An Overview of Emergency Illumination

Over the last several years, new developments in building codes have reduced some of the challenges associated with emergency lighting. Still, though, it is important for engineers to be involved early on in the design and development process of any building with the specific processes of conceptual lighting schemes, determining the appropriate codes that must be followed and selecting the best power system for emergency lighting.

Here is some information from our team of fire equipment suppliers in Lawrenceville, GA about why emergency illumination is so important, and why professional involvement is so critical.

Code requirements

The main codes used to determine how emergency lighting systems will be properly applied include the International Building Code (IBC), the NFPA Life Safety Code, the NFPA 70: National Electric Code, the NFPA 110: Standard for Energy and Standby Power Systems, the NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Code and the NFPA 111: Standard on Stored Electrical Energy Emergency and Standby Power Systems. It is important to determine the year in which a specific code or standard was adopted by the jurisdiction where the building project is located before proceeding with emergency lighting design—not all jurisdictions are up to date with their enforcement of current codes and standards.

While engineers have been traditionally responsible for lighting egress paths, architects have also somewhat taken over that responsibility. The architect is also typically responsible for defining the means of egress on the exiting plans. These exiting plans must be approved by the authority having jurisdiction before any building permit or building occupancy permit can be issued.

Under NFPA 101, the main parameters for emergency lighting are that stairs should have a minimum of 10 fc measured at the walking surface and a minimum of 1 fc for floors and walking surfaces. If a power outage occurs, emergency lighting must be transferred to an alternate source of power within 10 seconds. In addition, all battery-powered emergency lighting should be continuously available for at least 1.5 hours after the power outage. At the end of that hour and a half, the illumination levels may begin to decline along the path to egress as the emergency power source discharges to an average of 0.6 fc (but not less than 0.06 fc). The maximum to minimum illumination uniformity ratio should be no greater than 40:1 to provide sufficient contrast and visual acuity.

Among the other building codes are the standards for periodically testing emergency lighting systems. Functional testing should be performed each month for at least 30 seconds, with additional functional tests of 1.5 hours required for battery-powered systems. There should be written documentation that confirms these monthly and annual functional tests occurred. For computer-based self-testing, there should be a computer-generated report detailing the history of the tests in question.

For more information about any of the requirements for emergency illumination in accordance with building codes and federal safety regulations, we encourage you to contact the team of fire equipment suppliers in Lawrenceville, GA at AAA Fire Protection Resources, Inc. today. We’ll be happy to answer your questions!

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