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Guide to Emergency Lighting

Author: Jon Sharman
Published: April 10, 2016

Emergency lighting is lighting that works during a power cut, normally using a battery for up to 3 hours of standby power. Emergency lights might be anything from green signage lights to everyday fittings that blend into standard lighting schemes.

Escape & Standby

Emergency lighting falls into one of two categories: escape lighting or standby lighting.
Standby lighting allows work to continue during a power loss, but is not a legal requirement.
Escape lighting is far more critical and subdivided into three categories:

  • Escape route lighting identifies and lights exit routes and enables safe evacuation of a building.
  • Open area (anti-panic) lighting is intended to avoid panic in large spaces (above 60m²) where occupants are likely to gather.
  • High risk task area lighting enables hazardous processes to be closed down so that operators or occupants are not put at needless/further risk.

Emergency lights and their roles are defined by British Standard 5266-1, which is a code of practice for emergency lighting. Up-to-date advice on how to conform to this standard is available for download (PDF) from the ICEL website.

Maintained & Non-Maintained

Emergency lights generally come in maintained or non-maintained forms:

    • A maintained emergency light functions as a regular fitting but stays switched on during a power cut.
    • A non-maintained light is kept switched off and only triggers when the mains supply is lost.

Maintained lights are required in premises where visitors may be unfamiliar with their surroundings (e.g. cinemas, nightclubs, public buildings), while non-maintained lights are used more in private workplaces.

Suggested Products

The Eterna Carina 28W Emergency Light is stylish, cheap to buy and run, and versatile enough for use in bathrooms and washrooms. This is a maintained emergency light, so it looks identical to standard fittings in the same popular range.
For tough settings such as schools or hospitals, the Knightsbridge 2 x 35W T5 Emergency Fluorescent Light with Prismatic Diffuser – 5ft Twin is a fine choice. Almost unbreakable and ideal for corridor use, this maintained fitting emits lots of energy efficient light.
Because non-maintained fittings aren’t meant to blend with a general lighting scheme, discreet designs are an advantage. The Eterna 1.5W LED Compact Emergency Downlight is a non-maintained fitting that can be subtly installed as escape route lighting in corridors or stairwells.
Offering great value for money, the Eterna LED Emergency Bulkhead is a maintained fitting that can also be installed as non-maintained. Its tough polycarbonate construction is shatter-resistant.
LED technology is ideal for always-on emergency lights. It’s energy efficient, durable, and needs little maintenance. The Eterna 4W LED Double Sided Emergency Exit Sign is a slim, modern fitting that comes with a double-sided exit legend.

Please take a look at our full range of Emergency Lighting.
For more advice, inspiration and news, check our Lighting Advice section.