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State of Emergency   


State of Emergency
22 July 2022

Red Arrow’s technical and design support team share some of their most frequently asked questions on emergency lighting design and installation.

So, you’re looking into emergency lighting. What do you need to know? The truth is, a lot – far too much to cover here. Emergency lighting is, understandably, covered by strict rules and regulations designed to keep building occupants safe in the event of a fire, emergency or power outage, and exactly what is needed in any premises depends on how the building is used, its layout, the people occupying it and other factors.

In the meantime, Red Arrow’s technical and design support team take questions on emergency lighting from installers every day, as they navigate the complicated requirements of compliant emergency lighting design and installation. Here, they share some answers-in-brief to a few of their most frequently asked questions.

Does my customer’s building project need emergency lighting?

Emergency lighting is needed in any building that can be accessed by the public or where people are employed. In shared premises – such as commercial buildings that house several businesses – exactly who is responsible for the emergency lighting in different areas can vary, depending on the lease. Changes to the premises that have been made by the leaseholder (for instance, partition walls) can also affect who is responsible, so it is worth advising your customers that they double check their terms and the date of their last risk assessment to make sure they have the correct emergency lighting in place. Emergency lighting is not needed in private dwellings or privately occupied spaces, like flats, but is needed in communal areas and escape routes.

Does emergency lighting need to be kept on at all times?

No, but it does need to be connected to a power source at all times. Non-maintained emergency lights – powered by a battery that is charged by mains power – stay switched off until a power failure occurs. Switch maintained lights are used as part of the ‘normal’ lighting system and can be switched on and off along with other fittings, but will switch on via their backup battery if power is disrupted. Fully maintained lighting is kept on all of the time, either as part of the lighting design or illuminated signage, but this is an option as opposed to a requirement. The important thing is that exit points, escape routes and other key areas are illuminated when they need to be e.g. in case of a power failure or emergency.

Is recessed better than surface mounted?

Not necessarily. Surface mounted emergency lights might make you think of ugly, obtrusive fittings with bulky power packs, but battery technology has changed in recent years and slim-line surface mounted emergency lights are now available that won’t look out of place in most premises. Surface-mounted can be convenient, cost-effective, reliable and easy-to-install, especially if you want to minimise disruption to the premises or you are installing in an awkward space, like a listed building.

How long do emergency lights need to stay on for?

This depends on the building’s purpose and how long it will take to evacuate safely. In buildings where occupants may not be able to evacuate immediately, like hotels, it must remain on for at least three hours. In buildings that can be evacuated quickly and won’t need to be reoccupied right away, it can be as little as one hour. A risk assessment will outline the requirements for the project; your role is ensuring that the fittings you install are up to the task.

Do I need to install emergency lighting in a small or medium sized office or space?

Not necessarily, but it depends on more than just the size of the space. Regulations state that small rooms (12m2 or under) or medium sized rooms (60m2 or less) don’t need dedicated emergency lighting, unless a risk has been identified such as equipment that needs to be powered down safely. However, this changes if the office is used as part of an emergency escape route from another occupied part of the building.

Can I be held liable for an emergency lighting design?

Every building will have a ‘Responsible Person’ who is ultimately liable for the emergency lighting. This could be an individual – such as building owner or facilities manager – or a limited company. The ‘person’ is then responsible for making sure competent persons have been employed to carry out risk assessments, lighting design and installation. That said, should an emergency lighting installation go wrong, the designer of the installation could also find themselves at risk of being prosecuted for non-compliance, so it is vital to make sure you are confident in your design and that the right products are installed.

To find out more about our free lighting design service call our team on: 0800 195 0006

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