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A Reference Guide


This guide is written, offering practical guidance for contractors undertaking work on emergency lighting systems. It does not attempt to replace any of the parts of BS 5266. You can find more detailed technical recommendations by following the existing standards.

Anyone undertaking works on Emergency Lighting Systems should have copies of the following British Standards:

  • BS 5266-1:2011
  • BS EN 1838:1999 (also numbered as BS 5266-7:1999)
  • BS EN 50172:2004 (also numbered as BS 5266-8:2004)
  • BS 7671:2008+Amd No.1:2011

This guide looks at these systems and offers some practical guidance and information on the use of the standards. We explain the use of and interpret the British standards recommendations. It applies to the individuals and organisations that carry out the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of Emergency Lighting installations.

BS 5266-1 was reviewed and reissued in 2011, and the previous 2005 edition has been withdrawn. Also withdrawn is BS 5266-10:2008 (The requirements and recommendations contained in this part of BS 5266 is now combined within BS 5266-1:2011). Although often called emergency lighting, there are different types of Emergency Lighting systems and installations, with other objectives and standards.

This guide covers:

  • emergency lighting,
  • emergency escape lighting,
  • emergency escape route lighting,
  • open area (often called anti-panic) lighting
  • High-risk task area lighting.

The purpose of emergency lighting is to ensure the light is provided promptly, automatically and for a suitable time in a specified area when the regular mains power supply to the standard lighting installation fails.

The overall objective of emergency escape lighting is to enable a safe exit from a location or building in an electricity supply failure event.

Escape route lighting aims to allow the safe evacuation from an area or building for occupants by providing appropriate visual conditions and direction-finding on escape routes, unique locations and ensuring that firefighting and safety equipment can be readily located and used.

The objective of open area (anti-panic) lighting is to reduce the likelihood of panic and enable occupants’ safe movement towards escape routes by providing appropriate visual conditions and direction-finding.

High-risk task area lighting aims to contribute to the safety of people involved in a potentially dangerous process or situation and enable proper shutdown procedures to be carried out to protect other occupants of the location or building.

A combination of different emergency lighting types is likely to be needed in most buildings. You should carry out a risk assessment to identify the areas and locations, which will require emergency lighting and the type of installation required.

Vision varies from person to person, both in the amount of light necessary to perceive an object clearly and the time taken to adapt to the illuminance level changes. In general, older people need more light and take longer to adjust to A lower illuminance on hazard or escape routes.

Much anxiety and confusion can be alleviated by strategically placing Emergency luminaires and signs indicating the way out of a location or building.

Exits must be signposted and are visible whenever the site or facility is occupied.



Best-practise requires you to familiarise yourselves with some of the definitions used within the emergency lighting design, installation, commissioning and maintenance standards.

Escape route – A route designated for an escape to a place of safety in the event of an emergency.

Emergency escape route lighting – That part of emergency escape lighting is provided to ensure that the means of escape can be effectively identified and safely used at all-times when the premises are in use

Open area (anti-panic) – Areas of undefined escape routes in halls or premises larger than 60m2 floor area or smaller areas if there is additional hazard such as large numbers of people.

Emergency exit – A way out used during an emergency.

Final exit – The terminal point of an escape route.

Maintained emergency luminaire – Luminaire in which the emergency lighting lamps are energised at all-times when standard lighting or emergency lighting is required.

Non-maintained emergency luminaire – Luminaire in which the emergency lighting lamps are in operation only when the mains supply to the standard lighting fails.

Required battery duration – The battery duration, hours, and operation required for the emergency lights’ safe function.

Rated duration of the emergency operation – Time, in hours, as claimed by the manufacturer, that the rated emergency lumen output is provided.

High-risk task area lighting – The aspect of emergency escape lighting that illuminates the safety of people involved in a potentially dangerous area, process or situation and enables proper shutdown procedures for protecting the operator and other occupants of

the premises.



When the mains supply to the standard lighting of premises fails, Emergency-lighting may be required. Throughout this guide, the reference to “Emergency-lighting” covers “emergency escape lighting” in particular. It includes any standby lighting element used for emergency escape lighting and as determined by the risk assessment.



Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999,

every employer must carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks to people who enter the employer’s premises; the employer must take measures to safeguard building occupants based on the risk assessment.

These measures need to provide safe means of escape, including, where necessary, emergency lighting, considering the needs of people with disabilities, particularly people with visual impairment.


Various items of legislation and regulations cover emergency lighting.

The key ones are: –

1) The Construction Products Directive is implemented by building control officers Requirements are given in Approved Document B Fire Safety (Statutory)

2) Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005 (Statutory)

3) The Signs Directive (90/664) implemented in the UK by Statutory Instrument 341 (Statutory)

4) The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Statutory)

You should ensure you are familiar with these legislative documents and regulations before undertaking any design or any work. These laws and regulations require that those who undertake work within these areas may be required to demonstrate competence.

There has been much debate on how individuals and companies can verify that they are competent to carry out the maintenance of emergency lighting installations:

1) Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 covers the issue of competence in Regulation 16.

2) Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers the issue of competence in Clause 13.

A person is regarded as competent when they have sufficient training and experience, knowledge, and other qualities to assist in undertaking preventative and protective measures.



At the start of any emergency lighting design, the designer must obtain the relevant information regarding the premises from drawings, a site survey or the building’s responsible person.

Design checklist

The following describes a typical list of actions that would take place while designing an emergency lighting system.

  1. Examination of the risk assessment
  2. Duration of the emergency lighting
  3. Identify emergency escape routes and take account of potential hazards
  4. Identify the locations of fire alarm call points, firefighting equipment and fire safety signs
  5. Determine the type of emergency lighting system required.
  6. Means of isolation for testing and maintenance
  7. Coordination/interface with luminaire manufacturers where main luminaires are to be converted into emergency lighting luminaires
  8. Identify the exit sign requirements
  9. Identify any high-risk areas
  10. Open areas larger than 60m² floor areas need to be identified
  11. Need for external illumination outside final exit doors and on the route to a place of safety.

The start of any design is to identify and agree on the escape routes so the plan will be engineered under EN 1838 (BS 5266-7).

Plans or layout drawings should be obtained before commencing system design. They must show the layout of the building and all existing or proposed escape routes, fire alarm call points and firefighting equipment, indicating the positions of all structural items that may offer obstruction to escape.

You should arrange a consultation between interested parties, the owner/developer and occupier of the premises, the architect, the consultant, the lighting engineer, the installation contractor, the enforcing authorities (e.g., the building control and fire authorities), and any other interested parties very early in the design stage. In addition to the standards’ recommendations, it is essential that any national and local legislation requirements that may apply to the premises in question are fully recognised and discussed at the early design stage. (Again, highlighting the importance of a fire risk assessment required by the regulatory reform fire safety order.)

Fire risk assessment is the process of considering each part of a building from the point of view of what fire hazards exist within an area and what would happen if a fire or explosion were to occur.

Include the provision and the need for emergency lighting as lighting forms a vital part of any evacuation/escape strategy.



The emergency luminaires must be located to give appropriate illuminance in the event of a typical lighting failure.

These areas should be identified when carrying out an emergency lighting design. It is also essential to consider any recommendations of the risk assessment.


Several areas would need to be considered when designing an emergency lighting system.

These are:

Open areas

The lighting required in Open areas is often called anti-panic lighting. These areas are more extensive than 60m² floor areas or areas identified by the fire risk assessment requiring safety illumination.


Emergency exit and escape routes

Ensure that Signs are provided for all Emergency exits and escape routes. These should be illuminated to indicate the way to escape unambiguously to the point of safety.

If an emergency exit is not in direct sight, an illuminated directional sign (or series of signs) should be provided to assist in the progression towards the emergency exit.

Every change of direction leading to an escape door needs to be illuminated.

An escape lighting luminaire (complying with EN 60598-2-22) should be sited near each exit door and at positions necessary to emphasise potential danger or safety equipment.

Emergency luminaires should be mounted near the following positions or fire safety equipment:

1) Each exit door intended to be used in an emergency

2) Stairs so that each flight of stairs receives direct light

3) Change in level

4) Mandatory emergency exits and safety signs

5) Change of direction

6) Intersection of corridors

7) Outside and near to each final exit

8) First aid post

9) Firefighting equipment

10) Fire alarm call points

Note: “Near” is typically considered to be within 2m measured horizontally.

Positions denoted as 8) or 9) must be illuminated to 5 lux minimum at the reference plane.


 External areas in the immediate vicinity of exits.

 Emergency lighting should illuminate the external areas in the immediate vicinity of the final exits following the illumination level for escape routes (As set out in EN 1838 (BS 5266-7) of not less than 1 Lux to assist dispersal to a place of safety,

Suppose the area outside the building has hazards in darkness, such as a riverbank or steep stairs. In that case, the fire risk assessment should determine if other Emergency luminaires are needed until they enable persons to reach a safe place. To accomplish this may involve emergency lighting placement outside of a building adjacent to the final exit door. An example of this would be an external fire escape staircase from the first floor.

If street lighting is available and adequate, its use is conditional upon the fire authority’s agreement. It should, however, be remembered that the electrical supply to the local street lighting may also be affected by a local mains failure.

And the availability of the streetlights would need to be assessed to make sure they are illuminated during all times the building is occupied.


Lift cars

Lifts present a problem because the experience of being confined in the dark within a small space for an indefinite period is not only unpleasant but may cause harm to those who are nervous or have claustrophobia. Therefore, installers should fit emergency lighting as specified for the open area (anti-panic) lighting in EN 1838 (BS 5266-7) in lifts in which persons may travel.

The emergency lighting can either be self-contained or powered from a central or a secondary supply, in which case a lift safety fire-protected power supply will be required following BS 9999.


Moving stairways and walkways

Moving stairways and walkways should be illuminated as if they were part of an escape route in the event of mains failure.


Toilet facilities

Toilet facilities exceeding 8 metres squared gross area should be provided with emergency lighting as if they were open areas.

Toilets for disabled use, and any multiple closet facilities without borrowed light, should have emergency illumination from at least one luminaire.

It is unnecessary to provide emergency lighting in toilets that

accommodate only a single non-disabled person or en-suite toilets or bathrooms in hotel bedrooms.


Switch rooms and plant rooms

The facility should provide emergency lighting in all motor-generator rooms, control rooms, plant rooms, switch rooms and adjacent to main switchgear or control

equipment associated with the provision of standard and emergency lighting to the premises.


Covered car parks

The pedestrian escape routes from covered and multi-storey car parks should be provided with emergency lighting.



The battery backup of the emergency lighting system will depend on the building and the evacuation strategy. A 3-hour duration is required in entertainment places (cinemas, theatres, etc.) and facilities with a sleeping risk (hotels and guesthouses, etc.).

A 3-hour duration is also required if evacuation is not immediate or where early re-occupation may be necessary.

For the common areas of blocks of flats, a 3-hour duration is needed, as the occupants would be familiar with the building’s layout. An orderly evacuation can be expected in the event of an emergency. There is still the sleeping risk of the flats themselves, which causes the more extended duration requirement.

One hour duration may be acceptable, in some premises, if evacuation is immediate and re-occupation is delayed until the system has recharged.

Typical types of premises that would require a 3-hour duration are:

Premises used as sleeping accommodation would include:

  • Hospitals
  • Care homes
  • Guest houses
  • Colleges
  • Boarding schools
  • Some clubs

Non-residential premises used for treatment or care, which would consist of:

  • Special schools
  • Clinics and similar premises

Non-residential premises used for recreation would include:

  • Theatres
  • Cinemas
  • Concert halls
  • Exhibition halls
  • Sports halls
  • Public houses
  • Restaurants

Non-residential, public premises, which would consist of:

  • Town halls
  • Libraries
  • Shops
  • Shopping Centres
  • Art galleries
  • Museums

Typical types of premises that would require a 1-hour duration are:

Non-residential premises used for teaching, training and research, and offices which would include:

  • Schools
  • Colleges
  • Technical institutes
  • Laboratories

Industrial premises used for the manufacture, processing or storage of products would include:

  • Factories
  • Workshops
  • Warehouses

Where premises fall into more than one “typical type”, the longer duration would apply to the premises. Unless the differing types are contained within a separate fire compartment, each compartment has its independent escape route. If this is the case, then differing durations for the appropriate kind and room may be used.

The maintained type’s emergency luminaires should be used in public areas where the standard lighting may be dimmed and in common areas where smoke build-up could reduce normal lighting effectiveness. Maintained lighting that combines both Emergency and normal lighting functions may also be desirable for aesthetic or economic reasons.

The emergency lighting system’s battery backup should be determined by the fire risk assessment for the building.

The exit signs always need to be illuminated and visible when the

premises are occupied. Because of the difficulties of ensuring that the normal lighting will adequately achieve this, maintained exit signs are required in licensed and entertainment venues. It is necessary to use maintained exit signs in any premises used by people unfamiliar with its layout.



The level of illuminance required depends on the function of an area. The stimulus for vision is not the light, which falls on objects, but the light reflected the eyes. Various items are distinguished by contrast, and the changes in light reflect the eyes. A light-coloured object on a dark background can be conspicuous with far less light than a dark coloured object on a dark background.

The amount of light falling on an object (illuminance) is affected not merely by the lamps’ power and position for illumination but also by reflection from the surroundings. A high proportion of the light falling on any surface comes from the reflected light in many interior spaces. Where the walls, floor and ceiling, are light in colour, up to 60 % of the illuminance at floor level may be reflected from the walls or ceiling.

In a room where the decorative finishes are dark in colour (i.e., have low reflectance), the reflected light’s contribution to the illuminance is much smaller. The reflected light may be negligible in, say, a nightclub or restaurant, where the carpets, walls and ceiling have been deliberately kept dark in colour to produce a feeling of intimacy and relaxation.

All potential obstructions or hazards on an escape route should be light in colour with contrasting surround. Such hazards include the edges of stair treads, barriers and walls at right angles to the direction of movement.

In restricted spaces such as corridors, light coloured decoration is an advantage. Prominent edges to vertical surfaces at changes of direction can assist emergency evacuation. The recommended illuminance levels given as a minimum or average across an area should be the lowest acceptable value during the rated duration. Considering the effects of reducing voltage, the voltage drop in the system wiring, battery ageing, lamp ageing, and dirt and dust accumulation. Calculations of illuminance, except where up-lighting is used, should be made ignoring reflectance.

For escape routes up to 2m in width, the horizontal illuminance on the floor along the centreline of an escape route shall be not less than 1 lux. Lighting should illuminate the central band with not less than half of the route’s width to a minimum of 50 % of that value (0.5 lux). Wider escape routes can be treated as several 2m wide strips or be provided with open area (anti-panic) lighting.

The UK did have a national deviation to the European Standard, stating that a value of not less than 0.2 lux is acceptable on the centre band of an escape route. But this value was only to be used if the escape route was permanently unobstructed. This deviation has been withdrawn, and escape routes unobstructed or not requires 1lux on the centre line.

In open area (anti-panic) lighting, the horizontal illuminance should not be less than 0.5 lux at the floor level of the empty core area, which excludes a border of 0.5m of the area’s perimeter.

In high-risk areas, the Emergency maintained illuminance on the plane of work (reference plane) should be not less than 10% of the normally required illuminance for that task. As a minimum, it should not be less than 15 lux and shall be free of harmful stroboscopic effects.

The uniformity of the high-risk task area lighting illuminance needs to be maintained across the area.

Some high output emergency luminaires can produce a glare effect that can interfere with observing safety signs and obstructions on the escape route. (An effect that is known as disability glare.) The most common fittings to cause disability glare is the frog eye type; a typical luminaire is shown in Figure 6.

Care needs to be taken when placing these types of fittings to avoid disability glare. (This can be achieved by ensuring they are at least 30° out of the direct line of sight from the escape route.)



All emergency luminaires must be engineered to the correct standard. (This is especially important when retrofitting battery packs to existing luminaires.)

The European emergency lighting product standards, EN 60598-2-22, EN 60924 and EN 60925 cover most points of safety and performance for emergency luminaires and conversion modules. Emergency lighting luminaires used on escape routes are required to be fire retardant (850°C glow wire tested). Luminaires can be registered for product compliance through the ICEL Product Registration Scheme, ensuring compliance with this requirement. It also assures the user that the products have been certified to EN 60598-2-22:1999 and are manufactured within a facility operating a quality assurance scheme approved to BS EN ISO 9001 or BS EN ISO 9002.



How you achieve the required illuminance levels is dependent on the position and orientation of the luminaries. Photometric data needs to be provided with the completion certificate, certifying that the system has been designed correctly and that you will achieve the required illumination. There are many ways of providing this photometric data. Annex E of BS 5266:2011 gives guidance on calculations and measurements. Another way is to use the lumen method; this is a simplified method to calculate the room’s light level. The method is a series of calculations that uses horizontal illuminance criteria to establish a uniform luminaire layout in a space. In its simplest form, the lumen method is merely the total number of lumens available in a room divided by the room area.

The simplest form of photometric data is in the form of spacing tables which provide the information to help you decide whether additional luminaires are needed besides those required for the points of emphasis. Most luminaires have been independently tested to prove their photometric performance, and the tables generated have been third-party inspected. The tables show the distance from the wall or door to the first fitting and the distance that must not exceed the spacing between subsequent luminaires.

Fittings should be mounted parallel to the route (Axial) or at right angles (Transverse) for different mounting heights. In addition to values for escape routes, figures are also given to cover open areas by regular arrays of luminaires.



When designing the lighting for an emergency escape route, care needs to be taken on the placement of luminaires so that there is an even distribution of illuminance throughout the escape route. When placing luminaires near stairs or any other change of level, The luminaires must be located, so each tread receives direct light.

Generally, you would need at least two luminaries to provide the 1 lux minimum level on the centre of each tread (even designs to the older standard of 0.2 lux needed the higher level on the treads unless contrasting colour stair nosing were fitted). The spacing from luminaire 1 to luminaire two shown in fig 11 is reduced as their mounting height is reduced as the point’s illuminated rise up the stairs, so the cosine correction factor reduces the light. Although the angle of correction improves in comparison with the floor level as the treads descend, at some point, the effect of increased distance from the luminaire will outweigh this. Other changes of level that can cause tripping hazards in low light levels must also be illuminated.



The format of emergency exit signs has changed over the years. Below are the four most common signs that you will see in use today.

The current one has just a pictogram and arrow, and the wording is an optional element. Replacing the European signs directive format. And this is now an international format. Some of the older BS 5499 designs are now compliant to BS 5266-1:2011; when they were non-compliant to BS 5266-1:2005, it is not allowed to mix the different designs. Old exit sign format to BS 2560 These signs should have been replaced by the 24th of December 1998, but some still exist. BS 5499 -1 format has a running man pictogram and was an interim move towards the full pictogram sign. (Classed as being acceptable on existing buildings provided the meaning is still clear.) Signs Directive Format the European and British legislative requirement with a full pictogram only. The UK norm was widely accepted and used. (It is still acceptable to use on existing sites.) BS 5266:2011 now refers to BS ISO 7010:2011, which has replaced BS 5499-5. Some older signs (to BS 5499-1) now comply with BS 5266-1:2011. (The descriptive text is an optional element of the sign and is not all ways required.)



Emergency lighting installation should only be carried out by competent persons in installing electrical wiring systems following BS 7671. Although you can install Emergency lighting after the main electrical work is complete (for example, converting a building’s use from domestic premises not needing emergency lighting to office space that would require emergency lighting). It is standard practice for the emergency lighting to be installed simultaneously as the general electrical services installation.



The importance and reliability of a central power emergency lighting system require a high wiring system.

Cables or cabling systems used for central power emergency lighting installations should adequately resist the effects of fire and mechanical damage. (Achieved either using cables or cabling systems with inherently high resistance to the effects of fire (fire-rated cable) and mechanical damage.) In BS 5266-1:2011, the requirements for cables have not changed, but they have been clarified, and the standard now references “standard PH30 & enhanced PH120” cable types. These terms will be familiar to anyone who has had the experience of installing fire detection and alarm systems.

The test to BS EN 50200:2006 Annex E requires heat, mechanical shock and water. (Whereas Annex D, as detailed in BS 5266-1:2005, was only required to withstand heat.)

As a result, the cable used in Fire Detection and Alarm systems to BS 8391:2002+A2:2008 can be used in central battery systems as it always met BS EN 50200:2006 Annex D. BS 5266-1:2011 now refers to the more common test the cable must undertake.

BS 5266-1:2011 now recommends enhanced cable for

  1. a) Buildings (or parts of buildings) in which the fire strategy involves evacuating the occupants in four or more phases; (with no sprinkler system fitted.)
  2. b) Buildings of greater than 30 m height (with no sprinkler system fitted.)
  3. c) Premises and sites in which a fire in one area could affect cables associated with areas remote from the fire, in which it is envisaged that people will remain in occupation during the fire. (With no sprinkler system fitted.)

In other installations, the regular cable should be used as standard. Cables or cable systems should be installed through areas of low fire risk wherever practicable. A minimum survival time of 60 minutes is recommended for cables that supply luminaries from central power supplies. It may be possible to reduce the degree of fire protection of cables or cable systems where they follow very low fire risk routes, and such areas also contain a sprinkler installation.

The same fire-resistance rating that applies to the cables should also apply to the fixings/support of the cables.

The segregation of cables for central battery systems is required due to the risk of damage to the cables by others working on the electrical system. The new requirement within BS 5266-1:2011 requires a central battery system wiring to be segregated due to the risk of mechanical damage (cable burn) when others are working on the general electrical system.

In BS 5266-1:2005, it was allowed to run cables that had a duration of survival of 60 min when tested following BS EN 50200:2000 (which corresponds to a classification of PH 60 as detailed in BS EN 50200:2000, Annex D) in the same compartment as the normal electrical system.

These cables, commonly called soft skin cables (e.g., FP200 gold), are vulnerable to damage caused by other cables being installed after or at the same time.

Segregation of these cables has been common practice in the Fire Detection & Alarm industry since 2002. And BS 5266-1:2011 now references the Standard and Enhanced cable types used in the Fire Detection & Alarm industry. The segregation requirement now follows the requirement within BS 5839-1:2002+A2:2008.

The need to segregate MICC cables has not been clearly defined in BS 5266-1:2011.

Clause 8.2.1 of BS 5266 Quality of installation states, “This should be achieved through the use of cables or cable systems with an inherently high resistance to the effects of fire, and either with inherently high resistance to mechanical damage or with additional mechanical protection.”

MICC is highly resistant to mechanical damage, does not require any additional mechanical protection and would not need to be segregated from the general electrical system, and therefore could be run in the same compartment as the general electrical system.

The main protective device and any isolators controlling the supply to the central battery should be clearly labelled “EMERGENCY LIGHTING”, “EMERGENCY ESCAPE LIGHTING” or “STANDBY LIGHTING” as appropriate, and the marking should indicate its use. Similarly, all joints should also be labelled.




Every emergency lighting system will need to have a suitable means for simulating failure of the normal supply for testing and maintenance purposes. Normally achieved using key switches. These should be able to be operated by the user/owner of the system to carry out weekly tests of the system. The use of a miniature circuit breaker (MCB)* or fuse which isolates the whole lighting circuit is not acceptable as this could introduce a risk of injury when the emergency lights are being tested.

*Note BS 7671:2008 + Amend No.1:2011 refers to these devices as circuit breakers although this is correct, it is common practice to still refer to them as miniature circuit breakers



When commissioning and handing over an emergency lighting system, several certificates need to be produced. These are:

  • Design certificate
  • Installation certificate
  • Completion certificate
  • BS 7671 Electrical installation certificate

The design and installation certificates may be produced and signed by different people as the design might be done by one company and the installation by another.

The person responsible for commissioning the system will need copies of the design and installation to verify that the design and installation comply with the standard. In addition to the emergency lighting certificates, a BS 7671 installation certificate is required to confirm that the wiring meets BS 7671.

It is important that during the handover of the emergency lighting system, the end-user is informed of the correct method of carrying out short-duration tests and is aware of their responsibilities.



It is essential that servicing and maintenance of emergency lighting systems are carried out regularly to ensure that the system remains fully operational.

Normally be performed as part of the periodic testing routine, but for consumable items, such as replacement lamps, spares should be available on-site for immediate use.

It is advisable to have a service and maintenance contract with a competent person or company, not only for routine inspection but also for emergency repairs and alterations.

The discolouration of the diffuser can greatly reduce the illuminance of an emergency light, and this should be considered when carrying out a maintenance visit.

Checklist for assessing an existing installation.


  • Is there a logbook?
  • Are the entries made in the logbook, correct?
  • Are up-to-date drawings available, and correct?
  • Are routine tests completed according to the requirements in BS 5266?

Emergency luminaires and escape route signs

  • Are the fittings supplied with the correct operating voltage?
  • Are the fittings cleaned and sited in their correct operating environment, i.e., temperature and IP rating?
  • Do the luminaires operate in the correct mode, i.e., maintained for sleeping accommodation?
  • Do the luminaires operate for the required emergency duration of 1 or 3 hours?
  • Are there signs that clearly show the emergency escape route from any position within the premises?
  • Are all exits marked and directions of travel indicated?

FROM SOURCE TO SITE Emergency Lighting Guide 31

  • Are the signs illuminated internally or from an external source when the normal lighting supply fails?
  • Is the size of each sign correct for the viewing distances?
  • Do the sign legends comply with the current international standard format (i.e., running man style)?
  • Are the luminaires positioned at all points of emphasis?
  • Are the luminaires positioned along the escape routes at the correct spacing to ensure that the required illuminance levels are achieved?
  • Are the luminaires positioned in open areas (anti-panic areas) at the correct spacing to ensure that the minimum illuminance level is achieved?
  • Are the non-maintained luminaires fed from the same final circuits as the local lighting?
  • Are there at least two luminaires in each “lighting compartment” to ensure that the area is not plunged into darkness if a luminaire fails?
  • Are additional luminaires provided in lift cars, escalators, toilets?
  • Are hazardous areas illuminated at 10% of normal illuminance?

Central battery systems

  • Does the central battery system comply with EN 50171 and BS 7671?
  • Is the battery charger functioning?
  • Where applicable, are the battery electrolyte levels and specific gravities satisfactory?

Self-contained emergency luminaires and signs

  • Are the batteries being charged (LED – on)?
  • Are the luminaires marked with a BS mark to show compliance with all relevant product standards for escape routes?

Because of the possibility of a failure of the normal lighting supply occurring shortly after testing 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, for example, during the day or out of normal working hours. Alternatively, you may need to find suitable temporary arrangements until the batteries have been recharged.


Daily Checks

Indicators of central power supply shall be visually inspected for correct operation. Also, combined fittings should be checked for the charge light. Carrying this out provides a visual inspection of indicators to identify that the system is ready and does not require an operation test.


Monthly Checks

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

A typical test schedule is as follows:

  • Switch on the emergency mode of 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.
  • During this period, check all luminaires and signs 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. In addition to the above, for central battery systems, the correct operation of system monitors shall need to be checked. 17.4 Annually If automatic testing devices are used, the results of the full rated duration test still need to be recorded. As well as the test carried out during a monthly test, the following additional tests need to be done:
  • Each luminaire and internally illuminated sign shall be tested for its full rated duration per the manufacturer’s information
  • The normal lighting supply shall be restored, and any indicator lamp or device checked to ensure that it shows that the normal supply has been restored. Check the charging arrangements to ensure for proper functioning
  • The date of the test and its results shall be recorded in the system logbook.



  1. Do I have to install emergency lights in toilets?
    Yes, all toilets without any natural light and more extensive than 8m2 need emergency lighting.
  2. Do emergency lights need a test key? Or can I just use the MCB or fuse?
    A test switch is required, either a secret key type or a dedicated switch which will isolate the supply to the emergency lights, but not the standard lighting as this might introduce risk when carrying out periodic inspections.
  3. Would a modification to any existing emergency lighting circuits within an existing building installed to an earlier standard result in the whole building having to be brought up to the new standard? Or would it just be individual circuits and associated equipment that need to be brought up to the latest standard?
    The whole building must be brought up to the new safety standard, so acting in one area is not enough.
  4. Is there a recommendation in BS 5266-1 on how often the batteries in emergency luminaires need changing?
    There is no hard and fast recommendation. BS 5266-1:2011, 5.1.3 defines the required minimum illuminance during the rated duration. If this is not achieved, you should replace the batteries to give the necessary time. For self-contained luminaires, if this failure period is less than four years, the luminaire should be inspected to ensure that the battery is charging correctly and that the luminaire is not sited in a location outside of its temperature limits. Too high and ambient temperature will cause short battery life; too low a temperature will reduce the capacity available to meet the discharge period.
  5. Can emergency lighting luminaries be fed from their own circuit off a distribution board?
    No, power to the emergency lights must be fed from the local lighting circuit
  6. Do you need to fit an emergency light outside the final exit door of an escape route?
    Yes, if there is not enough natural illuminance for people to safely exit away from the building.
  7. Can I use a non-maintained exit sign in a cinema or theatre?
    No, all exits signs need to be maintained to ensure people are not confused in the case of the normal lighting failing. However, the full emergency lighting level doesn’t need to be provided when the standard lighting system functions. In other premises used for recreation, where there is no dimming, it is necessary only for exit signs to be maintained or combined and internally illuminated. For some cinema and theatre auditoria where the recommended maintained illuminance of 1 lx is likely to affect normal working; it is considered acceptable to reduce this level to not less than 0.02 lx. Provided the system is arranged so that, in the event of failure of the standard lighting within the auditoria, the emergency escape lighting illuminance is automatically restored to a minimum of 1 lx within 5 s.
  8. What size of battery do I need?
    The sizing of the batteries needs to consider the battery duration of the system. Not all systems require a 3-hour battery duration. Some buildings will only need a 1-hour battery duration. So, the batteries may be smaller.
  9. What are the emergency lighting requirements in a regular open-plan office?
    The requirement for emergency lights is established by the fire risks assessment. An illuminance level of 0.5 Lux would be acceptable for open-plan offices
  10. Can we use standard luminaires as emergency luminaires if they are adapted?
    Battery packs can be fitted to luminaries and convert into emergency luminaires. Due diligence would ensure that the fitting meets the relevant product standards.
  11. Is BS 5266-1:2011 retrospective?
    The standard always gets reviewed over time. The problem is whether to apply it retrospectively. Briefings from the government and understanding from the guides are that the best practice is to use the latest version of the standard to compensate for the risks identified by any risk assessments required to carry out.