Emergency Escape & Anti-Panic lighting for use alongside directional signage and photoluminescence
From the perspective of a certified fire risk assessor the provision of (or lack of) correctly designed and appointed escape lighting is always a challenge, as it never seems to get the same appreciation as given to the provision of a fire alarm. Further compounded, is the almost total disregard for the use of photoluminescence as a part of the overall evacuation plan.
Appreciation of escape and anti-panic lighting especially in a residential or sleep in sites, are more important now than ever before, and the understanding of people’s habits and anticipated actions when asked to evacuate, is something that needs far more understanding.
Being able to use site specific emergency fittings with the relevant photometrics to validate what is required, is now an absolute must especially after the publication of the Hackitt Review; in order to be able to demonstrate competence and that the proposed is fit for purpose.
Added to this, is the almost forgotten science of using photoluminescence in support of (but not replacing) directional signage and escape lighting.
In most fire evacuation circumstances those needing to escape are looking at the floor or wall, NOT the ceiling or upper areas as that’s where the smoke is likely to be. Thus, the use of high-quality photoluminescence on the floors and stairwells is the best way of enhancing the evacuation plan, so that without having to do anything, evacuees attempting to get to a place of safety, can follow the arrows which are likely to be clearly visible when leading them out.
Emergency lighting has in the past been a casualty of budgets and where cheap low performance fittings were common place, and almost pointless as their capabilities were insufficient for the application. Poor non unified directional signage likewise causes confusion and a lack of clarity. Hence why, the compliance to BS 5266 and BS 5499 is a mandatory requirement of a building’s safety plan, and why additional support should be given with equal effort and investment to that of other life safety provision.
The fact that non-compliance issues are a mandatory disclosure issue to the clients’ buildings insurance provider, should focus the minds of those involved in this and other life safety works, to ensure the building has what is required through either a certified design or fire risk assessment.
Disability and special needs provision within commercial buildings also need to be considered for non-visual special needs issues, such as photosensitive epilepsy, vertigo and colour blindness, along with issues such as Autism and Asperger’s, where further discussions on the use circadian lighting may also be required.
The design elements must take into account what is required, and check the full take over report, as well as whether the dilapidation notes highlight what the deficiencies are, whilst stating identified issues, as well as the action plan to correct them.
Steve Dilloway Principal Veritas Fire Support Services GiFireE MIFSM & Tier 3 certified assessor.