The Liberating Benefits of Smart Emergency LED Lighting
Emergency lighting is a fundamental feature of fire safety and emergency evacuation, playing a critical, life-saving role in commercial and industrial settings. Should a power outage occur, regardless of whether it’s a result of mains failure, fire or circuit error, effective emergency lighting will direct the occupants out of the facility safely. Where the system is ineffective, people’s lives are put at risk and the outcome can be devastating.
Effective emergency lighting goes beyond showing people a way out of the building. It also helps them avoid harm from the potentially dangerous obstacles, like furniture and equipment, which can pose a risk during an evacuation. In high occupancy settings, such as hospitals and schools, people can even be a hazard to each other as they all try to leave at the same time. An effective system gives them safe transit, preventing injury and stopping them from becoming trapped en route to the exit.
Ensuring that emergency lighting remains effective is, therefore, one of the facilities manager’s most important duties, requiring them to carry out regular maintenance and testing. This task, however, can be both protracted and labor-intensive, especially in large facilities or on multi-site estates. Nor is it easy to undertake when the maintenance of other critical equipment is often given priority. This creates a problematic dilemma for property managers, who would be fully aware of the potential outcomes should the system fail.
Shining a Light on Regulations
The most recent lighting codes are very exacting. The regular testing of emergency lighting units is now compulsory in the US, and organizations must comply with both the National Fire Protection Association’s National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101). Comparable lighting regulations are enforced in other countries.
In the US, the regulations dictate not only what kind of testing must be done but also how often, i.e. monthly and yearly tests. NFPA 101 goes even further, stipulating how the emergency lighting system should be designed and what management strategies the organization needs to implement. On top of this, facilities managers must also keep documentation of the tests. Should a problem occur during testing, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or any other Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may demand to see additional records as evidence that the organization has carried out the necessary remedial action and retesting.
To fulfill these demanding obligations, facility managers will need to manage the effectiveness of emergency lighting even more rigorously, especially across multi-site estates. Non-compliance can lead to large fines, as much as six-figure sums for repeated or deliberate violations. However, despite these regulatory deterrents, the challenges of undertaking manual, monthly functional tests mean they continue to be the principal failure point for organizations.
Switching On to a Smarter Solution
The quandary for site managers is how to win over these maintenance challenges, ensure occupant safety and comply with regulations. The solution for all these is to be found in the on-board intelligence, built-in diagnostics and self-testing features of the next-generation, smart, emergency LED fixtures and drivers. The technology used in the latest emergency luminaires is so advanced that they can test themselves. Should a battery, charger, or light source problem occur, its built-in LED indicator light emits a pattern of flashes that tells the facilities manager exactly which fault needs rectifying. When put into test or emergency mode, they can also identify issues with batteries, drivers, and LED arrays, as well as with charging or discharging.
The result is that the entire testing process becomes fully automated, end-to-end. The arduous routine of testing each individual emergency fixture manually is permanently eliminated. The process of having to press a unit’s test button for 30 seconds in order to simulate an outage and then log the results is superseded by the far simpler and quicker task of visually checking the indicator lights. Doing this and recording each unit’s status once every 30 days is sufficient testing to secure the system against potential faults. Furthermore, it even eradicates the need to carry out the more time-consuming, 90-minute functional testing.
The benefit for facilities managers is that emergency lighting systems that feature self-testing and self-diagnostics substantially reduce their workload. Compared to manual testing, the time needed to inspect and maintain the system can be reduced to approximately a third of what it was. This frees up employees, cuts maintenance costs and reduces the prospect of being penalized for non-compliance.
A Brighter Future
Where the management of emergency lighting systems involves manual testing and compulsory record keeping, organizations face a raft of challenges, especially if they operate large or multi-site facilities. Unsurprisingly, managers responsible for occupant safety are finding that smart, emergency LED lighting technology, with self-testing and self-diagnostic functionality, helps overcome those challenges while making establishments safer for their occupants.