How Often Should You Test Emergency Lighting?

December 6 2016

How Often Should You Test Emergency Lighting?

How long has it been since you tested your emergency lighting?

Too many facilities managers and building owners don’t know the answer to this question. That’s a sign that it has probably been too long.

We rely on emergency lighting to guide us to safety in dangerous situations. But don’t take for granted that your building’s emergency lights will function properly. If you fail to meet emergency light testing requirements, not only are you putting your building occupants at risk, but you are violating life safety codes that are intended to prevent emergency lighting failure.

Emergency Light Testing Requirements

Regardless of the size or type of your facility, you are required to perform a 30-second test every month, as well as a 90-minute test every year. The testing involves cutting the power to the facilities emergency lighting units as if there were having an actual emergency.

These testing requirements may sound simple, but they can be a challenge for many facilities to complete. Depending on the size of your building and the number of emergency fixtures, testing each one can add up to hours of work. Additionally, most emergency fixtures are mounted between 7.5 and 20 feet from the floor, requiring the use of a lift or a ladder. This could cause interruptions to normal operations as the testing takes place.

There are actually several options available when it comes to meeting emergency light testing requirements. These three options are all permitted by NFPA 101, a standard life safety code in the United States.

Option 1

The first option is to complete all of the testing manually as described above (a monthly 30-second test and a yearly 90-minute test). You must also keep a written record or the tests.

Option 2

You can provide self-testing/self-diagnostic battery-operated emergency lighting equipment. This type of equipment automatically runs the required tests and displays any failures with a status indicator. Even though the equipment is able to self-diagnose any issues, you must still perform a visual inspection once a month to ensure that there is no visible damage and that the units do not display any errors related to the self-test.

Option 3

An even more advanced alternative to Option 2 is a computer-based self-testing emergency lighting system. With this option, the computer automatically generates a test history report, eliminating the need for the building owner to manually keep these records.

Of course, the testing options available to your facility will depend on the types of equipment you have installed. To assess or update your existing equipment, contact your local fire protection company.

The Risks of Ignoring Emergency Light Tests

Unless your business receives regular audits from OSHA or insurance companies, you may not be aware that these testing requirements exist. The first time your emergency lights fail, however, and you can’t supply any testing records, the consequence can be thousands of dollars’ worth of fines.

But the more important consequence of ignoring emergency lighting tests is putting building occupants’ safety at risk. During a real emergency the risk of injury is extremely high, especially if people cannot see where they are going due to a loss of power.

Life safety codes cannot be ignored, but managing all of the different testing, maintenance and inspection requirements is a challenge for most companies. Impact Fire performs testing, inspection and maintenance for emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, and fire suppression systems, so you can focus on your business.

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