The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Emergency Escape Lighting – Part 163

August 15, 2022 12:26 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 162, LWF looked at protecting against fire spread beyond the building of fire origin. In part 163, we begin to consider emergency escape lighting.

Emergency lighting is that which is provided to be operational and provide a degree of illumination when the normal lighting system fails. Emergency lighting includes two types of lighting:

  • Emergency escape lighting, designed to illuminate during evacuation of a building in a fire (and where required, terminating a potentially dangerous process before doing so) when normal lighting fails.
  • Standby lighting, the purpose of which is to allow normal activities to continue if the supply to normal lighting is interrupted or it fails.

A lighting failure in a building can often be the result of a complete power failure in the larger area or an electrical fault local to the building. However, it can also be the result of a fire leading to a failure of lighting. In new buildings, cables are often fire-resisting and/or suitably protected against fire, but in older buildings this is sometimes not the case and cable insulation can melt. The result is a short-circuit and the circuit breaker or fuse will trigger to isolate the current.

Attempting to use the escape route in a fire situation with no lighting could be very difficult and cause disorientation and significant delay in evacuating the building to a place of safety. Delays to building occupants in a fire can be dangerous and cause fatalities.

For fire safety purposes, it is only required to consider the use of emergency escape lighting in a building. While it is commonly referred to as emergency lighting, this is actually incorrect as the term includes standby lighting.

Emergency escape lighting can be sub-divided into three areas – high risk task area lighting, open area lighting (anti panic) and escape route lighting. Escape route lighting is the area dealing with ensuring means of escape is traversable in fire conditions.

Open area lighting is provided in buildings where there are no defined escape routes, e.g. corridors, but escape is through an open plan area. In some countries, this type of lighting is known as ‘anti-panic’ lighting, designed to provide illumination for escape but also to avoid distress when the normal lighting system fails.

High-risk task area lighting provides emergency illumination for people who are undertaking potentially dangerous processes or tasks to enable proper shutdown procedures to be completed. While this ties into fire safety, it is perhaps arguably more of a health and safety issue than a fire safety one.

In part 164 of this series, LWF will continue discussing emergency escape lighting in terms of where it is required. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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