Do we need emergency lighting?

As specialists in fire and life safety issues, there is one question that we are asked over and over again: “Do we need emergency lighting?” and the answer, every time, is that the size and occupancy of the building will dictate whether or not you need it - in line with a current Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) as not all premises can be pigeon-holed.

The vast majority of residential blocks do require emergency escape lighting (EEL). EEL should be provided throughout all common escape routes including, where necessary, external stairways, balconies and roof level escape routes.

Shared houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) of up to two storeys with shared cooking facilities may be exempt if there are adequate levels of natural or street lighting (borrowed lighting). However, where borrowed lighting is not reliable, EEL may be required even in two storey blocks.

What is Borrowed Lighting?

Borrowed lighting is commonly determined as street lighting. Questions have been raised in the industry around properties that do not have EEL installed and rely on borrowed lighting. These may be at risk if there is a power failure and street lighting in the area turns off as a result. Also, areas within the building may fall below standard emergency lighting lux levels, in areas that the borrowed lighting cannot reach. These could be critical areas where manual call points or fire-fighting equipment is sited. Consideration should also be given to the fact that local authorities may be either dimming or turning off street lighting to save money.

Despite any exemptions that may exist, an FRA is still required and property managers should ensure that the current FRA has observed and made note of the associated risk in not having EEL installed, regardless of borrowed lighting. Landlords and/or property management companies may choose to install EEL as a matter of diligence, regardless of the FRA report.

What are my obligations as a block manager?
The second most common question we are asked by block managers is: “What are my obligations under the law?” The answer to this is that as well as the requirement to install emergency lighting in residential blocks, there is also a legal requirement to test and record maintenance on installations on a regular basis. This obligation extends not only to building owners but also to property managers, RTMCos and RMC directors where they are designated the ‘responsible person’ under the code of practice for the emergency escape lighting of premises.

Code BS 5266 – 1: 2016 was introduced in May 2016 and sets out clearly what ‘responsible persons’ need to do to comply with the law. If you fall into this category and are found negligent, you could not only face fines or court proceedings for non-compliance with the law, you could also be putting residents’ lives in danger. So the code should be required reading for anyone responsible for a residential block.

What does the code include?
The code explains the different types of emergency lighting systems that can be used, outlining how installations can be correctly applied to different categories of premises with varied requirements. In addition to ensuring safe unobstructed means of escape from the premises at all times, emergency lighting helps residents to easily find and operate fire alarms and fire-fighting equipment. It also helps minimise the chance of people panicking in enclosed spaces such as lifts.

Owners of new build blocks are already on the right side of the law as these are fitted with building regulation-compliant equipment as a matter of course. There’s little room for installation variation as the British Standard provides clear guidelines.

For more information contact Bradley Parker at the Future Group

Tel: 020 3826 9999


February 2018