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Emergency Lighting

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By the Book

Emergency lighting, as the best technicians know, blends with standard egress lighting to create a comprehensive lighting system. Specific codes address these common purposes, as well. Take for example the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code (NFPA), found at section 101.

The code requires the installation and maintenance of emergency lighting under section 5-8, “Illumination of Means of Egress.” But codes cannot adequately address all of the eventualities of an emergency situation. Sometimes, tragedy is the best teacher.

The attack on the Trade Towers of New York in 1993 has become an industry classic…evacuation took over seven hours. The stress of the evacuation, indeed, was one of the lingering health effects in this crisis laden atmosphere. The evacuation of the Tower’s cataclysmic failure on 9/11 took a fraction of that time. The distinction was in an important measure due to the upgrades in the Trade Towers emergency power and lighting systems.

The attack in 1993 had ruptured the power ‘life line.’ Those fleeing the building had virtually no light as they struggled down the stairwells.

OSHA also requires emergency lighting under Section 1910.36 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Also because of the lesson from 9/11, OSHA has developed safety protocols to address the need to train staff to use emergency lighting effectively. The awareness of emergency lighting as a tool continues to improve preparations for the unknown. Hopefully, keeping people from groping–literally or figuratively–in the dark.

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Write and Wrong

Emergency lighting under all applicable code requirements must be tested. Furthermore, these tests must have results committed to writing. In some occasions, however, there has been logistical confusion over when the writing may not be required.

This apparent inconsistency is explained by the instance when self-testing emergency lighting systems are being employed. It is still generally required that a written record (rather than electronic data) be kept.

“Written records of visual inspections and tests shall be kept by the owner for inspection by the authority having jurisdiction.” NFPA’s Life Safety Code, Article 5-9:3, Periodic Testing of Emergency Lighting Equipment.

In many instances, modern emergency lights will be labeled either ‘self-testing’ or ‘self-diagnostic.’ If the equipment is self-diagnosing, then one aspect of record keeping is modified…but not eliminated. The requirement for recording in writing the actual testing of the equipment is waived. This only applies to the monthly recording of the results of the 30 second continuos testing.

But if relying on the self-diagnostic test, then a visual inspection must still be made on the emergency lighting, once every 30 days. And the visual inspection must still be recorded in writing. Having a full annual test (of 90 minute duration) on the equipment is in no way modified by having self-diagnostic emergency lighting.

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No Blank Checks

To the uninitiated, the range of code requirements for emergency lighting can be staggering. Three major code requirements are the Life Safety Code, the NFPA, and the National Electric Code. One of the major codes address the required need for a monthly check-up (the Life Safety Code).

Two of the codes also require annual inspection (NFPA 70 and the National Electric Code). But as any lawyer can tell you, if it isn’t in writing, “it doesn’t exist.” In other words, whether an inspection was conducted yesterday or months ago, a written record of the inspection must be kept.

Following, a summary of the data required in that record.

Required Monthly Checklist

Each light needs to be carefully, individually inspected for any physical damages. The test button must be pressed for thirty consecutive seconds. Alignment and adjustment of the beams are required. The AC charging system needs to be checked for functioning, and any electrical charges to top off are required.

Required Annual Checklist

A ninety (90) minute full-function test is required; the AC power supply to each unit must be disconnected and reconnected in the process. The battery and the lens must both be checked for function, including any corrosion or rust. The lens should be cleaned, as necessary, and the unit’s functions appropriately cleaned. The beam must be aligned as necessary. The voltage needs to be checked for its output and charging operability.

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Bright Lights and Big Cities

Emergency lighting regulations can and do vary widely, from major city to city. For example, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and New York each require specific emergency lights approved for the city. Because of the wide variations in environmental conditions, one constant challenge is to match emergency lighting with necessary national standards.

Costs of manufacturing are a critical consideration. One method of making sure emergency lighting manufacturing meets minimal standards is through effective legislative education. One important partner in these efforts is the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The range of alphabet-soup federal agencies can be staggering for a single manufacturer…OSHA and ADA requirements have become especially important considerations. With energy awareness becoming a key factor, EPA standards are increasingly playing a part in helping the market match manufacture.

But cities are increasingly expected to become more complicated in emergency lighting requirements, as well. Though building codes are becoming increasingly standardized, the ability to enforce codes in renovations remain a concern in major cities. The other emerging call is for safety standards that exceed emergency lighting standards. This would make building codes a minimum standard.

The test would be for emerging technologies to be adopted voluntarily. “Smart” technology, including the newest LED systems, are now entering the market. The range of new technologies and techniques will be, at the least, a bright idea whose time is coming.

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That’s in a Name

When it comes to seeing the light, emergency lighting may be known by any number of names. On the other hand, errors in terminology also occur. One of the most common misuses of terms involved ‘egress’ lighting.

Many otherwise savvy installers treat egress as equivalent to ‘emergency’ lighting. In many other ways, the terminology of emergency lighting is not always accurate. The truth is that any lighting that is unreliable or undependable may create a hazard. Egress lights are used to provide safer exiting under any circumstances…whether an emergency has occurred or not. To this end, you might consider the example of decorative lighting to also aid in aesthetics.

Highlighting shrubs, for example, may also make unsafe shadows disappear. But the difference is more than semantic. Egress lighting should never be turned off by unapproved individuals. Egress lighting should be on whenever an affected area is occupied. Emergency lighting, however, is used in specified instances of (naturally enough) failures…classically, egress lighting is always on, and emergency lighting typically comes on when the egress lighting fails.

The apt use of the term egress properly addresses the range of lighting needed to make exits safer. More generally, knowing the relative roles of egress and emergency lighting also makes one fact crystal clear. The two lighting systems work together to cerate an emergency lighting system.

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No More Lives at Risk

There are certain buildings and spaces which need to be lit up all the time and in such places installing good quality emergency lighting is very essential. In places like public offices and hospitals, there are people who are walking through round the clock, be it day or night. And especially in hospitals, where there are patients and doctors, there has to be continuous lighting in the corridors and rooms.

And emergency lighting is even more crucial when there are machines which need to be running through the day. There can be no compromise when it comes to dealing with lives and so good system of back up needs to be in place. Most places are allowed to operate only if they have followed the prescribed rules which include these lighting facilities.

Emergency lighting could be in the form of an inverter, or multiple lights fixed at different points in the corridor and across the building. Basically anything that turns on automatically and works for long duration is what is ideal in places which are filled with people at odd hours. Basically installed to save lives and prevent any accidents, these lightings are available based on your budget and preferences.

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Follow the Path

Emergency lighting is known to be applicable for not just houses or offices, but also for cars and other four wheel vehicles. There are times when one is driving across many miles and suddenly there is a break down and the engine dies. Normally, they would be stranded without any way of attracting attention of oncoming vehicles, especially late in the night.

There are lights available, directly connected to a separate power circuit, and not linked to the main battery. These work when the main battery in the vehicles stops functioning, thereby giving adequate light and letting on comers know that you are in trouble and need help.

People don’t think of what would happen if there is a break down while driving at night or what would happen if there engine was to fail. So, at times like this the emergency lighting installed comes in handy saving time and bringing forth helps which otherwise might have not been possible. This also prevents accidents happening, for if in the dark you were stranded with your car; there would be no way to let others know you are there. Hence, this system is a must for all those fond of traveling.

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Safety First, Rest Later

With the sudden influx in people moving to different towns and industries picking up pace and building multi story complexes, the fear of power overload lingers in every ones mind. Since most computer companies need power round the clock, it is safer to go for a reliable mode of emergency lighting.

This will ensure that there is undisturbed power and that important data and transactions are carried out smoothly. The lighting fixed in the campus should be one that automatically turns on when the main power breaks down or is switched off. And the minimum working time should be at least six hours within which time the main power would have been fixed and back in action.

Also, the electrical engineers of the building should do periodical checks to make sure these lights are in working condition or else it does not serve the purpose. In an office space or shopping mall, the need for emergency lighting is very important to be able to avoid panic and chaos from breaking out. This also gives the reassurance to the people that they will not have to be stranded but can find their way around the building and reach a place of safety.

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Effective Lights Brighten Days

We normally assume nothing is going to happen and go about our daily activities or shopping. It is only at times of emergency that we wonder about how to get out of where we are or where the stairway is, which we don’t seem to have noticed.

In order to avoid such chaos and to protect the lives of people, builders have begun installing Exit signs in multiple locations around the building. The main purpose of these signs is to guide the people from wherever they are to a place of safety, mostly outside the building. This is emergency lighting. The boards are found suspended from the ceiling or near the place of exit. Some of these signs are fitted in a neat plastic or metal box with the text written on both sides accompanied by an arrow or directions to go out.

Earlier the were made using incandescent bulbs, which would seem to be very dim even with high voltage powered bulbs. Today they have been replaced by Fluorescent and light emitting diode bulbs, which are very effective and have an extended lifespan as well. These kinds of boards don’t need any external wires or extra hardware to get them working.

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UDEC: Lighting The Way to Safety Presents: The Marshall University Fire

UDEC's Historical Safety Moment

Historical Moment: 2007 Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia

An off-campus 64-unit building was destroyed by fire January 13, 2007. Nine residents died as a result of the fire, including three Marshall students.

Dispatchers were called to the scene of a fully-engulfed building at 11:02 p.m. The Huntington Fire Department rescued 24 people before the flames were extinguished.

The fire, which started at about 11 p.m., engulfed the Emmons Jr. building, and firefighters fought for hours to save the building. Their efforts were futile, as they had to stop combating the fire when they realized the building might collapse.

Since the third, fourth and fifth floors were collapsed and dangerous to the safety crew, firefighters brought in engineers to build support beams to allow them to search through the rubble safely.

An electrical engineer from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigated the remains of the building yesterday to determine the cause and origin of the fire, but foul play was not suspected.

Smoke detectors were not present in several apartments and fire extinguishers were only located in some hallways.

As a result of the fire, three of the nine that died are Marshall students. 12 Marshall students were displaced and forced to seek residency within university housing. Other students who were victimized by the blaze blaze went to live with friends or have moved back home.

Are you aware that not every exit sign, emergency light, or emergency light fixture is safe? Just because you can see an exit with the light shining, doesn’t mean it works with the power off.

UDEC’S auto-test is the difference between safety and Russian roulette with the lives of the people inside your building. Auto-test makes emergency lighting easy, but more important; it is the safest way to ensure emergency lighting is there when it’s needed.

UDEC’S Featured Product: Emergency Lighting Fixtures Accessories: Fluorescent Emergency Lighting Ballasts

The BAL fluorescent emergency Ballast allows the same fixture to be used for both normal and emergency operation. In the event of a power failure, the BAL switches to the emergency mode and operates one or two of the existing lamps for a minimum of 90 minutes.


Emergency lighting and exit signs are about saving lives. Udec Corp. offers powerful, safe, unique solutions with 40 years of experience of emergency lighting and exit signs.

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