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The importance of testing emergency lighting

exit lighting

Timing is everything in an emergency. Being able to get out of harm’s way as quickly as possible could mean life or death, which is why emergency lighting plays such a critical role. Exit signs and emergency lights help guide people to proper exits and illuminate pathways during an evacuation. In the event of an emergency, these lighting fixtures should operate on battery-backup power in case of a power outage.

Emergency signs and pathway lights are required by law for all commercial, architectural and industrial environments, which includes most buildings and occupancies. 

How often should I test my emergency lighting?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The organization set the standards for practices related to fire safety. According to the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code®, emergency lights and exit signs should adhere to the following maintenance schedule

  • Visual inspection of equipment every 30 days
  • 30-second illumination test once a month, using the light’s battery-backup power
  • 90-minute illumination test once every year, using the light’s battery-backup power

The NPFA recommends keeping records of all testing in case there is ever a building inspection by an authority of jurisdiction. Because some states have additional emergency lighting regulations, it’s important to check with your local fire marshal to see if there are specific requirements in your area. 

How do I test my emergency lighting?

Visual inspection

  • Check for any exposed or loose wiring. Frayed wiring is a fire and safety hazard, so it’s important to secure these pieces.
  • Make sure the lighting is securely mounted.
  • Look for cracks and other blemishes on the light or sign’s casing. Cracks can allow water to enter and cause damage.

30-second battery test

  • Find the “push-to-test” button on the light or sign’s casing. Pressing this button will turn off the AC power and engage the unit’s back-up battery. Exit signs should stay illuminated, and emergency lighting should also turn on. Hold the button for 30 seconds, and make sure that all lighting stays on for the full 30 seconds.
  • Use a clamp that will depress the “push-to-test” button for the full 90 minutes, and follow the same instructions as the 30-second test.
  • OSHA Code of Federal Regulations
  • NFPA 70 – National Electrical Code®
  • International Fire Code
  • International Building Code

90-minute battery test

Once you’ve cleared your lighting systems and exit signs, then you’re good to go until your next maintenance check. If any repairs are needed, make sure you contact a professional specializing in emergency lighting systems in your area. 

For additional resources on testing your emergency lighting, please refer to:

The Lighting reSource