ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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New International Standard Illuminates Emergency Evacuation Routes

New York, Jun 12, 2006

A new International Standard released last month by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is expected to garner broad implementation and have far-reaching effects. The globally relevant standard specifies performance and safety requirements for automated test systems of emergency lighting escape systems—the devices that illuminate hallways and points of egress during a fire or other disaster.

The performance and dependability of these life-saving systems rely on routine testing and immediate action if system faults are detected. The standard’s developers believe that the standard will make the routine testing of these critical systems easier, more reliable, and more effective.

IEC 62034, Automatic Test Systems for Battery Powered Emergency Escape Lighting, encompasses the installation, operation and maintenance of automated test systems, setting functional requirements to ensure their optimal performance in detecting failures of an emergency lighting escape system. The standard specifies criteria for the duration of tests as well as the acceptable interval between system checks for various components of an emergency lighting system.

IEC 62034 also includes requirements to minimize risks to system infrastructure during the periods of test and subsequent recharge of the emergency light system’s battery. The standard recommends that long duration tests, which completely drain the system’s battery, be performed during periods of low risk, when buildings are unoccupied. IEC 62034 includes alternative provisions for testing the systems of hospitals, hotels, and other facilities that are occupied at all times. In such cases, two-thirds of a battery’s capacity can be tested and analyzed to determine if a battery is meeting acceptable levels of performance.

“You have to test alternative luminaries,” said Chris Watts, project leader of the IEC 62034 standard. “If you have a failure after you have run a test, you will at least have one luminaire in each compartment fully charged; that is an acceptable way of limiting the risk.”

IEC 62034, Mr. Watts says, will likely be implemented in many countries worldwide. The standard will find application in the United Kingdom this fall, when legislation requiring employers to regularly test emergency lighting systems will go into effect. Implementation of the standard is expected be further aided by European legislation, which requires the use of emergency lighting systems in European facilities, as well as in hotels internationally where European citizens vacation.

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