Emergency lighting (BAFE SP203-4)

Emergency lighting is a critical component of life safety, designed to operate when premises experience electrical mains power supply failure in all, or part of, the building.

Emergency lighting systems should be designed, installed, commissioned and maintained to the recommendations of British Standard BS 5266-1. Choosing an NSI approved company ensures your emergency lighting system will meet this standard.

A testing and maintenance programme is essential to ensure your emergency lighting system functions and operates correctly. Under UK fire safety legislation your business has a legal obligation to ensure systems are maintained correctly.


Emergency lighting is a broad term for systems that provide an alternative light source when the power supply to normal lighting fails. British Standard BS EN 1838 identifies different classes of emergency lighting system:  

Emergency escape lighting

Emergency lighting that provides illumination for the safety of people leaving a location or attempting to terminate a potentially dangerous process.

Emergency safety lighting

Emergency lighting that provides illumination for the safety of people staying in a building when the supply to the normal lighting fails.

High risk task area lighting

Emergency escape lighting that provides illumination for the safety of people involved in a potentially dangerous process or situation, allowing the proper shut-down procedures to be followed for the safety of the operator and other occupants of the premises.

Open area lighting

Emergency escape lighting to prevent panic and provide illumination allowing people to reach a place where the escape route can be seen.

Standby lighting

Emergency lighting provided to enable normal activities to continue substantially unchanged.

Any buildings where the occupants may be at risk if the normal lighting fails should have an emergency lighting system. The emergency lighting system will be determined by:

  • The size and complexity of your premises
  • The use of your premises
  • The people using, or working on, your premises
  • The risk to people on your premises if the normal lighting fails

Locations for emergency lighting:

  • Near each exit door intended to be used in an emergency
  • Near stairs so that each flight of stairs is in direct light
  • Near any other change in level
  • Externally illuminated escape route signs, escape route direction signs and other safety signs
  • At each change of direction
  • At each intersection of corridors
  • Near to each final exit and outside the building to a place of safety
  • Near each first aid post
  • Near each piece of fire-fighting equipment and fire alarm call points
  • Near escape equipment provided for disabled people
  • Near refuges and call points, including two-way communication systems and disabled toilet alarm call position
  • Near manual release controls provided to release electronically locked doors
  • Windowless toilets and toilet facilities exceeding 8m2
  • Equipment that would need to be shut down in an emergency
  • Lifts
  • Rooms greater than 60m2

There are two types of emergency lighting systems

Self-contained systems:

Each emergency lighting unit has a battery that provides power to the unit when the mains supply fails. These systems are suitable for most types of premises.

Centrally supplied systems

The power to the emergency lighting units is fed from a central battery unit located somewhere in the building. These system are usually installed in larger, more complex premises such as hospitals, large theatres, large cinemas or concert venues.

Emergency Exit

Emergency lighting systems must be maintained to ensure effective operation. Two types of testing are required:

  • Monthly functional testing – this can be undertaken by the user and is a short test to ensure each emergency lighting unit illuminates when the mains power supply is interrupted. Simulation of the mains power supply failure is normally achieved by the use of a “test key”. This operates a test switch or switches that will have been installed as part of the emergency lighting system.
  • Annual full duration testing –the mains power supply to the emergency lighting units has to be interrupted for the full rated duration (normally three hours) of the units. This test should only be undertaken by a competent emergency lighting contractor.

Your NSI approved installer will design the emergency lighting scheme to allow effective evacuation in case of an emergency. An NSI Certificate of Compliance will be issued confirming the system has been designed, installed and commissioned to the British Standard BS 5266-1.

An Emergency Lighting Logbook records the results of monthly and annual testing and any faults found with the system along with action taken to rectify the faults. You can use this as proof with any enforcing authorities, such as the Fire & Rescue Service, that your system is maintained in accordance with British Standard BS 5266-1.


Learn more about fire safety for your workplace

Fire Detection and Alarm Systems (BAFE SP203-1)

Life Safety Fire Risk Assessments (BAFE SP205)

Portable Fire Extinguishers (BAFE SP101)

Kitchen Fire Protection Systems (BAFE SP206)

Fixed Gaseous Suppression Systems (BAFE SP203-3)

Evacuation Alert Systems (BAFE SP207)

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