Lighting the way in emergencies

Katrina Adamczyk, Manager of Category and Merchandising at ElectricalDirect explains the emergency lighting in schools, including regulations and what must be considered.

Schools are often buzzing with staff, pupils, and visitors – keeping them safe is a critical concern within school management. Emergency exit routes must be carefully planned to aid quick evacuation; including the specification and maintenance of emergency lighting. It is a legal requirement under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that anybody – including those unfamiliar with the building layout – should safely and effectively be able to find their way out.

There is a common misconception that schools would have plenty of light as they often operate during the day – however, often schools are filled with dark hallways and classrooms with little natural light. In addition, staff often stay behind after dark, and many schools rent classrooms for evening lesson or clubs. Schools also typically host parent’s evenings, after school clubs, or are rented out to others for use into late evenings; meaning the person in charge has a duty of care to all of these people, many of whom would be new to the school’s layout.

Don’t be left in the dark

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Article 14, stipulates that “(h) – emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting” – meaning in the event mains power fails, the emergency system can operate independently and ensure people will be able to exit quickly.

To ensure this, it is important that a professional fire safety specifier, the person responsible for the premises, and the fire risk assessor in charge meet to inspect the building to dictate the requirements.

British Standard BS 5266-1:2016 will outline detailed information on not only where lighting should be placed, but also how powerful the lighting should be and the minimum duration it should last in the event of a mains power failure – this is typically three hours for most premises.

It recommends, for example, that for escape routes up to 2m wide, 50% of the route should be lit to a minimum of 1 lux, with wider escape routes being treated as a number of 2m wide bands.

Power supply

Self-contained – single point power supplies are preferential for emergency lighting. Installation is considerably quicker, creating less disruption for pupils and staff, and standard wiring material can be used for this application. This also provides a system with strong integrity, as each light will be independent of the others; if one fails, the rest will continue to operate as normal. This also means the system can easily be extended if required.

LED lights are ideal for any emergency lighting network, offering superior illumination and lower power demand; providing sufficient light coverage whilst also saving energy costs for the school.

It is crucial that a designated responsible person tests the system every month, and keeps a written log, as battery life can vary between two to 10 years dependant on the type of battery and application.

Emergency signage and routes

There’s a wealth of legislation surrounding signage alone for emergency routes that must not be overlooked, as it forms a critical part of the fire safety strategy. Clear and unambiguous signage is essential for building occupants, as well as persons who may be visiting and new to the premises, in order to escape quickly in the event of an evacuation.

It is key to note that not every single emergency exit sign will require illumination, but that the route itself has to have adequate lighting for the signs to be seen.

BS 5499:2013 “Safety Signs. Code of Practice for Escape Route Signing” will contain stipulations and calculations to ensure all signs meet requirements for colour, text, placement, and size.

Under one roof

The number of products required to adequately cover school premises can seem daunting. However, leading supplier ElectricalDirect has an extensive catalogue of compliant emergency lighting products from trusted brands, ensuring you only need order from one source. Order up to 9pm online or 8pm over the phone and receive your order next day – and it’s free over £45! Plus, ElectricalDirect can deliver to your home, job site or over 6,000 Click & Collect locations.

It is a legal requirement to ensure escape routes in schools are adequately lit and signposted for safe evacuation in the event of an emergency. By working with professionals and reputable suppliers early on, those in charge of the premises can have peace of mind over the safety of all building occupants.

For more information on ElectricalDirect, please visit

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