SA storms: nothing like a blackout to expose emergency lighting failings
In an emergency, we want things we have designed to save lives to work properly. Seatbelts, airbags, smoke alarms etc. In that category we should also include the humble emergency light.
The importance of the emergency lighting system would be at the forefront of every facility and property manager’s mind in South Australia over the past few days. Many of them would have found that their emergency lighting system was not working properly.
The emergency light is the most important essential service in high-rise and public buildings when the power goes down.When this occurs, the lifts stop working, water is unable to be pumped to the roof and fresh air stops being distributed throughout the building.
With the lifts not operating, the only way to exit a high-rise building is by the fire stairs. As most fire stairs have no natural light, they rely fully on the emergency lighting system operating on battery backup.
Whilst there is no immediate threat to safety, there is a small window of time to be able to exit the building safely - the 90 minute period that the emergency lights operate for.Emergency lighting performance is the insurance policy to ensure the safe evacuation of all building occupants.
The challenge with emergency lighting in the past has been that the standard fluorescent emergency light is time consuming and expensive to maintain in 100% operating condition, especially when it relates to battery failures.
The good news is that many of these problems have largely been overcome in the last 5 years with the new LED technology being inherently more reliable.
Well-designed lights offer features such as easy removal for repair and upgrade and / or an accessible battery drawer so that battery replacement can be
simply undertaken without isolating the mains power. These simple design features substantially reduce the time and cost of repairs and maintenance.
What should building managers look for?
Many buildings contain emergency lighting systems that are well past their use by dates. A trigger event such as a blackout or a biannual emergency lighting test failure report represents an ideal opportunity to replace fluorescent technology with the latest LED technology.
Engaging a professional company is critical as selecting an approved light and maintaining emergency and normal lighting levels is essential.In many cases, if the right lights are chosen, the cost to upgrade is significantly reduced as the capital cost is offset by energy savings.
The impact of a total building power failure can be massive – business disruption, equipment failure, data backup & stock / perishables loss risks. All of these are inconvenient however not life-threatening. A non functioning emergency lighting system could well be.
With modern LED emergency lighting technology improvements, there are fewer excuses to be caught in the dark.