A Short Guide to
Emergency Lighting

Practical Guide to Emergency Lighting: Solutions, Systems, and Importance in the UK

Emergency lighting plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of occupants during critical situations such as fires or power outages. It is a legal requirement in the UK to have emergency lighting installed, allowing for easy identification and safe usage of escape routes. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various aspects of emergency lighting, including its types, regulations, installation, maintenance, and the benefits of LED technology.

what is emergency lighting?

Emergency lighting acts as a backup when the main power supply fails due to a fire or power cut, resulting in the loss of normal lighting. When this happens, the emergency backup system automatically activates, providing sufficient illumination for all occupants to safely evacuate the premises. This backup power can be sourced from an emergency battery within the fitting or from an external central battery or generator.

Who is responsible?

Building owners are required to conduct a fire risk assessment, which includes identifying the emergency lighting risks specific to their premises. In multi-occupancy buildings, tenants are responsible for the risks within their area, while landlords are accountable for the common areas. A combination of different types of emergency lighting is usually needed, and the fire risk assessment should determine the areas requiring emergency lighting, including high-risk areas and tasks.

Emergency Lights

A combination of different types of emergency lighting is likely to be needed in most buildings. The fire risk assessment should identify the areas and locations that will require emergency lighting and identify the type of installation needed, it should also identify high-risk areas; high-risk or safety-related tasks; and highlight the areas where occupants may be required to remain in the case of a power failure. Points of emphasis and high-risk areas are likely to change during the life of a building. 

Emergency lighting is generally categorised into two types: emergency escape lighting and standby lighting.

Escape route lighting

This lighting ensures that escape routes are clearly visible and can be safely utilised by occupants during an emergency.

Open area lighting

Also known as anti-panic lighting, it aims to reduce panic and enable safe movement towards escape routes by providing sufficient illumination.

Directional emergency lighting

High-risk task area lighting

This lighting focuses on providing illumination for people engaged in potentially dangerous processes or situations, ensuring their safety and enabling proper shut-down procedures.

Standby lighting

Part of an emergency lighting system provided to enable normal activities to continue substantially unchanged. This guide does not include standby lighting as it is not a legal requirement and is a facility that may or may not be needed, depending on the use and occupancy of the premises, etc.

Twin spot frog eye emergency lights

emergency design areas of emphasis

Emergency luminaires should be mounted near the following positions or fire safety equipment:

1) Each exit door intended to be used in an emergency
2) Stairs so that each flight of stairs receives direct light
3) Any changes in the level
4) Mandatory emergency exits and safety signs
5) Any change in direction
6) Intersection of corridors
7) Outside and near each final exit
8) First aid post
9) Firefighting equipment
10) Fire alarm call points

Note: Public buildings with toilet facilities exceeding 8m2 should have emergency lighting in line with open areas. Accessible toilets or multi-cubicle facilities with borrowed light should have emergency illumination from at least one luminaire.

emergency lighting classifications

Emergency lighting systems are classified based on the power supply to the emergency lights.

Self-Contained or Single Point: These emergency lights have their own power supply in the form of a battery.

Central Battery: The power for these emergency lights is supplied from a central battery source located within the premises and distributed via cabling.

The choice between a central battery and a self-contained system depends on factors such as cost, installation size, and maintenance requirements. Self-contained luminaires are commonly preferred due to their cost-effectiveness and ease of installation.

mode of operation

Maintained emergency luminaire

These fittings function as normal light fixtures and remain energised at all times. In the event of a power failure, the emergency fittings illuminate through their battery backup, while the others remain non-functional.

Non-maintained emergency luminaire

These luminaires remain ‘off’ until the mains supply to the normal lighting fails, at which point they switch on to provide emergency illumination.

Emergency lighting luminaire

duration of the back-up battery

The duration of the emergency lighting system’s battery backup depends on the building’s use and evacuation strategy.

Typically, there are two options: 1-hour and 3-hour duration systems.

The 3-hour duration is required for premises used as sleeping accommodations, treatment or care facilities, entertainment venues, and public premises. In the UK, 3-hour duration emergency lighting is predominantly used to avoid confusion and simplify product types.

emergency lighting test switches

Emergency Light Test Switch

To facilitate testing and maintenance, every emergency lighting system should have a suitable means of simulating a failure of the normal power supply. This is often achieved through key switches that allow users to conduct weekly tests. It is important to note that the use of a miniature circuit breaker (MCB) or fuse to isolate the entire lighting circuit is not acceptable, as it could pose risks during emergency light testing.

Benefits of LED Emergency Lights

LED technology has revolutionised the emergency lighting industry, offering numerous advantages over traditional lighting sources. LED emergency lights are highly energy-efficient, consuming significantly less power while delivering bright illumination. They have a longer lifespan, reducing maintenance and replacement costs. LED lights are also more durable, compact, and environmentally friendly compared to traditional lighting solutions.

Choosing the Right Emergency Lighting Solutions

Selecting the appropriate emergency lighting solutions for your premises requires careful consideration. Factors to consider include the building’s layout, occupancy type, duration of backup power required, and maintenance needs. Working with experienced emergency lighting professionals can help determine the most suitable solutions for your specific requirements, ensuring compliance and the safety of occupants.

By understanding the different aspects of emergency lighting, choosing the right solutions, and ensuring proper installation and maintenance, businesses can create a safe environment for their occupants. LED emergency lights are recommended for their energy efficiency, durability, and brightness, enhancing visibility during emergencies. Regular inspections, testing, and battery replacements are essential for the reliable operation of emergency lighting systems.

In addition to emergency lighting, commercial spaces can benefit from various safety lighting solutions, including illuminated safety signs, motion-activated lighting, and exit route indicators. These measures further enhance safety and visibility within the premises creating a secure environment where occupants can safely navigate and evacuate during emergencies

emergency lighting standards

Base Guidance Documents
BS 5266-1:2016
Emergency lighting. Code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises
BS 7671:2018
Requirements for Electrical Installations. IET Wiring Regulations
Building Regulations – Approved Document B: Fire Safety
This document outlines the legal requirements for fire safety in buildings in England. It includes provisions related to emergency lighting, such as the need for emergency escape lighting and signage.
System Standards
BS EN 1838:2013
Lighting Applications – Emergency Lighting: This European Standard specifies the requirements for emergency lighting systems in various settings, including escape route lighting, open area lighting, and safety lighting.
BS EN 50172:2004, BS 5266-8:2004
Emergency Escape Lighting Systems: This British Standard provides guidance on the design, installation, and operation of emergency escape lighting systems.
BS EN 62034:2012
Automatic Test Systems for Battery-Powered Emergency Escape Lighting: This standard specifies the requirements for automatic test systems used in battery-powered emergency escape lighting.
BS EN 50171:2001
Central power supply systems
BS 5266-12:2005
Emergency Lighting – Part 12: This standard focuses on the requirements for emergency lighting systems in specific locations, including high-risk task areas and sports facilities.
Product Standards
BS EN 60598-1:2015+A1:2018
Luminaires. General requirements and tests

Please note that this article provides basic easy-to-understand guidance on fire safety provisions and the key fire safety information required to comply with legislation. Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. We aim to assist you to understand the fire-related terms within your Fire Risk Assessment.  It does not provide detailed technical guidance on all fire safety provisions, and you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.

Fire Risk Consultancy Services have the knowledge and experience to assist your business to comply with all legal requirements surrounding fire safety including legislation. Be sure to read our accompanying guides: Fire Extinguishers, Fire Alarm System Types, Fire Door Regulations, Fire Safety Signs, also published on this site. 

Please take a moment to have a look around our website where you will find related articles and guides to all the services we can provide your business with, from providing fire risk assessments, fire safety training, advisory services to Articles on Fire Safety Provisions and our Top Fire Safety Tips!