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How to Test Emergency Lighting

Emergency Light Test

Testing Your Emergency Lighting

Understanding how to test emergency lighting should be an integral part of any business’ fire safety strategy. But knowing that you should test your emergency lighting is a very different thing to knowing how to do it. This short guide should help.

Using a test key

In most instances, your emergency lighting will be wired into the same circuit as your building’s main lights. This is because you need the emergency backup to trigger as soon as there is any interruption to your main lighting source. This means that your emergency lighting should be connected to a test key switch for easy assessment. If this is the case, you simply need to follow these testing steps:

  1. Insert the test key and cut the power to the lights. This should hopefully cause the emergency lighting to illuminate.
  2. After the requisite time has elapsed, walk your complete emergency lighting route, checking that all lights are working correctly.
  3. Reset the lights and check that the charge indicator is once again illuminated.
  4. Record the results in your fire safety logbook.

Using a circuit box

Occasionally, emergency lighting is installed without a test key switch. In this instance, you would need to isolate your emergency lighting using the electrical circuit box, then follow steps two to four. This is not a good idea unless you know what you’re doing. In most cases, the switch relating to the emergency lighting will be clearly labelled. But if in doubt, contact a qualified electrician. Cost saving is not worth the risk of electrocution.

Using a central battery system

Some emergency lights use a central battery system. In this case, you will need to cut the power from the battery, then proceed with steps two to four above. Taking care to test your entire emergency lighting system each time, to ensure that the battery is able to handle a full building event.

test emergency lighting

Should all emergency lighting be tested at once?

You should test all emergency lighting within the premises on a monthly basis. It may more practical to stagger testing in larger premises to limit inconvenience.

How long should emergency lighting be tested for?

There are three testing periods for emergency lights. Short, functional tests should take place on a monthly basis, according to British Standards EN 50172:2004/5266-8:2004. These functional tests should be replaced by longer, 10 minute tests every three months. While in-depth, three hour emergency lighting tests should be performed annually.

When should emergency lighting be tested?

In most instances, it’s a good idea to test your emergency lights either after hours, or right at the end of the working day. Because testing your lights – particularly the annual, three hour test – can impact the subsequent performance of your lights for several hours after testing. If your business is always occupied, then it makes sense to test emergency lighting in the early morning. That way, if a fire does break out, natural light will help guide occupants from the building.


All UK businesses are required to have sufficient emergency lighting in place. It’s one of the best ways to ensure the safe evacuation of all occupants in the event of a fire. But emergency lighting is worth nothing if it doesn’t work. So, it’s vital that you keep on top of testing.

1st Class Fire Protection is an industry-leading fire protection company serving customers throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, and the surrounding areas of Cambridgeshire. If you’re looking for fire safety advice, or want to ensure your emergency lighting is working and to the latest government guidelines, then get in touch today. Our experienced team of engineers can help your business stay protected.

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