The Emergency Lighting Maintenance Checklist

Posted On: December 22nd, 2021

If a fire breaks out, you can’t always guarantee that electrical power will be available. For people to escape a fire safely, they need to be able to see! The solution is emergency lighting.

But, how do you know your system is working? It needs to be tested and maintained regularly. What do you need to do? Well, you are about to find out as we run through the emergency lighting maintenance checklist.


What is Emergency Lighting?

Emergency lighting is an independently powered lighting system activated when mains power fails. Fires can sever normal electrical circuits, or it may be necessary to disconnect the mains system. Emergency lighting will provide illumination so people can safely egress a building or premises.

This is normally powered in one of two ways:

  • Via a battery system.
  • With a separate and independent emergency generator system.

Your emergency lighting system needs to be in perfect working order.

Here’s how you make sure that this is the case.


Emergency Lighting Maintenance Checklist

The rules relating to how and how often your emergency lighting should be maintained can be found in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) document 101: Life Safety Code. This document gives detailed instructions on fire protection systems, along with testing requirements.

The following items of the checklist can be found within.

Know Where needs to be Covered by Emergency Lighting

You’ll discover that most occupied buildings require emergency lighting, with a few exemptions on reading the code. The general areas that should be covered by emergency lighting according to the code include:

  • Exit access
  • Stairs
  • Aisles
  • Corridors
  • Ramps
  • Escalators
  • Passageways leading to an exit.

Know When Emergency Lighting Should Work

Do you know when your emergency lighting should activate? If not, then now is the time to check! Section states that emergency lighting must activate whenever:

  • The mains system fails due to either an internal or external power cut.
  • If fuses or circuit breakers are pulled.
  • If power is accidentally cut.

It is important to note that this aims to cover you, even if there is no fire. While it is improbable (and possibly unlucky) for a fire to break out amid a power cut, you will need to be covered at all times.

Plan Ahead

Depending on the type of test you perform, it may be necessary to temporarily cut the power. To avoid panic and prevent day-to-day activities from being unduly interrupted, it is best to plan your test and inform people that it will be taking place.

Monthly or Yearly Test?

NFPA 101 states that two types of recurrent tests must be performed on your emergency lighting system. There is an annual test and a monthly test. They are quite different, and various methods are used to test the system. Generally, here’s what you need to know:

Monthly Test

  • You should perform a visual inspection of the lights every 30 days.
  • The lighting system should be tested for a minimum of 30 seconds.
  • The emergency lighting system must work for the entire duration of the test.

Yearly Test

  • The emergency lighting system must remain operational for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • The lighting system must always provide a suitable illumination level during the above time.

Know Which Type of Test

There are actually three different types of tests, and this depends on the type of system you have installed. They are as follows:

  • Manual Testing of Emergency Lighting Systems – The usual format uses a button on a control panel. However, this can vary between different emergency lighting manufacturers.
  • Self-Testing of Emergency Lights – This is often the easiest system to maintain for testing. The system can perform an internal diagnostic check, and you will be alerted if any aspect of the system fails. However, it is important to note that these systems still require a 30-day check to ensure perfect operational performance.
  • Emergency Lighting Computer Tests – these tests are similar to self-testing. The main difference is that faults are automatically logged and recorded by a computer.

Do you know which type of test you are supposed to perform? If not, it might be time to seek expert guidance.

Bring a Stopwatch!

There may be a delay as the system switches from normal power to backup. How long should it take for the emergency lighting system to activate?

You may be surprised to learn that there is a time limit…

According to NFPA Life Safety Code 101, the system must switch within 10 seconds. So, when performing your test, be sure to time how long it takes.

Check Your Batteries!

If you are using a backup system powered by batteries, these also need to be checked. When were your batteries last checked? If you have inherited a system from a previous occupant, there is no guarantee that the batteries are good.

The batteries used in emergency lighting systems have to comply with specific regulations. These requirements are listed in NFPA 70.

Keep a Record

It isn’t enough to simply say that you have performed a test. You will need documented proof to comply with your local fire codes.

And there’s more.

You have to record everything. This includes when the test fails and when it is considered a success.



If the above sounds quite involved, that’s because it is. Inspecting and maintaining a fully functioning emergency lighting system is a continuous task that is of crucial importance. There is an easy way to ensure that your emergency lighting system is 100% functional. Employ the services of a professional fire protection company.

Fraker Fire Inc, located in Los Angeles, provides expert guidance and fire protection consultations. We can check your emergency lighting system, rectify faults and ensure you are in complete compliance with the fire codes in your area.

Contact Fraker Fire for more information.

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