Exit and Emergency Lighting

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Life Safety…important to all of us…yet some critical components are so familiar that they are regularly overlooked. Fortunately, emergencies are relatively rare occurrences. Unfortunately, that fact can create and foster apathy with regard to protecting from or functioning during a life-threatening situation. The most common deficiency in YMCA facilities is exit or emergency lighting that is dysfunctional, inappropriate, or missing. That lack can cost lives… lives that could be saved by a little diligence and a few cents a day.


Exit signs should:

  • comply with NFPA 101 (the National Fire Protection Association's Life Safety Code) so that the entire path of each means of egress is conspicuously delineated; a means of egress is a continuous and unobstructed route of exit travel from any location in the structure to a safe exterior location;
  • have functional illumination for both regular and emergency operations at all times; the units should be visually checked weekly and tested at least monthly to ensure their proper operation;
  • be provided for areas where there is no or inadequate signage, including infrequently traveled or isolated locations in a building.

Emergency lighting equipment should:

  • comply with NFPA 101 so that illumination is provided along the entire path of each egress route in case of electrical power failure. This can be emergency back-up lighting, emergency ballast units in specified lights, or emergency generators that provide electricity to specified lights.
  • be aimed so that the exit and path of egress are adequately illuminated;
  • be protected from damage by a protective cage where damage is probable (e.g., gymnasiums);
  • receive documented periodic testing. Each device in the facility should be operated at least
    • once each month for a minimum duration of 30 seconds, normally by depressing the test button;
    • once each year for a minimum duration of 90 minutes, normally by de-energizing the appropriate electrical circuits..
  • should be provided for those portions of the facility that are inadequately protected, including isolated stairwells, maintenance areas, etc.

Always check with your local authorities if in doubt.

A simple written program should document regular inspection and maintenance of these critical lifesaving systems. The Emergency Lighting and Exit Sign Maintenance Checklist was developed for this purpose. The form should identify the location of the device, preferably list its unique identification number, specify the type of device, and note the date of inspection, condition of the device, any comments, including corrections made, and date restored to service, if applicable. Examples of entries are provided on the form for reference. The documentation should be kept for 3 years.

Lives may depend upon the proper operation of your life safety systems. Make certain they are complete and fully operational. Find the time now… you won't have the chance in an emergency.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.

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