From a Local Emergency Lighting Supplier: How Emergency Lighting Works and Why It's Important

As a trusted emergency lighting supplier in Waco, Texas, we often get asked about emergency lighting, what the different types are, and why they’re an important part of fire safety systems.

Emergency lighting is necessary to light up parts of buildings in case of problems. For instance, when the usual power goes out due to a blackout, fire, or malfunction inside the building. In many places, the primary purpose of emergency lights is to brighten the routes and doors that guide people out of the building, known as escape routes. Its goal is to make it easier for people to leave the building, especially during a fire, and to help them stay calm when stressed and in the darkness.

How Does Emergency Lighting Work?

Emergency lights are usually linked to and always powered by the main electrical system in the building. If a power outage or a breaker gets switched off, the light turns on and provides illumination.

According to a emergency lighting supplier, this device is an important part of any fire safety system.

Yet, these lights also include built-in batteries, which serve as backup power sources in case the main supply fails. Usually, these batteries get charged from the main power source and are meant to keep the light on for an extended period during an emergency. The typical duration for emergency lighting is three hours, though it may differ depending on the specific fixtures.

How Does Maintained and Non-Maintained Emergency Lighting Differ?

There are two kinds of emergency lighting: maintained and non-maintained emergency lighting. Here's a simple way to understand the difference between maintained and non-maintained emergency lighting, as described below:

Maintained Emergency Lighting

Maintained lights are always on and will continue to be operational in case of power failure, and as such, naturally use more power. If you select an emergency light for an open area to the public, then maintained emergency lighting is typically installed.

Most maintained emergency lights can be used like a normal switchable light, allowing you to use them like any other light. A switchable emergency light will still come on in the event of a power failure, even if switched off at the light switch, as it will automatically take power from the backup battery.

Non-maintained Emergency Lighting

Non-maintained emergency lighting is a luminaire made only for emergency use, which turns on automatically should there be a mains power failure. The light uses the battery backup to ensure every emergency exit route is illuminated, but it will not be as active as your normal day-to-day lighting system. Using emergency lights that don't need regular upkeep is all alright. This is okay when people in a building know their way around, like in offices.

Categories of Emergency Lighting

A fire safety services provider can help keep a commercial building safe from fire.

Emergency lighting can be categorized into two types: escape lighting and standby lighting.

Escape Lighting

This illuminates the different exit routes in a building. It also provides light in open areas inside and outside the building during power outages.

Standby Lighting

This lighting helps places to carry on regular tasks even when there's no electricity. You often find this in places like traffic control centers and theaters.

Emergency lighting can be divided into three main parts: escape routes, open spaces, and high-risk areas. Each of them needs different types of lights because they serve unique purposes during emergencies.

Open Area Lighting

When there's a power outage, keeping shared areas well-lit is important. This lessens fear and worry among people when the lights go out. Additionally, it prevents any mix-up by offering clear visuals to direct them to the nearest exit path. This also enhances the visibility of signs for everyone in the area.

Open areas include offices, restrooms, display areas, meeting rooms, and welcoming spots. Anywhere folks commonly assemble during the day is included.

Different Open Areas and Their Lighting Requirements


For the safety of all personnel, all exit signs need to be visible from different vantage points. Main fittings must have emergency versions integrated into them.


Different areas have different emergency lighting needs.

For washrooms over 8 square meters, two emergency lighting fixtures must be installed inside. These can either be emergency versions of fittings or separate emergency products.

On the other hand, smaller washrooms only require emergency lights if they do not receive natural light from the windows inside.

Show Rooms

Showrooms are usually equipped with spotlights that highlight the different exhibits. Some downlights provide the room with general lighting. However, in emergencies, it's required that all exit signs be visible. The downlights should also have emergency versions.

Conference Rooms

There are different kinds of conference rooms. They can sometimes act as lecture areas and meeting rooms. Here, you'll usually find dimmable lighting fixtures. During emergencies, it's ideal that there be emergency versions of linear luminaires and downlights that can clearly define the escape routes.

Reception Areas

A reception area is one of the most public spaces in any building. The exit signs must always be lit, even in an emergency. It's also ideal to equip wall and ceiling-mounted decorative fixtures with their emergency versions to provide a strong visual impact during power failures.

High-Risk Task Lighting

High-risk areas are places in a building or facility where hazardous activity occurs. These activities must be safe or even terminated during power failures if an evacuation is required. This helps prevent injury to people in the building and damage to the equipment.

Lighting in these areas helps employees turn off any dangerous processes before evacuating the building.

Do I Need to Conduct Emergency Light Testing?

According to the regulations, building owners must have emergency lightings for the workplace. They must also frequently test the emergency lighting systems and ensure their maintenance is in good working order.

Monthly Emergency Lighting Test

You must test all emergency lighting systems each month and check they are clean and in working order. The test must be long enough to check that the lights are working properly, results must be recorded, and any issues must be resolved promptly.

Annual Emergency Lighting Test

Emergency lighting also needs proper maintenance.

Once a year, it would be best to drain your emergency lights fully, which involves leaving them on for their full battery life (typically one to three hours, subject to the luminaire). The lights should stay on for that entire time. Results again must be recorded, and any issues resolved. In modern fittings, the luminaire can be tested without switching off the main electricity supply, but this may not be the case with older models.

Work With The Best Emergency Lighting Supplier In Your Area!

Proper emergency lighting does not end with installation. Existing exit lights, safety lights, and emergency signage must be kept in good working order and occasionally updated to meet new fire codes. This means testing battery backups regularly, replacing light bulbs when they burn out or break, and even performing regular cleaning to ensure the lights will give out the necessary amount of illumination when an emergency arises. For this reason, it is wise to find a reliable emergency lighting supplier to help you with new needs and ongoing maintenance requirements.