Fire alarms and emergency lighting are both key components of a commercial fire safety system. Whilst each has its uses, they both hold the benefits of enhancing site and employee safety and could be considered essentials to successful fire safety.
It’s critical to understand the importance of both fire alarms and emergency lighting, in order to understand if your site would benefit or require their use. Keep reading to discover all you need to know about both fire safety systems.
What is a fire alarm?
A fire alarm is a type of fire safety system that has the capabilities to detect fire and then alert those on-site that a fire has broken out, therefore signalling to them that they need to evacuate the building or site.
A fire alarm system can be on a large or small scale and fully customised to work with the specific site. However, the basic components of a fire alarm system include:
- At least one fire detection device (e.g. smoke detectors, heat detectors)
- Fire notification device (e.g. bell box)
- Control Panel
- Source of power (batteries or hard wired)
Is it a legal requirement to have a fire alarm on-site?
It is a legal requirement to have a fire alarm system installed in most buildings and sites, as stated within the current UK fire regulations, also known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The type of fire alarm needed will vary, however, depending on the level, or category, of fire risk a building or site holds. In order to determine the type of fire alarm needed, a professional fire risk assessment should be carried out, to find out the most appropriate type of fire alarm needed.
BusinessWatch carries out professional Fire Risk Assessments, in accordance with PAS79-1:2020, the British Standard specification and methodology for undertaking the fire safety risk assessment. You can get a FREE quote and book yours here.
What is emergency lighting?
Emergency lighting is adequate lighting that illuminates escape routes and emergency exits in the event of an emergency, which includes the event of a fire. Emergency lighting is most commonly automatic and is used when the usual lighting system fails. If a site was plunged into darkness, emergency lighting would help employees or visitors evacuate the building safely. These systems will rely on an alternative power source than the standard lighting system, such as the use of batteries or backup generators.
Emergency lighting is also often used to illuminate and direct individuals towards fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets etc.
Is it a legal requirement to have emergency lighting?
All occupied commercial buildings and sites have a legal obligation, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to provide emergency lighting in order to provide a safe environment for individuals during an emergency, especially if the main power source fails.
The British Standards 5266 requires businesses and sites to provide emergency lighting within the following areas:
- In all escape routes
- A change in level
- Above & outside all exit doors
- In kitchens and other high hazard rooms e.g. plant rooms
- In large open plan offices
What are the different types of emergency lighting?
There are various types of emergency lighting available, all of which serve a different purpose. Each can be divided into two overarching types of emergency lighting: Emergency Escape Lighting and Standby Lighting.
Emergency Escape Lighting
This type of lighting provides illumination purely for individuals to safely and efficiently evacuate a building when an emergency occurs. This type of lighting is required by law. There are three types of Emergency Escape Lighting:
- Escape Route Lighting – ensures the quick identification of escape routes for clear and easy evacuation.
- Open Area Lighting – provides sufficient light to reduce panic within those occupying a building and to help them evacuate safely.
- High-Risk Task Area Lighting – provides light in key areas whereby high-risk tasks take place, such as machinery or chemicals, allowing individuals to safely stop or shut down the task before evacuating.
Standby lighting is not required by law and may not be needed for some commercial buildings or sites. However, for some it may enhance the fire safety of the site and for the employees or visitors involved. This type of lighting acts to allow normal everyday site activities to continue, even if the main power source cuts out, such as floodlighting a key area.
How do fire alarms and emergency lighting work together?
Fire alarm systems and emergency lighting work together to improve the overall fire safety of a building and/or site. In the event of a fire, the fire alarm system will first detect the outbreak of fire, then sound the alarm, alerting those inside the building about the incident and signalling them to evacuate the building immediately.
Here is when the emergency lighting system comes into play. The emergency lighting will light up the emergency exits and key areas, to help individuals safely stop the job they are doing and find the nearest emergency exit. It will help them do this as quickly and as safely as possible. If the fire or incident causes the main power supply to cut out, the great thing about emergency lighting is that it will continue to work, due to being powered by a different source.
Fire alarms, therefore, detect and alert, whilst emergency lighting helps individuals evacuate.
Why are fire alarms and emergency lighting important?
Fire alarms and emergency lighting are therefore incredibly important to protecting the safety of individuals within the building or site. This could include employees, visitors, customers, students and members of the public, depending on the type of business and commercial building. Both sire safety systems protect human life and can prevent major injuries and even death.
A fire that goes undetected can have catastrophic consequences. Similarly, a building with inadequate lighting and no clearly lit exit routes could lead to severe mortalities, due to individuals not being able to evacuate the building fast enough. The importance of fire alarms and emergency lighting is therefore paramount and essential in protecting human life.
What are the benefits?
- Early fire detection & the alerting of individuals
- Protects human life
- Faster & safer evacuations
- Improved safety of site
- Reduces likelihood of injuries & mortalities
- Enables fire safety compliance
- Potential to reduce insurance premiums
Fire alarm and emergency lighting testing and maintenance
It is great to have a fire alarm system and emergency lighting installed. However, if it is not working sufficiently, then it can defeat the object of having it in the first place. Having a proper emergency testing and maintenance plan in place, can highlight any issues or faults within the systems, and guarantee that they will work when you need them most.
Legislation requires fire alarm systems to be serviced at least every 6 months with recommended weekly testing, whereas emergency lighting should be tested monthly and serviced annually. Professional testing and servicing is the best way to guarantee that both systems are working effectively and no fault has gone unnoticed.
How can BusinessWatch help?
At BusinessWatch, we can help you with all your fire alarm and emergency lighting needs. We are NSI Gold approved and design and install bespoke systems for businesses within various industries and will guarantee you are staying compliant with all the necessary laws and regulations. We also provide full testing and maintenance of both fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.