The Importance Of Emergency Lighting


Thinking about emergencies before they happen is difficult. Every building needs plans in place but knowing the plan is fit for purpose before the emergency happens is critical.

Emergency lighting is the backup system created for when an emergency cuts the main power supply for example, during a fire or a power cut. In this situation, a backup power system comes online to power emergency lights, exit signs, and other necessary functions to help people out of a building. The lights minimise danger to the buildings occupants who could struggle to see danger or find the exit.

In this article, we will answer the following questions:

  • • What does an emergency lighting system need?
  • • What are the legal requirements of emergency lighting?
  • • Are emergency lights always on?
  • • What is the best emergency lighting system?
  • • How do I maintain an emergency lighting system?

What Does An Emergency Lighting System Need?

There are many components to a functional emergency lighting system. These include:

  • • Escape route lighting – provides illumination on routes to the exit or to systems which need terminating before leaving the building
  • • Exit lighting – lights the escape door or hatch to ensure the correct exits are used
  • • Standby lighting – allows normal work to continue in a building until the main power supply is turned back on
  • • Open area lighting – avoids panic by getting the occupants to a place where an escape route can be accessed

Each building has its own essential requirements based on the uses and layout of the building. For example, some buildings need a plan to allow the safeguarding of disabled people which is separate from the current door system. In this example, providing lighting to denote where the egress plan will take place.

What Are The Legal Requirements Of Emergency Lighting?

Emergency lighting systems are defined under the British Standards Institutions BS 5266-1:2016. The full standard is available to purchase through the BSI website but the main points are as follows:

  • • Installed lighting systems require a logbook, installers’ guarantee, and manufacturers’ guarantees for individual components. (4.2)

  • • After these original guarantees expire, periodic maintenance must be performed to ensure that the system is in working order (10.6, 10.7, 11)

  • • Doors, stairs, changes in elevations, exits, changes in direction, corridor intersections, access to the outside, first aid stations, firefighting equipment, call points, and escape equipment for disabled people must have illuminations within 2m (

  • • Additional emergency lighting must be provided for disabled toilets, lifts, moving stairways and walkways, motor rooms, plant rooms, and covered car parks. (

  • • Other, smaller requirements are less important to consider when considering the needs of your emergency lighting system.

What Is The Best Emergency System?

The best emergency systems meet all the requirements based on the age of the building you inhabit or the building you plan to create. These legal requirements are designed to reduce the risk of catastrophe.

Acceptable risks exist – you can only put so many systems in place but an emergency lighting system helps highlight all the other systems in an emergency.

Emergency lighting helps all other emergency systems in the BS 5266-1:2016 work. Developing a system that keeps people safe is important but unless your occupants can use those systems in a catastrophe it is unusable.

Considering the individual needs of the occupants are vital. Disabled people have various access concerns that are necessary. As stairs aren’t climbable by those in wheelchairs or using other mobility equipment, outlining lift chairs or other systems becomes a priority for building designs that will host people with those needs.

Emergency lighting should have a coherent colour scheme too. People who are partially blind or otherwise have had damage to their sight should an accident occur can follow brightly coloured lights better than they can read. The standard green exit sign is a universally understood symbol that is taught to everyone and should be maintained.

Are Emergency Lights Always On?

Emergency lights can be running either only in an emergency or as an ongoing system that will remain active in an emergency. There are benefits to both.

If emergency signs aren’t lit when other lights are still on, it can show quickly that the emergency system has not been put into place. However, building redundancy into the system can help if that first lighting system ever fails and it shows emergency exits even in a non-emergency.

This can be especially useful for developing solutions that cater to neurodivergent people, for example those who suffer from autism or anxiety and would like to prepare for an emergency before it takes place.

For most businesses, a fire exit plan will be provided as part of training, but when catering to visitors it is important to factor in their needs as part of considering what choice will be made.

Standby lighting is often installed to reduce panic in an emergency. These lights are normal lights that have been built onto the backup power supply also, so light visibility remains high in an emergency. This is great as many lights can be turned off and hallways can remain visibly lit.

How Can I Maintain An Emergency Lighting System?

Managing an emergency lighting system is best left to trained professionals. In this case, it’s important to find a company that can maintain pre-existing systems whilst also being able to expand the system as the BS 5266-1:2016 expands.

Airius handles all of the documentation that your company needs to maintain its electrical components. This includes Electrical Install Condition Reports (EICR) and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) if some of your backup power supply or lighting systems are portable.

These documents help manage your legal reputation. If an occupant starts legal actions against you, our reports make sure that you have done your due diligence and are not on the line for any damages.

We are also insured up to £10m in public liability, meaning that our lighting systems will never cause you any problems should an issue ever occur.

If you want to learn more about emergency lighting, and if your current system is adequate for your building, please contact us at 01202 554 200 or email us at