Emergency Lighting Requirements from the NFPA

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released the 2018 edition of the Life Safety Code, which came officially came into effect in September 2017. Thus, if you haven’t reviewed your emergency lighting system yet, now is the perfect time to make sure that everything’s all up to emergency lighting code and compliant with the most recent updates.

NFPA’s Life Safety Code 101 is updated every three years. The code provides strategies and guidelines that utilize occupancy, protection, and construction features of new and current buildings to provide more superior protection to people against fire and other associated hazards.

Please note that not all jurisdictions comply with every single requirement laid down by NFPA 101. For the precise rules and regulations that apply to your local jurisdiction, please contact the state to make sure that you are compliant.

In today’s post, we’ll provide a quick summary NFPA Life Safety Code’s Section 7.9, which specifically pertains to the emergency lighting code. The section also sets forth the guidelines emergency lighting must abide by in order to help people safely and quickly evacuate a building as soon as possible. Section 7.9 covers the different types of establishments that need emergency lighting, as well as the requirements for the lighting systems and the prerequisites for testing and maintaining to ensure the emergency lighting’s reliability.

Emergency exit leading to the stairs

We will also highlight the revisions made to the 2018 edition in addition to the new requirements in the section. We hope that the information you will find in this post will help you better understand the emergency lighting code and the updates you need to make in order to make your building and its occupants safe.

Section 7.9 Emergency Lighting

Section 7.9.1

The introduction to the section identifies the specific kinds of building structures that need emergency lighting. With that being said, the section only laid out three exceptions; thus, it can be safe to say that almost all of the types of structures that are occupied for the majority of the day must have emergency lighting installed in all the pathways and emergency exits. The three exemptions to these requirements are:

  • Sites that are not regularly occupied by people.
  • Towers, such as railroad signal towers and forest fire observation decks, or those that are designed for a maximum of three occupants at a time are exempt if they have a properly built escape ladder.
  • Buildings that are only occupied during the daytime may be excluded if they have windows that give off adequate (and the required) illumination level for entrances.
Open space of an establishment

Unless your establishment is under any of the classifications mentioned above, emergency lighting is strictly required. Aside from exits and all pathways, emergency lighting should be installed in stairs leading to emergency exits as well as corridors, escalators, ramps, aisles, and other areas that lead to open spaces. This prerequisite ensures that your building occupants can quickly and safely find their way to safety during an emergency.

Section 7.9.2

This section covers the performance requirements for emergency lighting. Performance refers to the level of brightness and how long it must be on when the source for normal lighting is not available. In the first hour and a half of a power failure, the emergency lighting code states that an average of a foot-candle must be set throughout the way to the egress.

After an hour and a half, the level of illumination may lessen. However, the guidelines require an illumination ratio of no more than 40 to one-foot candle, and no less than 0.06.
Additionally, this section states that emergency lighting must be automatically provided during a power failure – whether it’s the result of blown fuses, circuit breakers, power outages, or even human intervention.

This section also addressed that the emergency power supply systems (EPSS) that supply the power to your emergency lighting system must be EPSS Type 10, Level 1, Class 1.5.

Section 7.9.3

This section lays out the guidelines for the periodic testing of emergency lighting systems. The emergency lighting code offers three options for the testing. The testing schedule depends on the type of your lighting system – battery operated, self-diagnostic, self-testing, or computer-controlled. With that being said, no matter what kind of emergency lighting system you have, the test must be conducted for no less than 30 seconds, once every 30 days, and every year for 1.5 hours. Furthermore, the code states that all the lighting systems must work without fail or interruption throughout the testing duration. If it’s not fully operational, then you should make the appropriate changes.