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Published on
May 10th, 2021

What Are the Emergency Lighting Testing Requirements in NYC?

If your New York City property has emergency lighting, it’s essential to make sure it’s functioning properly at all times. This is true for apartment buildings, educational facilities, hotels, places of assembly, retail outlets, and other business structures. In this post, we explain the details of emergency lighting testing requirements in NYC, so you can be sure your exit and illumination fixtures work when you need them to.

What Is the Purpose of Emergency Lighting?

Illumination for urgent egress

Emergency lighting is intended to help occupants of your property exit when there is a fire or other urgent situation where staying inside the building would be hazardous. The right lighting lets people exit quickly. Clear exit lights prevent panicking. They also stop people from going in the wrong direction.

The lighting must perform two functions. First, exit signs and arrows should show tenants where doors are located to leave the building. Second, lighting must illuminate hallways, stairwells, and other public spaces, so occupants can see in the dark or in thick smoke.

This lighting must work for at least 90 minutes under emergency conditions, which usually entails a power outage (voluntary or involuntary). Your building may have emergency lighting wired to a backup generator, or it may have battery-powered lighting. Many buildings have a combination of both.

Equipment Inspection

A visual inspection of the equipment should include the following:

  • Ensuring fixtures were installed and mounted properly
  • Making sure the quantity and location of lights are correct
  • Evaluating the brightness of illumination to see if it is sufficient
  • Checking batteries and wiring to backup power, as needed

This is often a good time to also make sure your exterior lights are working properly for safety and security and to swap out old bulbs in public spaces for newer, more energy-efficient ones.

Why Do Some Properties Fail Their Emergency Light Tests or Inspections?

There are a number of reasons New York City properties fail emergency light tests, as well as their initial inspection, which happens when the emergency lighting is first installed. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons.

Not enough lights

Your property’s emergency light is not the place to try to save money. You must make sure there are enough lights so there are no gaps in coverage along the path to egress. There must be no more than 100 feet (or less, if the manufacturer so dictates) between signs. The illumination must be, at least, an average of two foot-candles (22 lux) at any point along the exit pathway, as measured with a light meter.

You must also place emergency lights in any areas where people need to exit; this doesn’t just include tenant units but staff areas as well, such as security offices and boiler rooms.

Lights mounted incorrectly

Your emergency lights may be considered incorrectly mounted for a number of different reasons. In some cases, the actual wiring has not been done properly, and in others, the entire fixture itself may not have been mounted securely to the wall.

The location of the lights matters too, as mentioned above. As well as not having enough signage to cover the designated space, the exit signs may be in the wrong spot. Signs need to be located at a variety of heights so they can be seen by adults, children, and those in wheelchairs.

Your emergency signs must be visible from all directions of travel. In most instances, this means placing them perpendicular to the wall or door, rather than flush with it.

Wrong size or the wrong color signage lettering

Different colors have been used for emergency signage over the years, including green and yellow. However, now signs may only use red lettering on a white background. The lettering must be illuminated, not painted on. This is true throughout all of New York state.

The lettering for your emergency exit signs must be in a clear uppercase sans serif font, so it’s easy to read. Letters must be made of one-inch-wide strokes and be eight inches tall. Each letter should be two inches wide, other than the letter “I.” Three-eighths inches of space should separate each letter.

Lights don’t meet the code for fire resistance

Your emergency lights and signs must meet basic fire resistance standards. The enclosures must be able to withstand a raging fire for at least two hours without melting or disintegrating.

Some or all lights don’t illuminate or remain illuminated

Naturally, if some or all of your lights don’t work or don’t stay on long enough, your test or inspection is a failure. This is often related to power supply (see below).

What Does Bolt Electric Do to Fix Emergency Lighting Failures?

If you’ve failed your initial emergency lighting inspection or have had problems with tests since then, we welcome the opportunity to help you fix the situation. Typically, this involves:

  • Installing or mounting lights and signs properly
  • Rewiring the lights for better or more consistent power supply
  • Adding lights or signs to make up for gaps
  • Helping property owners select emergency lights and signage that meet the requirements described above
  • Retesting to ensure the work we’ve done has fixed the problem

Are you having problems with the emergency lighting on your property? Are you unsure about how to install your lights in a new or renovated property? Don’t risk failing an inspection, or worse, having your lights not function during an emergency involving tenants. Call Bolt Electric today at 212-434-0098, or set up an appointment online.

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