Lux two-minute explainer – Emergency standard

The long-awaited revision to Emergency Lighting Code of Practice BS5266:1 2016 was issued in May and calls for a more nuanced approach to emergency lighting design.

The scope of the new standard has been extended beyond its traditional remit and there is now greater emphasis on who is competent to design, install and maintain emergency lighting.

Central to the new approach is that of the Risk Assessment and the standard now provides increased guidance on risk assessment, identifying people at risk and the provision of safe means of escape, including provisions for people with disabilities

Here are some of the key issues:

The standard now covers safety lighting and standby lighting as well as escape lighting.

Escape lighting

The minimum illuminance figure for escape routes has been increased to 1 lux from 0.2 lux. To be in line with European requirements.

Safety lighting

The new standard introduces the concept of ‘stay put’ lighting, recognising the fact that often emergency lighting is triggered as a consequence of power failure, rather than a real emergency.

The revised standard allows occupants to stay in place if the emergency situation is of ‘minimum risk’.

Occupants may be moved to a safe refuge, so escape lighting has to be combined with ‘stay put’ illumination.

The idea of having people stay in a building during an emergency situation means that other aspects of a building’s interior needs to be reviewed as part of the building’s risk assessment (see below). Additional signage, may also be required.

The revised emergency lighting standard suggests that light levels designed for a ‘stay put’ regime should be designed for higher levels than those required for evacuation.

Standby lighting

By bringing standby lighting into the remit of BS5266:1 it enables ‘stay put’ lighting to be properly incorporated into an emergency scenario.

The revised standard requires that standby lighting systems should provide the necessary lighting to enable safe evacuation of a building should a power failure situation escalate.

Emergency lighting ‘rest mode’ control

It is now permissible, where ‘stay put’ lighting is in place, to switching off emergency lighting in order to extend the available life of the system, provided that reliable alternative illumination is available.

Fit for work

The revised standard underlines the importance of knowledge and experience on the part of those people responsible for emergency lighting. The standard defines a competent person as someone with training and experience appropriate to the task and appropriate training, such as that offered by ICEL.

Emergency lighting design is not a tick-box exercise and the earlier prescriptive methods are no longer fit for purpose.