Lighting the way to safety

Testing for a clear way out

By Morand Fachot

The timely evacuation of buildings in case of fire, smoke or other hazard, is an essential part of safety in the work, commercial or residential environment. Maintaining visibility so that occupants of a building can find their way out in such cases is essential; this is the task entrusted to emergency lighting systems. Ensuring they operate properly when required is crucial; the latest version of one IEC International Standard sets conditions for automatic test systems for one such type of device.

Emergency light (Photo: Flash Point Fire Protection) Emergency light (Photo: Flash Point Fire Protection)

Standard and required equipment

Emergency lighting systems are battery-powered safety devices that come on automatically when a building experiences a power outage. They are standard and required equipment in commercial, office and high-occupancy residential buildings. They are essential for providing light and directions and to signpost escape routes in the case of emergencies or fires, where there is darkness, in unlit or poorly-lit places or when there is smoke around.

SC (Subcommittee) 34D: Luminaires, of TC (Technical Committee) 34: Lamps and related equipment, has released the second edition of IEC 62034, Automatic test systems for battery powered emergency escape lighting as an FDIS (Final Draft International Standard). This edition constitutes a technical revision from the first edition published in 2006.

Manual or automatic testing

As emergency lighting systems are safety-related products, their correct performance can only be assured by systematic testing and maintenance. Conventional techniques for testing rely on manual testing procedures and as such are highly susceptible to oversight or neglect.

These limitations can be overcome by automating the testing process and installing ATS (automatic test systems). It is essential that ATS for emergency luminaires (light fittings) should schedule tests reliably and provide timely notification of failures or degradation of performance. The objective of IEC 62034 is to ensure this is the case. However, test facilities that rely on manual initiation and/or visual inspection of the lamp condition are not covered by the standard.

ATS requirements and tests

IEC 62034 defines ATS requirements and various aspects of the tests, such as their duration and the recording of results. It also covers requirements for premises that may be occupied during test and recharge periods.

ATS still require manual intervention to correct faults when they are identified, and procedures should be put in place for such intervention. These systems provide information to assist users to manage risk on their premises. They will provide them with information enabling them to ensure that the installed luminaires operate correctly when required.

ATS for emergency escape lighting assist building operators by showing the results of tests that will have been made at prescribed intervals, without disrupting any other electrical services. It is essential that the notification of any failures or reduction in performance be given at the earliest opportunity to enable the emergency escape system to be restored to full operating condition.

IEC 62034 specifies the basic performance and safety requirements for individual products and components that are incorporated into ATS for use with emergency lighting systems on supply voltages not exceeding 1000 V. It also specifies the required functionality of a complete ATS for an emergency lighting system. It is applicable to test systems consisting of a number of emergency lighting self-contained luminaires or a central battery with associated emergency lighting luminaires.

Emergency lighting systems being complex units, IEC 62034 is not the only International Standard for this kind of device; work also continues on revising existing standards and preparing new ones. SC 34D is currently updating IEC 60598-2-22, Luminaires - Part 2-22: Particular requirements - Luminaires for emergency, and SC 34C has just published the third edition of IEC 61347-2-7, Lamp controlgear: Particular requirements for battery supplied electronic controlgear for emergency lighting.

Changes and availability

The main changes in this second edition of IEC 62034 essentially concern the monitoring of the timing circuit, as ATS types have changed; communication, component and software failures; functional and duration tests and timing accuracy.

IEC 62034 in its final form will be available for sale in the first quarter of 2012.

Emergency light (Photo: Flash Point Fire Protection) Emergency light (Photo: Flash Point Fire Protection)
Luminous emergency exit sign Luminous emergency exit sign
IEC compliant emergency light batteries IEC compliant emergency light batteries