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A Complete Guide to Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting is critical to keeping your staff, customers and third-party personnel safe on your business premises. If the worst should happen, your emergency lighting will provide illumination to enable people to exit your facility safely.

At Wells Electrical, we have served numerous brands nationwide for over 15 years in designing, installing, maintaining and testing emergency lighting, including Bluecoat in Liverpool, SB Interior Ltd in Crewe, and Dennison Trailers in the Northwest.

We understand that, as a business owner, it can be challenging to understand the ins and outs of emergency lighting. This is why we’re committed to educating our clients on this complex topic.

Types of emergency lighting

Various types of emergency lighting exist, each deployed in specific environments. These can be boiled down into three distinct categories:


Escape Route Lighting – These emergency lights are designed to aid the swift evacuation of a building by providing illumination for common escape routes, such as stairways. They are also positioned in areas where safety equipment, such as key boxes, is housed.

Open Area/Anti-Panic Area Lighting – Large public buildings, such as shopping centres and retail outlets, attract a large number of visitors who may be unfamiliar with their layout. These types of emergency lighting are designed to help everyone locate exit routes without causing panic.

High-Risk Task Lighting – This specific type of emergency lighting is typically only deployed in limited scenarios. It’s designed to support the safety of people navigating dangerous processes, such as emergency shutdown procedures.


Within these three categories, you’ll also come across various other types of emergency lights, such as LED emergency lighting and external bulkhead emergency fittings. In any case, emergency lighting can be maintained or non-maintained.

Maintained fittings are activated using a controller, such as a switch. In some cases, they may be left on permanently, but they can operate even during a power cut. Non-maintained fittings only activate if a business’s conventional lighting systems fail.

Which is right for your business depends on your circumstances, so we always recommend that businesses order a Fire Risk Assessment before designing an emergency lighting system.

Is emergency lighting testing a legal requirement?

Emergency lighting testing in the UK is a legal requirement on all business premises, as detailed by Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, known as the RRO.

Testing must be conducted monthly and annually, with the latter requiring more comprehensive, in-depth tests. To stay within the bounds of the law, all annual tests must be carried out by a qualified team, such as that at Wells Electrical.

What are the requirements for testing emergency lighting in the UK?

The UK has stringent regulations regarding emergency lighting testing. Firstly, all UK commercial premises must possess some form of emergency lighting by law, which forms part of overarching fire safety legislation.

Testing is also a legal requirement to ensure that the operational effectiveness of your emergency lighting remains up to standard.

Firstly, annual testing is a requirement. This must be conducted using a competent party. At Wells Electrical, our contractors can conduct this test and record our findings. Moreover, we can provide a testing certificate to prove your compliance in the event of an audit.

Emergency lighting must also be tested monthly using a “flick test.” Flick testing is a short functional test that simulates the failure of the mains electricity. Proper monthly testing checks that your lights illuminate and produce sufficient amounts of light.

How often should emergency lighting be tested?

Legally, you must perform flick tests monthly and an in-depth examination once per year. However, many businesses go above and beyond by investing in multiple rounds of checks and preventative maintenance annually.

Extra testing offers several benefits, including:


  • Providing more time to rectify functional issues.

  • Peace of mind that your lighting will work in an emergency.

  • Saving money by solving small problems before they become big ones.


In essence, there’s no harm in investing in additional testing to check that your emergency lighting system is in tip-top condition.

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How to test emergency lighting

Monthly testing of emergency lighting in-house is a regimen many businesses choose to adopt. At Wells Electrical, we can show your employees how to do this in a way that’s comprehensive and compliant.

You have two options for testing emergency lights:


Firstly, you can use the provided test key. Insert it into the key switch and click it into test mode. This simulates a power cut. If your emergency lights in the area turn themselves on and provide enough illumination, your emergency lighting is still in good working order.

Turn the key back to normal mode and record the results within your business’s fire logbook.


The second option for testing your emergency lights is to turn off the main lighting at the control board. Figure out which circuit is connected to your lighting and switch it off. Again, it has the same effect as the key switch method. If your emergency lighting responds, your lights are good to go.

Regarding annual testing, this isn’t something that your team can carry out. Annual tests are far more detailed and require a professional to manage.

Who should carry out an emergency lighting test?

Annual tests must be carried out by a competent professional. At Wells Electrical, we provide this annual service, examining your emergency lighting from every angle over the mandated three-hour period.

Professional testing with Wells Electrical includes:


  • Assessing the condition of your lights.

  • Charging and/or replacing batteries.

  • Recording relevant details.

  • Highlighting and fixing any issues.

  • Emergency lighting certificates to prove compliance.


Under the regulations, a qualified professional must carry out these tests; but, if your employees have been sufficiently trained (which we can provide), you can manage monthly testing in-house.

How often should an emergency lighting system be tested?

The law should dictate your testing schedule, but some products may require a different testing schedule. If this is the case, our team can brief you on the ideal testing schedule for you.

According to leading fire safety experts in the UK, businesses should adopt the three-frequency testing schedule for emergency lighting.


Daily – If your emergency lighting system is powered with a central battery, you must perform a daily check to ensure the battery continues functioning. This test entails nothing more than examining the relevant indicator light.

Monthly – Every month you should isolate the mains power supply to simulate a power cut, as defined above. Call us immediately if any lights fail to come on or are too dim during the test.

Annual – Your annual test is legally mandated and must be conducted over three hours. To pass this test, your lights must stay on for three hours while maintaining the minimum brightness level.

Plan in your Emergency Lighting Test

When is the best time to test emergency lighting?

Business owners often question when they should test their emergency lighting to simulate an emergency properly and to minimise disruption to the building and its occupants.

Generally, you should consider your building’s usage patterns, its operational needs and the various implications of testing at certain times.

Daytime testing typically offers better inspection visibility, but the impact on your day-to-day activities is more significant. On the other hand, night-time testing may require additional precautions to preserve the safety and security of your facility.

Get in touch with us if you need help determining a suitable testing time for your business.

Should you test all emergency lights at once?

It depends - if your emergency lights are all on the same circuit, you will have no choice but to test everything at once.

Larger facilities, especially complexes with multiple buildings, may have distinct emergency lighting circuits. In this case, it may make more sense to test your emergency lighting systems consecutively to limit disruption.

Our team can advise you on the best way to conduct testing on your premises. To learn more about emergency lighting testing, send us a message or call today.

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With a combined 65 years’ experience working nationwide, Wells Electrical Contractors are experts in electrical installation, maintenance and energy saving from conception to hand over in each project. Our engineers deliver the best electrical solutions to businesses in the UK and Ireland.

We understand that no two customers’ electrical needs are the same, and when it comes to making important decisions on upgrades, emergency repairs or installations, the more information you have the better. That’s why we offer a comprehensive range of solutions, as well as the knowledge to help customers make the right decisions.

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