Exit lights serve an important purpose – in the event of an emergency they light the way to safety. While exit lights are connected to a power source, they rely on battery operation during an emergency when the power may go out.
Batteries are one of the top reasons exit lights fail (check out the top 4 Exit Light Failures). Batteries in exit lights maintain their charge from the electrical power connection. Even rechargeable batteries will eventually stop working though, and batteries in exit lights need to be replaced every 2 years to ensure continued operation.
You won’t be able to tell that your batteries have died in the exit light, as we discussed, during normal operations the light functions from the electrical connection, not batteries. If you do not change your batteries on a regular basis you may be allowing your dead batteries to sit in the light which can cause additional problem. Old batteries can leak acid which will damage the exit light.
The charging unit in an exit light has the job of recharging the batteries, ensuring they are fully charged in the event of a power outage. If your batteries are dead, your exit light’s charging unit will continue to send that charge, working overtime trying to charge dead or dying batteries. Eventually, this will cause the charging unit to burn out. The required annual inspection will find this problem, and you will need to replace the exit light.
Not being proactive in changing batteries though means you are gambling that an inspection will occur before an emergency when the lights are needed to be in working order. Also, a charging unit that is overworked trying to charge dead batteries can be a fire hazard, so it is important to be proactive in changing your exit light batteries to prevent this hazard.
A1 recommends that you change your exit light batteries every 2 years as a preventive measure for outages and additional problems. Learn how to do your own monthly, visual inspection of exit lights here. This is required by OSHA and the NFPA Life Safety Code, and can help you to identify dead batteries or other issues that need to be addressed with your exit lights. A complete inspection and test of your exit lights must be performed annually by Your Life Safety Partner.
Regular maintenance and testing can only help your facility. As they say, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Your fire protection equipment may appear to function on the surface, but failing to check the working order will leave you in a world of hurt. Systems will break down unexpectedly, and you may even shorten the life of your systems altogether. Here are 6 elements to building safety that are often neglected.
- Fire Sprinklers: On the surface, your system may seem to be in full working order. Unfortunately, most of the serious threats to a sprinkler system happen within. Pipe corrosion and valve trouble are just two examples. Follow the NFPA guidelines for regular sprinkler inspection and maintenance for your facility.
- Blocked Equipment: Any blocked safety equipment is not compliant and is a hazard. Check your sprinklers, exit signs, emergency exits and any other safety system that could be obstructed.
- Old Batteries and Lights: Exit signs use light bulbs and back up batteries to function. Neglected signs can have old, leaky batteries or light bulb outages. These issues are not detectable without opening the apparatus. Check each exit light according to NFPA standards to prevent deficiencies. Another option is to install photoluminescent lights. You can read about them here.
- Smoke Detectors: Smoke detector sensitivity should be tested regularly as well. Detectors that are too sensitive will trigger nuisance alarms. Conversely, detectors that are not sensitive enough may not detect the presence of smoke and will put occupants in danger.
- Fire Doors: NFPA has recently placed more stringent requirements on fire doors. Fire doors must be evaluated to make sure they’ll close and block fire when they need to.
- Emergency Plans: Besides your safety systems, you need an emergency action plan. Who uses the extinguishers? How will people get out? These questions are important for everyone’s safety. Changes in building layouts, or operations can make a plan outdated. If you already have an emergency plan, review it regularly. Most importantly, keep occupants informed. Hold a training, distribute instructions, or have signs so everyone knows how to get out.
Facilities management is an incredibly involved process. Something always needs to be fixed. Taking care of these 6 safety items would keep you ahead of the curve with less risk.