About Emergency Lighting Testing

All business premises in the United Kingdom are required by law to have emergency lighting installed. Emergency lighting is also required by law in schools, hospitals, multi-storey dwellings and public buildings of all types. In short, unless the building in question is a private dwelling designed for one family to live in, it almost certainly needs to have a fully functioning emergency lighting system installed. The key phrase to note here is ‘fully functioning’. It is not enough to simply install an emergency lighting system: the system must be tested on a regular basis to ensure it is functioning as intended. In this guide, we are going to explain what tests are required by law and how often they need to be performed. We’ll also tell you what the professionals recommend as far as testing frequency and scope is concerned.

Emergency Lighting Testing

The Legal Testing Requirements for Emergency Lighting in the United Kingdom

UK regulations state that all emergency lights must be turned on and off at least once a month, to make sure they are operational, and should be serviced / inspected by a qualified technician at least once a year. The relevant British Standard recommends that you turn on all emergency lighting systems for 3 hours during the annual service and inspection, while the electricity supply is switched off. This is so you can find out whether any of the batteries need to be replaced.

Now you know what the law says about emergency lighting testing in the UK, let’s move on to what the professionals recommend, i.e. the testing practices that fire safety experts suggest be followed in all commercial premises, educational institutions, medical facilities and public buildings.

Corridor with Emergency Lighting


Leading fire safety experts recommend that you follow a 3-frequency testing schedule for all emergency lighting systems and fixtures. This includes daily, monthly and annual tests, as detailed below.

  • Daily Tests – If you have an emergency lighting system with a central battery, you should perform a daily check to make sure the battery is functioning as intended. All this test entails is checking the relevant indicator light to see whether anything is amiss. Assuming that everything is fine, you can leave the more detailed testing until the next monthly or annual test date. The majority of emergency lighting systems do not use a central battery. Instead, they have a separate battery for each light. If you have one of these systems, you do not need to perform any daily checks.
  • Monthly Tests – Every month, you should isolate the mains power supply to your lighting system, in order to simulate a power cut. This test should be performed on both systems with a central battery as well as those with a separate battery for each light. When you isolate the mains power to the system, all of your emergency lights should come on. If any of the lights should fail to come on, the first thing you need to do is change the battery (if your system has a separate battery for each light). In most cases, this will rectify the problem. If it does not, a qualified technician will need to take a look at the light fixture in question.
  • Annual Tests – As mentioned above, the recommended procedure when performing an annual test is to isolate the mains power to the lighting system for 3 hours, in order to ensure that your battery/batteries are in good working order. For the test to be considered a success, the lights not only need to stay on for the full 3 hours, they also need to maintain an adequate lux level (brightness). At the same time as this test is performed, the location of all lights will be checked by the inspector. He or she will be looking to see whether these locations comply with the current regulations.

The Emergency Lighting in a Dark Room



Different Types of Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting falls into several different categories each with its own particular purpose:

  • Escape route and open area lighting: These lights are designed to ensure people are able to evacuate a location safely.
  • High-risk area lighting: These lights are installed in areas where there is an elevated risk of a dangerous situation occurring.
  • Safety lighting: Lighting required by occupants (such as hospital patients) who are unable to leave the premises.
  • Non-maintained lighting: This type of emergency lighting is designed to come on immediately following a power outage.
  • Maintained lighting: Maintained lighting is always on and has a backup battery that kicks in if mains power is lost.


Determining the Correct Emergency Lighting Provision

There are numerous variables that must be accounted for when trying to determine which is the correct emergency lighting for a given situation. These include:

  • The design of the building
  • Whether the building is residential or commercial
  • If commercial, then the type of business conducted at the location
  • Whether the building is continuously occupied


For all these reasons and more, it is imperative that you get sound advice from qualified professionals regarding which type of emergency lighting you should install.

Testing Your Emergency Lighting

Where To Install Emergency Lighting

As a general rule candidate areas for emergency lighting include:

Areas of particular risk: Areas of particular risk including kitchens, treatment rooms, swimming pools, passenger lifts and refuge rooms, as well as the area around fire alarm panels, emergency exits and reception areas.

Points of emphasis: Points of emphasis include stairways, hallways, areas around fire extinguishers, outside emergency exit doors, call points, and areas containing evacuation equipment such as rescue mats.

Toilets and cubicles: Toilets (including disabled toilets) should have emergency lighting as should any area larger than 8 square metres. That includes work cubicles, walk-in closets and other areas.

In addition, hotel rooms designed to accommodate the disabled must have emergency lighting in the toilet.

Placement of Illuminated Fire Exit Signs

Illuminated fire exit signs are an integral part of an effective emergency lighting system. They should be placed at various points throughout the shortest route to safety as determined by a risk assessment of the property. If the shortest path to safety is anything other than a straight-line route, directional fire exit signs with arrows must be placed at every point where a change of direction is required.

Illuminated Fire Exit Sign

The Goal of Emergency Lighting Systems

The ultimate goal of the emergency lighting system is to facilitate the safe and timely evacuation of occupants during an emergency such as a fire, power outage or other occurrence. Effective emergency lighting also prevents panic by enabling occupants to easily find escape routes. In addition, emergency lighting allows people to locate fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment and enables first responders to go about their mitigation work quickly and effectively.

If you would like to find out more about the testing procedures for emergency lighting in the United Kingdom, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.


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