Have you ever been in a store or other commercial space when the power went out? Could you see to find your way out? The answer should be yes, thanks to emergency lighting!
When power is lost in a commercial or public facility, it is a part of the NEC code that designated light fixtures turn on and remain illuminated for a minimum of 90 minutes. These fixtures may be installed architectural light fixtures, stand-alone emergency lighting products, or a combination. The lighting industry often refers to these stand-alone units as bug eyes. Emergency lighting uses a battery or alternative power source like a generator or inverter to illuminate the fixtures when standard power is lost. This backup power ensures occupants can find their way safely outside during an emergency.
People often think exit signs are a part of emergency lighting, but they are a part of the egress lighting system. Emergency lighting and egress lighting work together to allow occupants a safe escape during an emergency. Exit signs, by code, must be illuminated at all times; they often have a battery or are connected to an inverter to keep them illuminated when normal power is lost.
Types of Emergency Lighting
There are a variety of emergency lighting materials, and some are designed for specific uses or environments.
- Thermoplastic – these units are the most affordable material for emergency lighting and exit signs. They are suitable for interior use only.
- Steel – units made of steel are typically used in more warehouse or industrial-type environments. They often offer choices in remote head capabilities or lamp wattages because they are larger units with larger battery capacity.
- Wet Location – wet location emergency or exit lighting have additional protection against environments where moisture and or temperature fluctuations are present. They prevent moisture from entering the unit to damage the internal circuitry.
- Architectural – architectural units generally cost more but offer a refined option for upscale interior spaces. Some units may be recessed to minimize their intrusion in the room or can be painted a custom color to match the walls or ceiling for camouflage.
- Hazardous Location – these units meet precise requirements for environments with flammable or ignitable gas or vapors.
Emergency Lighting Codes and Laws
The NEC and OSHA individually have regulations requiring emergency lighting for all public spaces.
Emergency lighting must be permanently installed, and use a battery or other backup power system when regular power is lost. There are also requirements for the routine testing of the emergency lighting system to ensure it works in the event of an emergency.
Codes and laws governing emergency lighting vary from city to city and state to state, so you must check with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Building Code (IBC), and your local fire department when beginning a new project or renovating an existing building.