‘You can get a fire safety cert if you ask the right people’

SIX MONTHS on from the Grenfell Tower fire in London in which 71 residents died, the standard of fire safety and emergency lighting is being compromised by fraudulent fire certificates, a senior Philips executive has claimed.

Peter Earle, business development manager at Philips OEM, which supplies components for emergency lighting installations, told Lux: ‘We know that you can get a fire certificate for your building if you ask the right people, whether you test [the emergency lighting installation] or not. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way of world.’

‘Autotest is part of the solution but it’s an education challenge as well. If you do a self test, you switch it off yourself and you check it. Auto test and self test is definitely the way it will go and the standards, by the way, are reflecting that so the latest release of BS5366 mentions things like self test and auto test.’

Earle believes that the future of emergency lighting will be dynamic systems which adapt in real time to ensure safety.

‘The system will eventually become an adaptive system which will use machine learning, historical data, the existing advancing situation in a building. Where do people run? Do they just run for their lives?’.

Technician Jagjit Nanda testing lithium-ion battery cells at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tessessee. The safety of lithium batteries has become a hot issue in the market. Picture courtesy Oak RIdge National Laboratory 2017.

In an interview with Lux’s Randy Reid, Earle also addressed the current debate over the introduction of lithium ion batteries into emergency lighting systems.

‘I think we need to keep an open mind about these new technologies. Lithium ion battery technology is moving very fast in terms of development and what it can do.’

He also hinted at some new product introductions in the sector.

‘There are specific chemistries that will work well for lighting. I think we need to take an open approach to be ready for some dynamic movements in the market in the comings months and years.’

He dismissed concerns over the technology following stories in recent years of spontaneous combustion of lithium ion batteries in mobile phones, laptops and hoverboards.

In 2016, Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 phones were banned from all flights after the company discovered that its lithium-ion batteries were faulty. In 2013, four Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft suffered from electrical system problems stemming from its lithium-ion batteries.

‘I wouldn’t be too worried about these stories of things catching fire and burning. I think whoever brings these things to market would [have done] their due diligence.

‘The advantages of lithium ion is long life and power density. And in lighting you need it to be able to hold its charge for a long time.

‘It doesn’t discharge while it’s sitting in the ceiling as some of the other technologies do.’

‘Some of the other benefits [of lithium batteries] are parasitic power. Lithium holds its power well so they don’t need to be charged up as often. So they can just be trickle charged to keep them at optimum charge until the emergency lighting is required.’

 

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  • The Emergency Lighting Conference 2018 will focus on the requirements and responsibilities in social housing and student accommodation. It takes place in the Cavendish Conference Centre in London on Tuesday 22 May 2018 and is free to those responsible for emergency lighting estates and installations. For more information and to register, click HERE.