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You haven’t had an accident so you must be doing it right. Right? Wrong!

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Emergency Lighting

There are many pitfalls associated with emergency lighting, which is why it’s so important to get things right. Vertiv explains how.

Engineers the world over seldom get praise for making our world a better, more comfortable and safer place to live. But as sure as night follows day, when something goes wrong with one of their creations, the public and the legislators are quick to blame and keen to prevent a recurrence. But it was not always so.

In the 1900s cinemas were the main source of entertainment for the British public with exciting and extravagant Cinemas being opened regularly throughout the country, with auditoriums capable of holding over 3,000 people. Cinema audiences rose from 19 million a week in 1939 to 30 million a week by 1945. 

As grand as many of these buildings were, safety was not always taken into consideration. On New Years Eve 1929, the Glen Cinema in Paisley was engulfed in smoke and due to a lack of safety considerations, 69 children lost their lives.    

Emergency lighting as a weak link

The point is that nobody intentionally sets out to make a disaster, but when they happen, they force a new way of behaviour enshrined in legislation. This is where so many of our world-renowned British Standards have come from and why adherence is critical to prevent future unnecessary mass loss of life.


Take these three British Standards regarding emergency lighting:

  • BS 5266-1:2016 Code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises.
  • BS EN 60598-2-22 British and European standard for emergency luminaires.
  • BS EN 1838: 2013 British and European standard for Lighting Applications – Emergency Lighting 
  • BS 5499-10: 2014 Guidance for the selection and use of safety signs and fire safety notices.
  • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) –  Requires a responsible person, such as the employer, owner, occupier or managing agent in non-domestic premises, to ensure the fire safety of all employees and that premises are safe for any other person who may be on site or in the vicinity, e.g. visitors to a public building.

    This may seem like a small topic on the face of it, but it is the weakest link in any facility when an event requires evacuation, like a fire or gas explosion. This is highlighted in a recent incident at a London hotel. It is people, not the building systems, that always make the headlines.

No trial = error

What we can learn from instances like this is what the title of this article suggests, just because you haven’t had that accident, does not mean that you are prepared. 

Some may think why do I need to comply with the British Standards? What is the point? We only need to look back to 2017 and Grenfell to answer those questions.

The 2016 upgrade to that building did not meet the requirements of the British Standards, in particular the cladding, resulting in the death of 72 people.

There was also a case in Aberdeen Market recently where the owners were fined £80,000 following the death of a pensioner who had fallen down a stairwell which had inadequate emergency lighting.   

With emergency lighting, the consequences are a lot more serious than pure financial loss and reputation for the facility owner. Personal fines and custodial sentences for everyone in the chain of negligence are considered appropriate.  

“If you think safety is expensive…

…try an Accident” goes the old adage, attributed to many in the business of providing services like air travel with huge downside risk to skimping on safety.

Those who own or are responsible for running facilities where emergency lighting is mandated are in the same position. They approach health and safety with the best of intents and purpose, however sometimes you simply do not know what you do not know. It is hard to be an expert in every aspect of the facility. There are options to fill that knowledge gap.

It’s easy to make good decisions when there are no bad options

And that’s part of the problem. There are bad options and bad actors. Taking the latter first, there are emergency lighting solutions on the market that are not compliant. But how can you tell upfront? And then there is the question of what system suits your facility?  

Self-contained systems are cost-effective for smaller facilities, but what if that facility grows, are they scalable and cost-effective then? Centralised systems claim to have a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) but does that really stack up and from what size facility? 

What about UPS Systems, where do these fit in the equation? And then there’s the requirement of testing, automated versus manual. Which is right for you?

Many options to choose from, many wrong decisions to make.

Ignorance is not bliss

Standards change but compliance doesn’t so the idea of fit-and-forget is not fit for purpose and economising on standards is a false economy. You need to be compliant, which is why you turn to an expert to give you that added support and confidence.  

Since 1993, Vertiv has been a leading UK supplier of certified compliant emergency lighting, and other life-critical systems such as PA systems, fire lifts and smoke diversion systems.   You’ll find our systems in airports, rail networks, cinemas and retail and local authority facilities. 

Take action

To understand what system suits your needs, join Vertiv’s upcoming webcast Emergency Lighting Made Easy where its technical experts will demystify how best to deploy or upgrade your system.  

This article was originally published on Vertiv’s website. 

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