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Understanding emergency lighting

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All commercial and industrial premises require mandatory emergency lighting, but with many businesses below standards due to poorly maintained or insufficient products, uptake is still not where it needs to be. Red Arrow Electrical Distribution offers advice on installing reliable and sufficient emergency lighting.

Defined by BSi as ‘the generic term for equipment that provides illumination in the event of failure of supply to the normal lighting’, emergency lighting is a complex area that generally requires a degree of additional wiring and expertise.

These days, all new builds have emergency lighting installed during construction – with design and type specified by an electrical engineer to meet Building Regulations and Local Authority requirements – but each site still has its own unique needs. To support the general lighting in case of emergency, it’s important to address the differing levels of light required for varied needs and uses to ensure the appropriate amount of emergency lighting is installed. 

Alongside different lighting specifications, risk assessments should also be carried out regularly, particularly if the structure or usage of a building changes. Failure to implement this legal requirement can result in many long-term problems, lengthy site revisits, increased workloads and costly repairs. It’s also worth remembering that all those involved in designing, installing and manufacturing emergency lighting systems are responsible for complying to fire safety assessments and legislation, making the IET Electricians Guide to Emergency Lighting, BS 7671, BS 5266 and EN1838 essential reads for contractors installing emergency lighting. Relating to hotels, clubs, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges, licensed premises, offices, museums, shops and multi-story dwellings, this focuses on:

  • Installing emergency lighting in accordance with regulatory requirements 
  • Testing the system 
  • Maintain ongoing inspection and necessary updates.
Which emergency lighting?

According to the BSi guide to emergency lighting, there are two main types of emergency lighting: 

Emergency escape lighting 

Part of the fire safety provision of a building and a requirement of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, this provides illumination for the safety of people leaving a location. Escape route lighting must be sufficiently lit to enable swift and safe evacuation of a building by illuminating its escape routes, such as corridors and stairways.  

Standby lighting 

Although not a legal requirement, standby lighting is often installed to enable normal activities to resume in the event of failure in the normal mains supply. However, it should be noted that as this type of emergency lighting is normally handled by generators or a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), battery-based products are not suitable alone. 


Kayleigh Hutchins


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