Don’t Wait for a Disaster to Test Your Emergency Lights

Schools and universities get high marks for properly installing emergency lighting systems, but they often fail to meet the routine testing requirements of local, state and federal regulators.

When the power goes out on campus, emergency lighting and exit signs are a first line of defense to guide students, faculty and administration to safety. Unfortunately, there is a three in four chance the emergency lighting and exit signs have not been tested as required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and there is no guarantee the emergency lighting system will work.

According to James Lathrop, a fire protection engineer and vice president of Koffel Associates, “Excluding healthcare and most government buildings, it is likely that more than 75 percent of the building owners/managers across the country are not testing their emergency lighting as mandated by the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code.”

This code sets specific standards for the routine testing of life safety equipment. Specifically, every emergency lighting fixture requires a monthly 30-second test, as well as an annual 90-minute test. Noncompliance to these testing requirements can lead to serious fines and significant liability risks. 

Nonetheless, virtually every day, emergency lighting failures affect the safety and security of building inhabitants across the country. The potential ramifications of such failures are significant and dramatic. In the event that a facility occupant is injured while exiting a building because the emergency lighting is not performing properly, the campus is at risk of ­being held liable due to noncompliance.

Campus Officials Must Know the Codes
An abundance of codes concerning exit signs and emergency lighting have been created to protect life and property. The more relevant codes are NFPA 101, NFPA 70, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Code of Federal Regulation, International Fire Code and International Building Code. These codes emphasize adequate and reliable illumination for path of egress and all exits; routine testing and maintenance to ensure emergency lighting is operating effectively; and documentation of emergency lighting system testing and maintenance.

Although the vast majority of buildings are in compliance with relevant codes as they relate to the installation of emergency lighting and exit signs, the systems falter in the consistent execution of testing.

Within most buildings, the first line of defense in the inspection, testing and repair of emergency lighting systems is the building or facilities management and maintenance department. However, these frontline personnel are often overburdened with day-to-day responsibilities that range from the construction, alteration, preparation, painting and repair of structures to the maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs of building necessities like heating, cooling and more.  

Somewhere at the bottom of this rather daunting list is the routine testing of dozens, if not hundreds, of emergency lighting fixtures. Too easily and too often this task slips through the cracks.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo