If you have been charged with your building's electrical maintenance, you may have heard specific terminology but are not quite sure what it means!
As you may be aware, emergency lighting is the battery-powered lighting that comes on automatically in a building when there is a power cut or a fire.
This emergency lighting ensures that building occupants can safely make their way out of the building, even when the normal lights have gone out.
Businesses must have emergency lighting by law. This emergency lighting needs to be well-maintained, using procedures like ‘flick' tests and 'duration' tests.
If you're unsure what a flick or duration test is, this short guide will help.
- What is a flick test?
- What is a duration test?
- Are duration and flick tests mandatory?
What is a flick test?
You must test emergency lighting once a month in what is known as a 'flick' or 'flash' test - in line with BS EN 50172 and BS 5266-8
This is when the building's power is briefly turned off to ensure all emergency lighting fittings (also known as luminaires) turn on or stay illuminated.
If any lighting doesn't turn on or does not provide reliable illumination during the flick test, you need to get the light repaired or replaced.
Emergency lights don't need to be tested at the same time. As long as you check each light every month, testing can be staggered.
When you test the lights, you need to record the results in your fire safety logbook.
What is a duration test?
A 'duration’ test needs to be carried out on your emergency lighting every year. It is sometimes known as a 'discharge' or 'three-hour' test.
In a duration test, the emergency lighting batteries are fully drained. This is for two reasons.
- To check and see that your emergency lighting will work in an emergency. If there is a power cut or fire, you want to make sure that your lighting will work for long enough to guide people out of the building
- To see if there are any issues with drainage. If your battery doesn’t last for long or certain lighting elements start to fail, you can arrange repairs or replacements
What happens during a duration test?
The engineer will monitor your emergency lighting while it drains to make sure all lights remain on, at the required level of light.
The test will run as long as your emergency lighting lasts (more on that later).
After the test, the engineer will advise you of the results of the test and log the results in your fire safety logbook. They will also turn the power back on so the emergency lighting can recharge – this can take up to 24 hours.
You must fix any issues identified by the duration test as soon as possible.
How long should my emergency lighting last?
The amount of time your emergency lighting should stay on for depends on the building.
In most buildings, it should stay on for three hours. This includes hospitals, theatres, town halls and libraries.
Some buildings can provide a one-hour duration if evacuation is carried out immediately and re-occupation is held off until the emergency lighting system has recharged. These include laboratories and factories.
In our experience, the majority of buildings opt for a three-hour battery as it is safer. If there is a fire, it gives the fire brigade extra time to work.
When should a duration test be carried out?
A duration test should be carried out in off-peak time, for example in the evening when the building is empty.
As the emergency lighting system will be fully discharged, you want to ensure the batteries can recharge safely.
If your building operates all the time, we’d recommend carrying out the test when there is lots of natural light in the building. That way if there is an emergency scenario, the natural light will help guide people out of the building.
What should I do if I have lots of emergency light circuits?
We’d recommend staggering testing at different times. That way, there will be less impact to the building if there is a power failure.
Who needs to carry out a duration test?
A duration test must be carried out by a competent engineer with the appropriate skills and training. This may be someone from your organisation, or a third-party company.
Are duration and flick tests mandatory?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 does not explicitly state that duration and flick tests have to be carried out by law. However, it does say:
"Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting."
This means that it is a legal requirement to ensure that emergency lighting stays on in an emergency, at a brightness that allows people to exit the building.
Duration and flick tests are the best way to ensure that emergency lighting works as it should.
If you are looking for a company to carry out your emergency lighting maintenance, Hawkesworth can help.
Our qualified engineers have several years of experience carrying out tests across the UK.
Next blog: EIC vs EICR
Previous blog: The 2020 electrical testing roundup