Lighting the Way – What You Need to Know About Emergency Lighting

Why is emergency lighting necessary?

Eden Bulkhead Emergency Lighting
LED Emergency Lighting Bulkhead – Eden

As the responsible person it is your legal obligation to ensure that adequate emergency lighting is installed across all the escape routes and exits from every area of the building with a minimum backup duration of between 1 and 3 hours. Emergency lighting is essential to light escapes routes for emergency evacuations when normal mains-powered lighting fails.

There are different types of emergency lights, some function as a normal light and others function only as an emergency light source. As a     starting point you should know what type of emergency light you want to install for example; do you want a maintained emergency light (stays on constantly) or a non-maintained emergency light (illuminates only in the event of a mains power failure)?

Your emergency lighting requirements

Jalite photoluminescent fire exit signs
Jalite photoluminescent fire exit signs

When deciding where to install emergency lighting, take into account any hazards that there may be along the evacuation route, such as corners, stairways or uneven flooring. You must also ensure that fire alarm call points and equipment used for firefighting, such as extinguishers or fire blankets, are adequately illuminated to be easily seen or located. Some areas will require continued operation (e.g. a chemical processing room, operation theatre etc); higher continued lighting requirements must be considered in these areas. A sub-category of emergency lighting are fire exit signs, which are green ‘running man’ signs with arrows that guide people towards the nearest exits. These are either internally lit in the same fashion as space emergency lighting or, in case sufficient other emergency lights are available, they can be photoluminescent. Such ‘glow-in-the-dark signs store energy from either natural or artificial light and releases this stored energy when the light source is no longer there, emitting a yellow/green glow to illuminate the text on the sign.

You should refer to your fire risk assessment to ensure that you have covered all the essential fire escape routes and addressed any hazards on your site that were highlighted in this assessment. It is a legal requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment and you should refresh this assessment if the activities within your premises change or if significant changes to the layout are made. You can find authoritative guidance in the government's fire risk assessment guides.

Testing and maintenance

As with all fire safety equipment, regular testing of your emergency lighting must be carried out to ensure that it is working correctly. You should test that the lights are triggered when the mains supply is cut, and also that all the lights are illuminated as they should be. This can be done with the use of a fish key. You will need to test your lighting once a month and ensure that a full discharge test is carried once a year. Log the results as any other fire safety equipment tests in your fire safety logbook.

If you would like to know more about emergency lighting our emergency lighting guides can provide you with useful information.

Buy emergency lights

Visit our emergency lights and signs section to view our full range of emergency lighting products.

CO Detectors and ‘False Alarms’

CO detectors, or carbon monoxide alarms, are essential for the detection of a deadly gas, carbon monoxide (CO). This gas cannot be seen, tasted or smelt and is only detected with the use of co detectors. It is produced through the incomplete combustion of fuel, such as gas, wood, coal and oil.

Before we go on to look at carbon monoxide detector false alarms here is some advice on what you should do if your alarm goes off.

What to do when your CO detector goes off

If your CO detector goes off do not assume that it is a false alarm, remember carbon monoxide can’t be seen, tasted or smelt. You should assume that there is CO present and should follow these steps to ensure your safety.

  • Stay calm, open doors and windows to increase ventilation
  • Where safe to do so, turn off any fuel-burning appliance
  • Leave the premises and notify other occupants of the potential carbon monoxide leak (you should also notify any occupant of premises adjoined to your home as CO can seep through walls and floors
  • Call Gas Emergency Services 0800 111 999 or a local Gas Safe Registered Engineer to check for the source of carbon monoxide
  • Get medical help for anyone suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

Persistent Headaches

Having persistent dull headaches and tension type headaches.

Dizziness

Having waves of dizziness or feeling light headed and off balance.

Nausea / Vomiting

Feeling like you need to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting).

Stomach Pains

Pains in your stomach or lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.

Difficulty Breathing

Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnoea).

Tiredness

Having no energy or feeling tired, sleepy, lethargic and sluggish.

Sudden Collapse

Sudden collapse, seizures or loss of consciousness.

Confusion

Confusion, difficulty concentrating and becoming easily irritated.

Carbon monoxide false alarms

A false alarm is when your CO detector alarms and where no carbon monoxide is detected by your engineer. There could be several reasons for this:

  • The carbon monoxide detected did not come from your own appliances but may have seeped through the walls or floor from a neighbour. Check if your neighbours have fuel-burning appliances that might emit carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide might escape from chimney stacks allowing carbon monoxide to enter your premises via a joint loft space.
  • The replace-by date may have been exceeded. CO alarms become erratic once expired. This is the most common reason for false alarms.
  • Excessive moisture from a bathroom may set off your CO alarm. CO alarms should not be installed in areas with excessive steam.
  • Lead acid battery chargers produce hydrogen gas which sets off CO detectors. Keep this in mind if you are charging your caravan/boat battery at home.
  • Freshly screeded floors emit a gas that sets off carbon monoxide alarms.
  • The carbon monoxide alarm that you have installed may not be suitable for the type of premises, for example if it is installed in a caravan, tent, boat or living quarters of a horsebox you will need to ensure that your alarm is Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2. Alarms tested to BS EN50291-1 are only for use in home environments and are not suitable for camping and caravanning.
  • On rare occasions if here is a heavy smoker in a room that is poorly ventilated the CO from smoking may trigger an alarm.
  • Homes that are adjacent to very busy roads may experience higher levels of CO in the home when windows are open as traffic fumes may enter the room and set your alarm off.
  • The sound that your alarm is making may not be the alarm sound to alert you that there are dangerous levels of CO present. Most alarms have several audible sounds to indicate things such as low battery warning or that there is a fault with the alarm. When you install an alarm read the user manual and get to know what the different sounds indicate. Keep the manual safe so that you can refer to it should the alarm go off.

Buying a CO detector

You should have a carbon monoxide detector in every room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance. Only chose CO detectors that have met the rigorous testing standards of the European standard EN50291. That way you will have peace of mind that this vital alarm has been manufactured and tested to the highest standards.

If you are looking for a CO detector that you can also take on holiday, for caravanning, camping or using on a boat look out for ones that are Kitemarked to BS EN50291-2. The only other consideration is if you would like a detector that gives you a visual display of CO levels.

Digital Carbon Monoxide Alarm - Kidde 7DCO
  • FREE delivery
  • Product Life: 10 years
  • Battery: replaceable AA alkaline batteries included
  • Warranty: 10 year warranty
  • Displays CO levels from 10ppm
  • Peak Level Memory - recalls highest CO levels
  • Ideal for domestic use and camping, caravans & boats
  • Kitemarked to BS EN50291-1 and BS EN50291-2
£16.91 inc VAT
£14.09 ex VAT
Buy Now
                                        

If you are unsure if you have the correct carbon monoxide alarm installed our customer care team are here to help. You can call them on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Marketing Manager

Angie has been our marketing manager since joining in 2002. She also has a keen interest in H&S issues.

Smoke Alarms That Beep in the Night – A New Help Guide

Smoke alarm keeping you awake? Whether you have a mains powered, interlinked smoke alarm or a battery powered smoke alarm, follow our guidance below to troubleshoot the beeping.

What sound is your alarm making?

Alarm is sounding continuously

  • First check there is no smoke or fire in your property
  • Make sure the beeping is definitely coming from your smoke alarm. Other alarms in the property such as a carbon monoxide alarm or burglar alarm could be responsible for the noise.
  • Clean the alarm if it is dusty or dirty. Vacuum around the alarm or use a hairdryer to blow out dust on a cool setting.
Replace by date on the back of a smoke alarm
Replace by date on back of smoke alarm
  • Check the replace by or manufacture date on your alarm. Smoke alarms usually last for a maximum of 10 years, so if the manufacturing date is approaching 10 years or more than 10 years, it’s time to get a new alarm. Sensors inside the alarm deteriorate after this time causing the alarm to be less effective.
  • Check the position of your alarm. There are different types of smoke alarm suitable for specific locations in your home. Find out more below about positioning your alarm.
  • Your smoke alarm may be damaged or have developed a fault. Exposure to water, fire, grease and certain types of paint can cause a fault to develop.

Alarm is beeping intermittently

  • Replace the battery* in your smoke alarm. Ensure you are using the correct battery type and are inserting it the correct way around. If the battery is low, it is more likely to sound at night as a drop in room temperature can impact the battery’s ability to power the alarm.
  • Check the manufacture date on your alarm. Smoke alarms usually last for a maximum of 10 years, so if the manufacturing date is approaching 10 years or more than 10 years, it’s time to get a new alarm. Sensors inside the alarm deteriorate after this time causing the alarm to be less effective.
  • Your smoke alarm may be damaged or have developed a fault. Exposure to water, fire, grease and certain types of paint can cause a fault to develop.

* All new or recently extended homes should have mains powered, interlinked alarms fitted which also have a back-up battery. Intermittent chirping in mains-powered alarms is often caused by low power in the back-up battery.

What to do next

Suspect a fault?

If you suspect your smoke alarm has developed a fault, replace it as soon as possible. If you bought your alarm from Safelincs, you may be covered by warranty as all of our alarms have a minimum guarantee of 5 years. If you need a new smoke alarm, browse our range of battery smoke alarms or mains powered alarms.

Need replacement batteries?

Smoke alarms usually require either Alkaline AA batteries, an Alkaline 9V battery or a Lithium 9V battery. Buy replacement batteries for your smoke alarm as soon as possible.

Mains powered smoke alarm need replacing?

Whether your smoke alarm is mains powered or battery powered, it should be replaced after 10 years due to a deterioration of the sensors. Battery alarms are easily changed and installed, but how do you replace a mains powered alarm? Most mains powered alarms can be replaced without the need for an electrician if you purchase an Easichange® replacement head.

Replace BRK 600 or 700 series Smoke Alarm
Help with a Ei / Aico mains powered Smoke or Heat Alarm

Discontinued alarm need replacing?

If you need to purchase a replacement alarm, but find that your existing model has been discontinued, you can check our replacement models guide to find the closest match.

Smoke alarm positioned correctly?

The type of sensor an alarm has determines where it should be positioned in the home. False alarms may be due to the wrong alarm type being used in or near a steamy, dusty or smoky environment.

  • Heat alarms are more suited to areas such as the kitchen or garage that are often smoky or dusty. Other types of sensors would be prone to false alarms in these areas.
  • Optical smoke alarms are ideal for bedrooms, living rooms and ground floor hallways.
  • Ionisation smoke alarms are ideal for use on landings, but will be prone to false alarms if located near a kitchen.

To avoid causing false alarms or affecting the performance of an alarm, it is good practice to avoid installing alarms in the following locations:

  • Next to a door, window, air vent or fan that would create a draft
  • Outside
  • Anywhere that airflow would be obstructed by curtains or furniture
  • Locations that are steamy or humid such as a shower room

Find out more about positioning your smoke alarm in your home or take a look at our help guides for more information about types of alarm sensor.

Always ensure you act as quickly as possible to change or replace a defective smoke alarm or you could be endangering lives. If you require any further assistance, contact our customer service team on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

Fire door – Keep shut! Compliance in residential blocks

Fire doors; why are they important in flats?

Fire doors save lives: Flats that open out into communal areas are legally required to have front doors that can withstand fire for at least 30 minutes. If a fire breaks out in one of the flats, the fire door will stop the fire and smoke from spreading to communal areas and corridors, allowing residents to escape the building safely. To ensure they are effective, as the responsible person, you also have a legal responsibility to make sure all fire doors are in good working order and that fire door compliance in your building is not compromised.

Is fire door compliance at risk due to the behaviour of residents?

Example of Fire Door Keep Shut sign

Keeping fire doors closed: It goes without saying that a fire door will only do its job to contain a fire and smoke if it is closed. Fire doors should always be fitted with a door closer to ensure that the door automatically closes whenever it is used. Resident’s behaviour and a lack of understanding of the function and importance of fire doors can mean that in practice the effectiveness of fire doors is in jeopardy.

Fire doors, due to their heavy construction and their door closer, may pose a particular problem for disabled residents, those with impaired mobility or elderly people. In these circumstances, fire doors can seem impractical and a barrier to free movement. Where fire doors have been fitted as an entrance door to a flat a tenant may therefore try to find a solution that will enable them to open their flat entrance door with more ease. Common misuse of fire doors in this way involves doors being wedged or propped open for convenience, or fire door closers being disengaged.

However inconvenient or impractical, without effective fire doors in all parts of the building, everyone’s fire safety is compromised and as the responsible person you may be liable for prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Educating residents of the importance of keeping fire doors shut can be a real challenge. Especially if tenants change frequently. Displaying information in communal areas and ensuring that tenants have been made aware of fire safety procedures can be helpful but even with this awareness you can not be certain that residents will not tamper with the automatic closing action of a fire door.

How can fire doors be legally held open without compromising their effectiveness in a fire?

Install free-swing door closers such as the Freedor Smartsound Door Closer. This clever device allows the fire door to swing freely as a normal door would. But, when it ‘hears’ the fire alarm sound, it functions as a normal door closer and closes the door automatically. The Freedor SmartSound can also be used to fix or ‘retain’ the door in an open position, releasing it when the alarm sounds. The Freedor is easy to install on existing doors and as it is battery operated it requires no wiring by an electrician.

In communal areas Dorgard Fire Door Retainers are an effective solution. The retainer will hold the door open in a fixed position, giving easy access in corridors or shared spaces. It will release the fire door when it hears the fire alarm. It is a legal solution for your access problems without compromising fire safety.

What else should be done to ensure fire door compliance is maintained?

Carry out quick visual checks and ensure that your fire doors are inspected by a trained person on a regular basis. Visually checking the fire doors in your building on a regular basis could highlight any issues at the earliest opportunity. You should look out for the following things:

  • Is the automatic overhead door closer or free-swing door closer in good working order? Automatic door closers should close the door shut when released.
  • Are the fire seals around the door free from damage and securely fitted? Fire seals or intumescent strips should sit snuggly in the door frame or in a groove around the edges of the door. They expand during a fire to stop flames and smoke spreading through the gaps. They are a legal requirement for the front door of any flat that leads to a communal area.
  • Does the fire door close properly? The door should fit well into the frame with no large gaps and should close fully. Using a Fire Door Gap Gauge will help to effectively measure any gaps and ensure they are within the required limits.

Safelincs offers an in-depth inspection of your fire doors. Our BRE certified inspectors ensure all fire doors throughout your building remain fit for purpose and will make recommendations of any further action that should be taken. Any further necessary remedial work on the fire doors can be carried out by our certified engineers if required.