Industrial Lighting

Emergency Lights Improve Business Safety

August 20, 2020
4 min
Matt Bires

Different cities and countries around the world have different rules and regulations in their building codes, but one thing is certain: they all require commercial businesses to have emergency lights. What are these lights, and how are they different from your usual commercial lighting? You can find the answers by checking this in-depth guide to emergency lighting systems.

What Is Emergency Lighting?

What Is Emergency Lighting

Guide to investing in emergency lights for your business. (Image Source: Pexels)

Emergency lights are designed to automatically switch on when the main power fails or if there’s a power outage. They are a standard for commercial spaces and high-occupancy residential buildings, such as apartments, college dorms, and hotels.

There are several types of emergency lighting, and each of them has a specific purpose. We’ve listed some of them:

  • Emergency route lighting – Point people to the nearest exit for escape
  • Emergency escape lighting – Help people exit an establishment safely
  • Anti-panic or open area lighting – Installed in stairways and lifts
  • High-risk task area – Used for areas where dangerous activities are performed, allows proper shut-down procedures
  • Standby lighting – Allow normal activities to continue during a power outage

There are two main modes for emergency lighting:

  • Maintained – Always on (i.e. cinema exit lights)
  • Non-maintained – Switches on only when main power fails

At the minimum, emergency lighting should last for three hours, especially for establishments where people cannot quickly evacuate (i.e., hotels or other types of accommodation).

Why Emergency Lighting Is Important

Emergency lights are important since they provide lighting for buildings when there are incidents when normal electricity supply is interrupted, such as pow3er outage or a fire. They’re strategically placed to illuminate key areas, such as pathways and emergency exits, and reduce panic and stress in the dark during an emergency evacuation. With proper emergency lighting, you can ensure the safety of your tenants, employees, and customers.

Building code officials demand strict compliance in the design and installation of these lights. By taking the time to understand the code requirements in your city and state, you can avoid costly mistakes and stay away from legal issues.

Best Practices in Emergency Light Installation

If you’re installing an emergency lighting system in your commercial space, it’s important to refer to the building code in your area and consult fire protection companies. You can also refer to the following tips for installing emergency lights and improving your building’s safety.

1. Make sure there’s enough light for safe evacuation

Emergency lights must be strategically placed to ensure that they can help you have a safe and efficient evacuation. They must also be bright enough to cut through the darkness and smoke. Remember: visitors and (even employees who are already familiar with your building layout) can get confused and disoriented when smoke from a fire prevents them from finding the exits. In the event of an emergency, your customers, staff members, tenants, and other people should be able to find the nearest exits and evacuate safely.

First responders often aren’t familiar with your building, which is why they refer to emergency exit signs. If you have well-lit emergency lights, you can make it easier for firefighters and other first responders to assist everyone during the evacuation and exit your building safely.

2. Follow the standards and fire codes

There are guidelines set by the authorities for the proper installation of emergency lighting systems. You need to familiarize yourself with these standards and ensure that you’ll comply with them. Better yet, hire a fire protection contractor who’s familiar with the building code and ask them to help you.

Also, fire codes outline how long the exit lights should stay on at the time of emergency. To ensure that your emergency lighting can last for the recommended amount of time, it’s best to invest in LED lights. They produce a brighter light and have a longer lifespan compared to other options.

3. Install an independent power source

It’s pretty common for building lights to shut off during emergencies. This is why emergency lights, especially the exit lights, must be connected to a power source that’s independent of the main electrical grid. For remote capacity and maximum run time, you can ask your fire protection contractor or commercial lighting contractor about connecting your emergency lighting to multiple battery packs.

Installing and Using Emergency Lights: The Wheres and Whens

Tips for choosing emergency lights for businesses. (Image Source: Pixabay)

The Wheres and Whens

Where to Install Emergency Lighting

The most basic requirement is to install emergency lighting systems in exit paths, such as aisles, corridors, elevators, escalators, passageways, hallways, and stairways that lead to the exits and/or to public areas. Similarly, there must be enough emergency lighting between desk areas and corridors. You must also ensure that there are emergency lights in exterior areas to ensure that people can find their way to safer areas once they have exited your building.

When Should Emergency Lighting Be Turned On

Emergency lights must always be operable at all times. Obviously, it is possible to shut them off when the building is not in use. However, for reliability purposes, most emergency lights don’t come with an off-feature.

Natural light can’t be relied upon for safety applications. Most building codes allow some sort of natural light for industrial applications provided emergency lights are all set in place even during daylight hours.

Test the lights

To keep them in good working condition, emergency lighting systems must be regularly inspected, tested, and maintained. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests three options for testing emergency lights:

  • Monthly functional testing for a minimum of 30 seconds, and annual testing of 1.5 hours. 0 Self-testing or self-diagnosis with visual examination every 30 days and with an annual test of 1.5 hours.
  • Computer-based self-test which negates the need for a visual examination, plus 1.5 hours test annually.

Testing Your Emergency Lighting System

Manual testing

You can hire commercial lighting contractors to test your system. Manual checks include isolating the circuits and walking around to see if all lights are working correctly. The switches are turned off to make sure the emergency lights are restored, then they are set back to charging mode. Lights must be checked one by one, so as not to cause major disruptions in business operations.

The problem with this type of testing is that it's time-consuming. It also leaves a huge risk for human error, as it’s easy to forget to switch the emergency lights back to charge mode. This can cause serious problems during emergencies.

Automatic testing

This type of testing comes in many different forms, but the main idea is that the emergency lighting system self-monitors all of its components (including main supply status). The system will be able to report any disruptions, faults, or anomalies. Though this has to be manually recorded, it definitely helps you save time.

Looking for an Electrical Contractor in Denver?

When it comes to your business’ lighting needs, there is no better place to go to than Lightning Mobile Electric. Whether you want to upgrade your current lighting system or you are in search of lighting retrofit solutions, you can depend on our electrical services.

We offer free inspection to assess your needs and recommend the best lighting solutions. We have a 24/7 emergency service at your disposal. Just call us at 303-595-9559 or email