According to the regulatory agencies, hotel rooms need emergency lights to ensure safety. NFPA 101 requires emergency lighting to specified stairwells, aisles, hallways, and passageways. NFPA also requires emergency lighting in rooms greater than a broom closet with no windows.
You may be wondering what your obligations are as a new hotel owner. Your responsibilities include complying with the safety standards imposed. Before constructing your new establishment, you must be aware of the safety codes.
The United States has several regulatory agencies that govern the general safety standards. They establish codes that guide establishments to build a safer environment. By complying with these safety standards, you are preventing extreme disasters that will result in the loss of many lives.
The installation of emergency lights is one of the requirements that you must follow. You may be wondering about the purpose of emergency lighting and how vital it is during emergencies. You may even see emergency lighting and exit signs as unnecessary.
This safety equipment plays a vital role during catastrophic emergencies. Fire, utility outages, earthquakes are some of the events when emergency lightings are needed most. Evacuees with no prior knowledge of the layout, emergency lights, and exit signs guide them to safety.
Emergency lighting illuminates the path in a building that leads to the exit. In the case of a power failure, emergency lighting operates to help people safely exit from the hotel. Its purpose is to prevent panic and further distress.
Evacuees with no prior knowledge of the layout, emergency lights, and exit signs guide them to safety.
In a hotel, the operation is 24/7. A lot of employees and guests make use of the building. As a hotel owner, it is your responsibility to ensure their safety by complying with the standards imposed by the regulatory agencies.
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Is Emergency Lighting a Legal Requirement?
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently updated the National Life Safety Code 101. Section 7.9 of the code addresses the necessity of the installation of emergency lights. All modes of egress, including exits and walkways leading to them, must have emergency lightings.
All nonresidential structures are required to install emergency lights. Throughout the United States, there are several versions of building codes and editions of these building codes in use. Hotels are required to abide by the law.
Hotels undoubtedly must follow the emergency lighting code. According to the 2018 edition of the NFPA Life Safety Code, there are a few exemptions. These exemptions are from chapters 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 of the NFPA Life Safety Code.
As stated, the emergency lighting standards do not apply to new or existing hotels and dormitories where the guest rooms or guest suites have a direct exit to the outside of the structure at the street or finished ground level. So far, this is the only exemption given to hotels.
In general, all structures other than basic residential housing units must adhere to these emergency lighting code standards.
Both new construction projects and renovation projects must comply as well. Some existing structures will need to be updated to meet current egress lighting code standards.
Effective on September 6, 2017, establishments are on the lookout for revisions. The NFPA updates the Life City Code 101, and businesses affected must comply. To protect everyone’s safety, establishments must maintain compliance.
There are several regulatory agencies in the United States. These regulatory agencies establish codes. They also govern the requirements for emergency lighting and exit signs. Below are the regulatory agencies pertained to:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – is a regulatory agency in the United States. OSHA ensures safe and healthy working conditions. OSHA establishes and enforces regulations, as well as provides training, outreach, information, and support.
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – is a global self-funded nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing death, injury, property damage, and economic loss caused by fire, electrical, and other dangers.
- Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) – the United States-based nonprofit and the accreditation commission in the country. JCAHO accredits more than 20,000 healthcare organizations and programs around the country.
- International Fire Code (IFC) – IFC provides measures to protect people and property from the dangers of flames and explosions.
- International Building Code (IBC) – IBC Contains regulations governing commercial construction practices. It is also known as the foundation of the Family of International Codes. Its mission is to preserve public health and safety.
Beyond the codes and regulations stated in these agencies, there are local requirements that apply to jurisdictions. If you are unsure, it is better to consult with your fire marshal or Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
You may wonder what AHJ is. Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) enforces a code or standard’s provisions. AHJ is also responsible for approving materials, supplies, installation, or procedures. They act as an enforcement arm of NFPA. They aid in ensuring that you comply.
Under these codes and regulatory agencies, emergency lightings in hotels are a must, with exemptions.
What is the Requirement for Emergency Lighting?
Under section 7.9 of the NFPA Life Safety Code, Emergency lighting facilities must provide initial illumination of at least one foot-candle (10.8 lux) on average and at least 0.1 foot-candle (1.1 lux) at any point along the path of exit at floor level.
Throughout the United States, there are several versions of building codes and editions of these building codes in use. Every three years, the regulatory agencies update the safety codes. The changes often lead to confusion and different interpretations.
Emergency lighting performance is vital to ensuring life safety. Conflicting interpretations of emergency lighting regulations might easily result in an expensive delay in occupancy.
Therefore, the regulatory agencies demand tight compliance in the emergency lighting design and installation.
In total, there are five active regulatory agencies for safety. The Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) and the International Building Code (IBC) are the two most generally enforced rules for emergency egress lighting requirements.
NFPA 101 Section 7.9.2 and IBC 1008.3.4 and 1008.3.5 require a general performance requirement for emergency lightings.
According to NFPA and IBC, emergency lightings must emit at least one footcandle (10.8 lux) on average and at least 0.1 footcandle (1.1 lux) at any point along the egress path at floor level.
The emergency lightings must remain illuminated for not less than 90 minutes.
The level of illumination can drop to a minimum average of 0.6 foot-candle (6.5-lux) and 0.06 foot-candle (0.65-lux) at the end of the 90 minutes (1.5-hours).
NFPA 101 Section 18.104.22.168 requires emergency lighting systems should be Type 10, Class 1.5, Level 1 systems.
There is a concern with the brightness of the emergency lights. NFPA 101 Section 22.214.171.124.3 states that the maximum brightness at any location cannot be greater than 40 times the minimum illumination. By complying with this, it avoids overly bright and dark areas.
In addition, if a disruptive event happens, the emergency lighting systems must automatically illuminate the areas. Under NFPA 101 section 126.96.36.199, emergency lightings systems must be functional if a disruptive event happens.
Emergency generators during power outages power emergency lights. A well-maintained emergency generator can support emergency lights during disruptive events. The emergency generators shall be installed, tested, and inspected.
If you plan on using battery-operated emergency lights, NFPA recommends only using reliable types of rechargeable batteries. NFPA approves the batteries used in emergency lights under their NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.
There are corresponding violations given to buildings that do not comply with the safety code standards. Financial penalties are given based on the failure to meet specific standards imposed by the regulatory agencies.
A costly penalty is waiting for death in buildings due to negligence of compliance.
Regular reviews of the safety codes can help you avoid penalties. Your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can help you clear out any concerns.
What Rooms Need Emergency Lights?
The International Building Code (IBC) requires emergency lighting illumination in specific areas such as electrical rooms, fire command centers, fire pump rooms, and generator rooms with an area of greater than 300 sq ft.
Stairwells, aisles, hallways, and passageways also require emergency lightings.
Before buying the necessary safety equipment, you must take into consideration which areas need emergency lighting installation. The regulatory agencies indicate which areas and rooms need emergency lighting.
According to the International Building Code (IBC), utility rooms and enclosed areas such as electrical rooms, fire command centers, fire pump rooms, and generator rooms need emergency lighting. These are the specific areas not used for egress.
The regulatory agencies identified which areas to install the emergency and exit lightings:
- Rooms that are without windows not larger than a broom closet
- Aisles or corridors that lead to the exit of the building
- Ramps that lead to the exit of the building
- Escalators that lead to the exit of the building
- All exits that lead to a publicly accessible place
- Doors that have delayed-egress locks
- Doors with new sensor-release electrical locking system
Chapters 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 of the NFPA Life Safety Code 2018 edition exempt new or existing hotels and dormitories provided that the guest rooms or guest suites have a direct exit to the outside of the structure at the street or finished ground level.
When to Test the Emergency Lighting System?
NFPA requires the emergency lighting systems inspected and tested monthly and annually. Buildings are required to do a 30-second test every month and a 90-minute test every year. Emergency lighting system tests may take hours to administer.
You may find testing the emergency lighting system a hassle. NFPA 101 Section 7.9.3. requires that the emergency lighting system gets tested regardless of its power source. The purpose is to ensure that the emergency lighting system is functional in case of building hazards.
Emergency lighting system testing can be a challenge to various facilities. It may take hours to complete and depends on the size of the building.
The emergency lights can be between 7.5 and 20 feet from the floor. Due to the height, ladders will be in use.
There are three different options in doing an emergency lighting test that is approved by NFPA 110:
- Manual Testing – this is done by following the procedure written in emergency lighting system testing.
The Manual Testing method requires you to test the emergency lights for not less than 30-seconds monthly and 90 minutes annually. You must keep a record of the tests you have done.
- Self-test Method – is more convenient than the manual testing method. The self-testing/self-diagnostic battery-operated emergency lighting equipment performs the test.
Choosing the self-test method does not require you to test the emergency lighting system monthly or annually.
Even though the self-testing equipment can self-diagnose any issues, you still need to inspect the unit every 30 days. The purpose is to make sure that there is no damage and that it is fully functioning.
- The computer-based method – is the most advanced among the three. The computer-based method does not require you to inspect the unit every 30 days. The issues will be automatically generated and stored on the computer.
Whichever method you deem fit for your testing needs, following the standards imposed by the NFPA is the most important. There are risks that you may face if you fail to follow the emergency lighting systems test.
Other than doing the emergency lighting test, there are monthly and annual inspections you need:
- Monthly inspections include:
- Annual inspections include:
o Proper installation of the emergency lightings
o Examine the equipment for physical damage
o Perform a 30-second push test
o Examine lighted bulbs to verify they are pointing in the right direction
o Keep a record of monthly inspections
o Complete unit examination
o Complete a 90-minute battery and lighting system test
o Examine the battery’s condition, voltage, and manufacturer date
o Check for damages in lights
o Make sure that the charging circuit is operational. After the test, apply an emergency lighting test label
As a responsible hotel owner, you cannot ignore the safety codes. The requirements can be a challenge. Adhering to the standards can be very costly as well. Proper compliance saves you from facing financial penalties and loss of life.