for it to function as an independent emergency light. As noted in the Fire Protection Association (FPA) Emergency Lighting Handbook (2012), this is the most common form of emergency lighting and is usually designed to be fitted to a wall or ceiling to illuminate a certain area or building feature. A typical example is the surface-mounted, rectangular bulkhead luminaire, although a wide range of self-contained luminaires is available including square, round and recessed / inset models.
Centrally supplied luminaires, also known as ‘slaves’ because they cannot function independently, are defined by BS EN 60598-2-22: 1998 as follows: “luminaire for maintained or non-maintained operation which is energized from a central emergency power system that is not contained within the luminaire”. Slave fittings contain the lamp and some of the control gear but the charger, battery and often the changeover device are located remotely and provide the supply to a number of luminaires. Again, the luminaires themselves come in a range of shapes and styles.
Maintained, non-maintained and switchable emergency lighting
There are two basic modes of operation...
for emergency lighting, which HM government guidelines describe as follows (Fire safety risk assessment: offices and shops, May 2006, p 100):
“Emergency escape lighting can be both ‘maintained’, i.e. on all the time, or ‘non-maintained’, which only operates when the normal lighting fails. Systems or individual lighting units (luminaires) are designed to operate for durations of between one and three hours after the mains power supply fails. In practice, the three-hour design is the most popular and can help with maintaining limited continued use of the premises during a power failure (other than in an emergency situation)”.
Maintained emergency lights usually have two values for lumens (the measure of luminous flux, i.e. light flow, from a light source) in their technical description: a value for the output when the light is powered by the mains supply and another for the output when the emergency light is powered by the back-up battery. The latter is usually around 10 per cent of the full output.
Maintained emergency lights are often available as switchable units. This means that they can be switched between maintained and non-maintained modes of operation using an ordinary, wall-mounted light switch. This is useful in areas where there is no requirement for constant lighting, e.g. stairwells in a high-rise block of flats, where the light is only required when someone takes the stairs instead of the lift. The emergency lights will, of course, still come on in case of a power failure, even when the switch is in the ‘off’ position. However, as indicated above, the emergency light output will be about 90 per cent lower than usual.
A disadvantage of non-maintained emergency lighting is that the condition of the lamp can only be ascertained through regular testing; it is no good waiting for a power cut to discover that it isn’t working. This problem can be overcome, however, by installing self-testing emergency lights.
Luminaires are also available as signs; a typical example is the pictogram of the man running either through or towards an open doorway, with a directional arrow. Others may also bear some text, e.g. ‘Fire Exit’. These lighting units are available in both maintained and non-maintained versions in a range of styles. They can be wall or ceiling mounted, or suspended from high ceilings with decorative chains. Pictograms and pictograms with text should not be mixed in the same premises.
Another type of illuminated sign is the photoluminescent or ‘glow-in-the-dark’ style, which again shows the man running with directional arrow and doorway, plus the words ‘Exit’ or ‘Fire Exit’. These are available in three different sizes for wall mounting. These are not luminaires as such, but do serve to mark the fire escape route.
LED emergency lighting
With the focus increasingly on protecting the environment as well as energy and cost saving, the Light Emitting Diode (LED) is becoming an increasingly popular choice of light source for emergency lighting luminaires. In addition, the government is currently offering a financial incentive to switch to low energy products: the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme enables businesses to claim a 100% first year capital allowance on investments in certain energy saving equipment, against the taxable profits of the period of investment.
Maintenance and testing of emergency escape lighting
Government guidelines state that all emergency escape lighting systems should be regularly tested and properly maintained to BS 5266. This testing has traditionally been undertaken manually although, as noted above, emergency luminaires are now available with a self-test facility.
Depending on the type of installation, the responsible persons should be able to carry out most of the routine tests by themselves. As the test methods will vary, there may be some doubt, in which case it is recommended that advice is sought from the supplier or other competent person.
A typical test is via a key operated switch that is located either near the main fuse board or adjacent to relevant light switches. This is also known as a ‘secret key’ switch, as it is designed to allow testing of emergency lights while preventing non-authorised operation of the test switch.
Testing would usually include the following:
• A daily visual check of any central controls;
• A monthly function test by operating the test facility for a period sufficient to ensure that each emergency lamp illuminates; and
• An annual full discharge test
Particular care needs to be taken following a full discharge test. Batteries typically take 24 hours to re-charge and the premises should not be re-occupied until the emergency lighting system is full functioning, unless alternative arrangements have been made.
It is best practice to keep a record of all tests in the fire safety logbook.©LandlordZONE® – legal content applies primarily to England and is not a definitive statement of the law; always seek professional advice. Legislation changes, so check dates on these articles. If you have questions go to the LandlordZONE® Forums