Emergency Lighting Requirements In North Carolina

North Carolina requires emergency lights at all building exits.

North Carolina building and fire codes set requirements for emergency lighting at emergency exits and in some hallways of business, apartment and public buildings. Detached single-family dwellings and multiple-family townhomes that are less than three stories are exempt from these requirements as long as they have their own entrances and exits. The state also sets requirements for the strength of lighting that must be used and the power supply for emergency lights. These regulations apply throughout the state, although local governments may adopt their own, more restrictive codes.


The state building code says only that emergency lighting should be provided at the door in most buildings. Buildings that provide emergency shelter for the homeless must have night lighting and emergency lighting with back-up lighting in the sleeping rooms, exit access corridors and stairs.

Power Supply

Emergency lights must have a power supply that can provide at least 90 minutes of continuous power. The power supply must consist of storage batteries, unit equipment or an on-site generator.

Light Strength

The code says: emergency lighting must provide initial lumination that is at least an average of one foot-candle (11 lux) and a minimum at any point of 0.1 foot-candle (1 lux) measured along the path of egress at floor level. Lumination levels are allowed to decline to a 0.6 foot-candle (6 lux) average and a minimum at any point of 0.06 foot-candle (0.6 lux) at the end of the emergency lighting time duration. A maximum-to-minimum illumination uniformity ratio of 40 to one shall not be exceeded.

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Exit Signs

The state requires internally or externally illuminated exit signs at almost all means of egress. They must also be connected to emergency power supplies that can ensure they will remain lit for at least 90 minutes if the main power supply is lost.