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Importance of emergency lighting 
01/08/2013 
 
Why is the spacing and siting of emergency lighting so important? 
 
UK fire safety legislation states that people in premises must be able to find their way to a place of total safety if there is a fire by using escape routes that have sufficient illumination. 
The regulations, standards, and guidance on this issue are comprehensive and designed to ensure that each building’s particular needs are thoroughly examined and understood. 
BS 5266, the code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises, offers guidance on the positioning of luminaires, minimum light levels, acceptable glare levels and minimum routine testing schedules. It states that, in open areas larger than 60 square metres, emergency lighting and signage should be installed. 
 
Does BS 5266 provide all the information I need on this subject? 
 
Not exactly. What it does do is provide a minimum standard that should be applied. It also gives guidance on specific hazards and points of emphasis that have to be accounted for. 
The risk assessment that must be undertaken by a responsible person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 should identify any specific areas that must be addressed. This includes making sure that the emergency lighting system is fit for purpose and is regularly tested and maintained. 
It is important to bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all way of assessing the risk within a building. Buildings are all built differently and have specific uses. For instance, a hospital or home for the elderly will have different fire safety needs than an office. 
 
What counts as a point of emphasis? 
 
When designing an emergency lighting system covering escape routes, luminaires should be installed at points of emphasis -- mandatory locations that need to highlight specific hazards, safety equipment, and signs. 
They should be installed at points of emphasis, such as areas near stairs, at changes of level, and near fire-fighting equipment and manual call points. Placement should occur at each change of direction, outside and close to each final exit, at first aid points, at exit doors, and near safety signs. 
I’m about to install an emergency lighting system in a building that is used primarily by disabled people.  
Jon Limer - Fire Alarm Manager 
Are there any particular requirements? 
 
Any non-domestic building with more than one storey should provide a means of refuge for any person who cannot easily use fire escapes, lifts, and stairs. It is important to recognise that a disabled refuge should be illuminated to a higher level of illumination than normal escape routes. 
 
Additional emergency lighting should be provided in toilet facilities and other similar areas exceeding 8 suqare metres floor area or with no borrowed light, and all toilets for the disabled. 
 
What are the minimum lux levels that need to be achieved? 
 
Achieving the correct lux level is a must. BS 5266 recommends a minimum of 1 lux in escape routes and 0.5 lux in open areas. Emergency lighting should also be positioned in such a way as to ensure that people are free from disability glare, which can prevent obstructions or signs from being properly seen. 
 
There are also other areas identified in BS 5266 part 10 where higher levels of illumination are required. These include kitchens, first aid rooms, treatment rooms, plant rooms, reception areas, and crash bars at exit doors. 
 
Once again, it is important to remember that these figures represent the minimum requirements, so in certain circumstances there may be a need for higher lux levels. This is something that should also be considered during the risk assessment. 
 
What are the key things to consider when locating emergency luminaires? 
 
Not all manufacturers’ products are the same. Therefore, you need to look at the spacing guide for the specific products being used and site the luminaires according to what is needed to produce the correct lux level. This means that you may need more of one manufacturer’s products than another to achieve the same result. 
 
Also, the correct luminaire should be chosen to suit the application and minimise damage to the unit. For instance, you would need to use a different type of luminaire in a plant room than you would in an office. 
 
For any further information please call Jon Limer on Freephone 0800 783 4171 or email j.limer@firewatchsouthwest.co.uk 
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