Finally, to ensure that the system remains at full operational status, essential servicing should be specified. This would usually be performed as part of the testing routine, but in the case of consumable items such as replacement lamps, spares should be provided for immediate use.
Servicing and testing
To test an emergency lighting system, a mains power failure on the normal lighting circuit / circuits or individual luminaries must be simulated. This will force the emergency lighting system to operate via the battery supply. This test can be carried out manually or automatically.
A simulated mains failure can be achieved by providing a switch to isolate all lighting circuits / individual circuits / individual luminaires. If manual testing is utilised, the following points should be considered:
In a system with a single switch for the whole building or a large circuit, after simulating the mains failure it is necessary for the tester to walk the whole building or circuit, to check all emergency luminaire are operating correctly. After restoring the mains supply, the whole building or circuit must be walked again, to check that the emergency lights are recharging.
If the emergency luminaires are individually switched, only a single walk around the building will be needed. However, the test switches could spoil the decor of the building and they must be of a type that is tamper proof. After the tests, it is recommended that the performance of the system is logged in the fire safety logbook.
If the costs of an engineer’s time and the disruption caused by manual testing are excessive, self-testing emergency lighting should be considered. Different formats are available to match particular site requirements. However, the results of the monthly and annual tests must still be recorded.
General information about emergency lighting testing
BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004 (Emergency escape lighting systems) specifies the minimum provision and testing of emergency lighting for different premises. Additional information on servicing can be found in BS 5266-1: 2011 (Code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises).
Discharge tests need to be undertaken outside normal working hours. In buildings that are permanently occupied, the test should be phased so only alternate luminaires are tested.
Regular servicing is essential. The occupier / owner of the premises shall appoint a competent person to supervise servicing of the system. This person shall be given sufficient authority to ensure the carrying out of any work necessary to maintain the system in correct operational mode.
Because of the possibility of a failure of the normal lighting supply occurring shortly after a period of testing of the emergency lighting system or during the subsequent recharge period, all full duration tests shall, wherever possible, be undertaken just before a time of low risk to allow for battery recharge. Alternatively, suitable temporary arrangements shall be made until the batteries have been recharged.
The following minimum inspections and tests shall be carried out at the intervals recommended below. The regulating authority may require specific tests.
Daily emergency lighting inspection (only for central back-up systems)
This check only applies to emergency lighting systems with a central back-up battery system. In this case, there is a daily visual inspection of indicators on the central power supply to identify that the system is operational. No test of operation is required. This test does not apply to emergency lighting with self-contained back-up batteries in each unit (standard emergency lighting).
Monthly emergency lighting tests
All emergency lighting systems must be tested monthly. The test is a short functional test in accordance with BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004.
The period of simulated failure should be sufficient for the purpose of this test while minimising damage to the system components, e.g. lamps. During this period, all luminaires and signs shall be checked to ensure that they are present, clean and functioning correctly.
Annual emergency lighting tests
A test for the full rated duration of the emergency lights (e.g. 3 hours) must be carried out. The emergency lights must still be working at the end of this test.
The result must be recorded and, if failures are detected, these must be remedied as soon as possible.
It is common for fire alarm servicing companies to carry out the annual emergency light ‘drain’ test at the same time as they carry out fire alarm system maintenance, as this fills the waiting time of the ‘drain’ test with useful activity.
British and European Standards – Emergency Lighting
Emergency lighting is now covered by a series of interdependent standards that can be seen as forming a hierarchy as shown below.
Base guidance document
BS 5266-1: 2011 Code of practice for emergency lighting of premises. Gives general rules and guidance on the provision and operation of emergency lighting in most premises other than dwelling houses.
BS EN 1838:1999 / BS 5266-7:1999 Lighting applications – emergency lighting. Specifies the illumination to be provided by emergency lighting (including luminance, duration and colour).
BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004 Emergency escape lighting systems. Specifies the minimum provision and testing of emergency lighting for different premises.
BS EN 60598-1: 2008 Luminaires. General requirements and tests. See the 60598 series for particular requirements.
BS EN 62034:2006 Automatic test systems for battery powered emergency escape lighting. Specifies a test system for battery powered emergency lighting
BS EN 50171:2001 Central power supply systems. Specifies central power supply systems for emergency lighting luminaries.
Visit your local reference library or purchase copies of the requisite standards from BSI online; insert the BS number to see which titles are current. The links may not be inclusive but will give an indication of the guidance available.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
The HM Government entry level guides to the RRFSO for different types of non-domestic premises and the communal areas in HMOs each have a section entitled “Further guidance on emergency escape lighting”, which provide additional relevant information. The guides can be accessed via this link: Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order guides.