Emergency Lighting is an essential portion of any emergency route plan for both public and private buildings. It is designed to be activated in the event power is interrupted to a facility and illuminate key areas, such as exit paths and stairwells to avoid confusion and lessen the chance for personal injury in such instances. Emergency lights utilize internal battery, capacitors or emergency generators to generate light in the absence of regular power. Federal safety standards, such as the Life Safety Code of the National Fire Protection Association, dictate that emergency lights be tested on a monthly and annual basis.
Method for Testing Emergency Lights
Emergency lights activate based on the interruption of energy from their normal circuit. When this occurs, the emergency light switches to a back up power source, a battery for example, to illuminate the emergency light. Test procedures are based on activating the emergency light by interrupting this circuit as described by the Fire Safety Technical Guide from the University College of London. Several emergency light manufacturers have made this relatively easy by installing buttons, switches or magnetic devices on the light itself that will allow the circuit to be interrupted for test purposes. This however, is only for the testing of individual emergency lights and therefore is only useful for monthly quick checks. NFPA standards require that emergency lights be wired to their own dedicated electrical circuit. Annual testing of emergency lights requires the opening of the dedicated electrical circuit at the source. This can be done through the use of a test key device or by locating the circuit breaker dedicated to facility emergency lights and opening that circuit. This will activate all emergency lights at one time for a facility making this method applicable for annual test procedures.
Monthly Test Requirements
The NFPA requires that each emergency light be tested for a period of 30 seconds each month. During the test period the emergency light must be fully functional, giving full illumination to the exit area. According to the University of Colorado at Boulder, NFPA standards require that emergency lighting give an average lighting intensity of 10.8 lumen or 1 foot candle to emergency exit routes.
Annual Test Requirements
On an annual basis it is required that each emergency light be tested for at least one-half hour. During the test period the emergency light must be fully functional and conform to the same standards as the monthly test interval.
Self Testing Emergency Lights
Self testing emergency lights are programmed to automatically perform monthly and annual function tests. Status of these tests can be determined by viewing an LED indicator located on the light’s housing frame. LED signals for these lights have not been standardized. In order to determine the meaning of the LED indicator, reference the product instructions.