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Ian

Emergency lighting - do I need test switches?

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Hi all,

I'm looking at installing emergency lighting (maintained) in a small residential block of flats (9 flats across 3 floors).

One fitting per landing + one fitting per stairway set (5 lights in all)

Question...do I need to fit dedicated test/key switches to each EL unit (or in banks) or can I get away with using the single switch fuse (located in the services cupboard) to facilitate testing.

Appreciate the advice.

Many thanks

Ian

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The BS states that each emergency lighting system should have a suitable means for simulating failure of the normal supply for test purposes and that is all.

So the location of test switches is entirely up to you, depending on your test procedure. To test the emergency exit lights you need to operate the test switch then walk around all the lights and check them to ensure that are operating correctly in the emergency mode, then return to the test switch and, switch back on, then walk around all the lights and check them again to ensure that are operating correctly in normal mode.

During this period the light levels will be a lower level of illumination when in emergency mode and depending how long it would take you to walk the emergency lights would it be safe for the relevant persons occupying the building? Also if the building has sub circuits then each sub circuit has to be tested separately because if a sub circuit fails then that area needs to be illuminated by the emergency lighting.

So without knowing further information it is not possible to suggest where test switches should be located.

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Hi Tom,

Many thanks for getting back.

So...all you require to be BS compliant is a "standard method of isolating the supply to each fitting (to simulate or induce a power fail)" which ideally would probably be a key-switch located next to the normal light switch feeding every maintained EL,

...or in my case, it could be the switch fuse feeding the lighting circuit. Both perform the task of dropping the supply and testing the EL.

As always Legislation / BS are open to interpretation, never a definitive answer!

Thanks again Tom, much appreciated

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Absolutely Ian, you cannot usually give definitive answers, only be general, because there is so many different situations you have to consider. Such as how many circuits, feeding the EL's, is there sufficient daylight illuminating the escape routes during the daytime, when the occupants can use the common areas in safety, to enable you to leave the the system in emergency mode while you complete the test and there are others.

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Guest AdamPom

I was just wondering wether or not on new emergency light installations wether or not a keyswitch has to be installed by every new emergency light????
Please can you help or advise me where I can get this information from as one of my engineers says that you do and I just wanted to double check.

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The British Standard states every emergency lighting system should have means of simulating a failure of the the normal supply for test purposes, with out interruption of the normal supply, this is all you get and interpret as you choose.

So I would suggest the location of test switches is entirely up to you, depending on your test procedure. To test the emergency exit lights you need to operate the test switch then walk around all the lights and check them to ensure that are operating correctly in the emergency mode, then return to the test switch and, switch back on, then walk around all the lights and check them again to ensure that are operating correctly in normal mode.

During this period the light levels will be a lower level of illumination when in emergency mode and depending how long it would take you to walk the emergency lights would it be safe for the relevant persons occupying the building? Also if the building has sub circuits then each sub circuit has to be tested separately because if a sub circuit fails then that area needs to be illuminated by the emergency lighting.

So without knowing further information it is not possible to suggest where test switches should be located.

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The common alternative to key switches is to simply flick off the relevant lighting fuses, which switches off not only the power supply to emergency lights but also ordinary lighting. This means that you can only carry out the test after working hours, as the remaining light levels will be too low for work purposes. With a key switch on the other hand you are only cutting the power to your emergency lights without affecting your normal lighting. So the test can be carried out during working hours (some safety critical areas might require a different routine!).

Harry

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Guest BobLoud

Hi
I have an electrician telling me I have to have a key switch to turn off and test an emergency light, and your page on emergency lighting indicates, that if it is not possible for decor reasons, or as we already have a single trip switch on a panel that only switches the light in question,and is a locked cupboard, your page suggests I don't need key switches, the electrcian says if we don't have the key switch we won't conform to BS 5266. Not sure you can resolve this for me but any help would be appreciated.
Thanks Bob

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The electrician is correct you do need a test switch to test the system, BS 5266 says,

8.3.3. Test facility

Each emergency lighting system should have suitable -means for simulating failure of the normal supply for test purposes (i.e. without interruption of the normal supply)

NOTE. An automatic test system for battery powered emergency lighting is specified in BS EN 62034.

Which means you could have one or a number of switches to test the system depending on the number of sub circuits you have. The single trip switch in a fuse box would switch off all the mains supply to all your emergency lights, however, because you have to switch off the mains supply to a number or one luminaire for up to 3 hours to test the system would this not interfere with your normal lighting?

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Guest

I live in a council block. The councils my landlord and we have an ALMO Ground , Middle and top.  So we had a complete power outage in flats, common areas in building and outside i.e. lamp-posts.  We do not have emergency lighting and my ALMO and council will not answer as to whether there should be.  Should there be and what can I do?

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The Arm’s-length management organisation or the local council will be designated the Responsible Person (RP) and are required under the Fire safety Order to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) in the common areas but are not required to share it with the tenants. The FRA is based on risk assessment so what are the chances are for the premises to be involved in fire at the same time of a power cut depriving you of supply to the whole area. However if you are concerned the enforcing authority is the local Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and you should contact them. http://www.firesafe.org.uk/uk-fire-rescue-services-details/ 

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Guest Dean

This forum has provided invaluable information while designing a new fire safety system for the block of flats I partly own, thank you for all of your contributions to date!

My local electrician is suggesting the installation of a new single circuit to power all emergency lighting units within the communal area of my flats. The new single circuit would allow the testing of mains power failure to all units via a single key switch.

However, we live in a listed property where all works like these must be approved by the local council. To simplify the system (and therefore our application to the council) I have opted for the use of self test lighting hardware. Without providing all of the detail, this system would allow us to use existing power supplies without having to install a new circuit (which would require more intrusive works to be undertaken on the building).

My question is this:

When using self testing hardware (with each light running on a separate circuit) do I still need to be able manually switch off the power to each unit independently or can I rely solely on the self test feature to comply with BS 5266?

Thanks in advance for your help!

 

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Yes, the  key switch is to allow for manual testing and self testing luminaires are automatic therefore you do not require key switches. But you must record your tests six monthly and annually to comply with BS 5266.

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Guest Surya Bedi

Dear All
I believe the purpose of the emergency switch is not to simulate the emergency test. But only to simulate the emergency operation while the switch is pressed. The walk around test is to check the duration for which emergency lights remain on, which is either done by a flicking off the emergency circuit manually or via a monitored system. The switch is only meant to temporarily disable normal power supply for a quick check of the operation of the luminaire.

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The test switch is a safe way to cause a permanent mains failure to the emergency fittings for both the monthly function test and annual duration test. Many older existing installations don't have them, but newer/new ones should if complying with BS5266

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