Which Areas Require Emergency Lighting?

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Which Areas Require Emergency Lighting? 

Sometimes, in the event of a fire, there will be a loss of power in the building causing all lights on the premises to stop working. This can be hugely detrimental to an evacuation plan, and could potentially cause people to panic as they’re unable to see their way out of the building. 

This is why emergency lighting plays such an important role in commercial fire safety. If the property’s main power is lost, emergency lighting will automatically illuminate the building and help people evacuate swiftly and safely. 

It’s a legal requirement, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, for business owners or those in charge of non-domestic premises to provide a safe environment for all those within it. This includes having appropriate emergency lighting in place, and in this article, we’ll outline the key areas it’s necessary, as well as all the information you require to ensure you’re complying with the relevant legislation. 

What is Emergency Lighting? 

As previously mentioned, emergency lighting plays a key role in commercial fire safety. If power is lost in the event of a fire, emergency lighting will prevent sudden darkness in a building that could lead to people struggling to evacuate, or being put in harm’s way due to a lack of visibility and subsequent panicking. 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 describes emergency lighting as “that part of emergency lighting that is provided to enable safe exit in the event of failure of the normal supply.” 

Types of Emergency Lighting? 

There are two types of emergency lighting that organisations need to consider when having them installed. These are emergency escape lighting and standby lighting. Emergency escape lighting is a legal requirement for all commercial and non-domestic properties and comes in three categories. These are as follows: 

Escape route lighting – first and foremost, escape route lighting is the type of emergency lighting that aims to guide people out of the building in a quick and safe manner. It will illuminate corridors, stairways, all rooms in a property, even lighting up the location of fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers. Escape route lighting is an absolute necessity for all commercial properties.

Open area / anti-panic area lighting – in large, public spaces such as shopping centres, museums, galleries and alike, if a fire does break out and power is lost, mass panic can be caused. This is why emergency lighting is vital in order to aid the evacuation process of a large number of people, while keeping panic to a minimum by clearly guiding them to safety. Typically, this type of emergency lighting will include increased signage including directional signage. 


High-risk area lighting – some lines of work come with a higher risk due to the nature of the work involved. In these settings, high-risk area lighting is necessary. This type of emergency lighting is only suitable for very specific situations and will need to aid with the shutdown of other procedures that are conducted in the environment. A high-risk area can be identified as a place where workers are operating machinery, handling chemicals, using sharp objects or are working in a hazardous environment. 

As well as emergency escape lighting, you may also want to consider having standby lighting installed. Unlike emergency escape lighting, it’s not a legal requirement to have standby lighting in place. This type of lighting is designed to help your business continue its day-to-day operations in the event that you lose power, such as a power cut. 

Legal Requirements 

It’s vitally important that your business or organisation has emergency lighting installed. If you ignore this element of commercial fire safety, not only are you putting your employees at risk, but you’re also breaking the law. 

According to the Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL), whose experts represent the industry on BSI products and application standards committee, “the legal requirement is that non-domestic buildings must be safe at all times, even if a mains power failure occurs. Therefore, nearly all such buildings must have emergency lighting fitted”. 

BSI 5266-1 is a recognised code of practice for emergency lighting in commercial buildings, and includes information on the application of emergency escape and safety lighting for typical premises. 

Emergency lighting should cover a wide range of areas in  the property, including: 

  • Every exit door 
  • Escape routes 
  • Corridors 
  • Emergency exit signage 
  • Stairways 
  • Windowless rooms and toilets 
  • Lifts 
  • Fire fighting equipment 
  • Equipment that needs to be shut down in the event of an emergency 

A fire risk assessment is a great way to identify areas that your emergency lighting should cover. 


Emergency lighting maintenance is equally as important as having it installed in the first place. This is because regular testing and inspections can help ensure that the lighting is working properly and will not fail you in the event of a real fire. BSI 5266-8 provides guidance on the servicing and testing requirements of emergency lighting. Government guidelines state that regular emergency lighting maintenance should take place, and the responsible person within your organisation can be accountable for carrying out these inspections. 

Where national regulations do not apply, the following shall be met in accordance with BSI 5266-8. 


Because of the possibility of a failure of the normal lighting supply occurring shortly after a period of testing of the emergency lighting system or during the subsequent recharge period, all full duration tests shall wherever possible be undertaken preceding time of low risk to allow for battery recharge.

Alternatively, suitable temporary arrangements shall be made until the batteries have been recharged. The following minimum inspections and tests shall be carried out at the intervals recommended in 7.2.2 to 7.2.4. The regulating authority may require specific tests.


Indicators of central power supply shall be visually inspected for correct operation.

This is a visual inspection of indicators to identify that the system is in a ready condition and does not require a test of operation.


If automatic testing devices are used, the results of the short duration tests shall be recorded.

Tests shall be carried out as follows:

  1. a) Switch on in the emergency mode each luminaire and each internally illuminated exit sign from its battery by simulation of a failure of the supply to the normal lighting for a period sufficient to ensure that each lamp is illuminated.

The period of simulated failure should be sufficient for the purpose of this clause whilst minimising damage to the system components e.g. lamps.

During this period, all luminaires and signs shall be checked to ensure that they are present, clean and functioning correctly.

At the end of this test period, the supply to the normal lighting should be restored and any indicator lamp or device checked to ensure that it is showing that the normal supply has been restored.

  1. b) In addition to a), for central battery systems, the correct operation of system monitors shall be checked.
  2. c) In addition to a), for generating sets, refer to the requirement of ISO 8528-12.


If automatic testing devices are used, the results of the full rated duration test shall be recorded.

For all other systems the monthly inspection shall be carried out and the following additional tests made:

  1. a) each luminaire and internally illuminated sign shall be tested as per 7.2.3 but for its full rated duration in accordance with the manufacturer’s information;
  2. b) the supply of the normal lighting shall be restored and any indicator lamp or device checked to ensure that it is showing that normal supply has been restored. The charging arrangements should be checked for proper functioning;
  3. c) the date of the test and its results shall be recorded in the system logbook;
  4. d) in addition, for generating sets, refer to the requirements of ISO 8528-12.

Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your emergency lighting, ask the professionals. Speak with your supplier or a competent fire safety organisation like KW Fire. 

At KW Fire, our team provides organisations across Oldham, Manchester and Bolton with a whole host of commercial fire safety services. From emergency lighting to the supply of quality fire extinguishers and fire alarms that can alert you to a blaze, our team is dedicated to keeping you and your employees safe. For more information on KW Fire, contact our team today.

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