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How emergency lighting could revolutionise fire safety

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How emergency lighting could revolutionise fire safety

Emergency lighting is seen as a requirement for most businesses, but its implementation is spotty, and usage scenarios vary.

With lighting only enforced in areas and escape routes where existing illumination is not sufficient, it’s easy for emergency lighting solutions to fall by the wayside, and either be ignored or implemented in a basic fashion as supplementary to other systems.

New technologies however could see a reappraisal of emergency lighting, as well as other means of safely escaping from a facility. Intelligent, networked solutions using the Internet of Things could allow us to track the conditions in a facility with greater specificity, calculating a response that’s more dynamic and safer for everyone involved. (Read More)


Current technologies

Photoluminescent fire escape signage is considered a failsafe solution, with a long shelf life and no maintenance requirement. But while they are important waypoints, they can be easily compromised. As well as being obscured by smoke in the event of a fire, they may also not charge properly in low-light conditions, impairing their effectiveness.

Open area lighting tends to take the form of a subsystem which kicks in after a loss of mains power, with lights operating autonomously. While this is more effective in illuminating a space and reducing panic - the lights should engage within five seconds of an outage - it provides no guidance during a fire situation. As it does not engage until needed, it confers no benefits of its own, only supporting the existing lighting system.

New solutions

You may have heard the term Internet of Things (IoT) in relation to internet-connected fridges or televisions, but the definition is a bit more broad. It’s now used to refer to low power, internet-connected devices which record specific data, and send it to be interpreted. For a facility, this could include temperatures, smoke and particulates, visual feeds and more.

Lighting is integral to this new IoT strategy. In coordination with a central building management system (BMS) or a more local control panel, sensors could control the response of lighting and other systems based on the progress of the fire, and the conditions in the facility. This intelligent, flexible system would still have failsafes and baselines to ensure reliability, but could also make smart decisions remotely, without putting personnel at risk.

Lighting the way

An IoT enabled ‘smart lighting’ system could adapt itself to different emergency scenarios, directing individuals out via the safest possible route based on information from dozens of sensors. By linking up with a BMS, data from temperature and smoke sensors or visual feeds could be used to dynamically generate the safest route of egress.

This is where the emergency lighting comes in. Lights could not only adapt to the circumstances - increasing luminosity in a smoky corridor, for example - but also light the way. Having sensed where people are within a building, floor lights or smart signage could illuminate to guide people down a specific path. This would solve the issue of panic clouding judgement, as well as any lack of preparation in regards to an escape plan or knowledge of the layout of the facility.

IoT-enabled emergency lights can last for up to ten years, but they are also valuable for diagnostics. By automatically monitoring their maintenance and usage, a BMS can predict when maintenance is required through usage time, rather than the number of days it’s been installed. This both saves money and ensures an equivalent or greater level of safety. While IoT lighting is some distance from wide implementation, the future of fire safety is very bright indeed.

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