Well-designed and strategically installed emergency lighting and signage are vital to ensuring occupants of a building can find their way out in the event of a fire or other emergency.



The Fire Services Act (1983-2003) and The Buildings Regulations (1997-2017) are the two key pieces of legislation that dictate what emergency lighting is necessary for buildings. The Fire Services Act specifies that whoever is in control of a building, whether that be an owner or current occupier, is responsible for the safety of the persons within the building itself. The Buildings Regulation’s performance code requires sufficient lighting to enable the navigation of escape routes safely.


In Ireland, the standard for emergency lighting systems is called: I.S. 321: 2013+A1:2017, or more simply “Emergency Lighting and Amendment 1:2017.” This standard mandates that the design, installation, and undertaking of an emergency lighting system are done so by a “competent person.”


However, in Ireland, there is currently no minimum qualification or training necessary to class oneself as an emergency lighting designer, though using an accredited professional body is recommended.


Emergency Escape Lighting

In the event of a failure of a building’s standard light systems, emergency lighting is required to clearly indicate available escape routes. These routes should be illuminated to the point of exit with fire alarm panels, call points and fire extinguishers, etc., along the way also clearly visible. The Emergency Lighting and Amendment 1:2017 specifies that escape routes 2m or less should be illuminated to 1 lux along the central band, with half the width of the corridor 0.5 lux.


Wider escape routes can be treated as a series of 2m “corridors” or considered as an open area where 0.5 lux of anti-panic lighting is necessary throughout. Anti-panic lighting is designed to reduce the chance of panic within individuals and instead enable the safe passage through a potentially hazardous environment.


Anti-panic lighting is necessary for areas 60m2 or smaller if additional hazards would be present, such as a large number of people. 


Emergency Exit Signs

In Ireland, emergency exit signs and lighting are subject to the standard statutory requirements. Namely:

  • Rectangular or square (S.I. 299 of 2007)

  • White pictogram on a green background (S.I. 299 of 2007)


Facilities managers can ensure continuity is attained throughout a building by using the following type of emergency exit signs:

  • Type 1 (I.S. EN 1838: 2013 and ISO 7010:2012+A7:2017)

  • Type 2 (I.S EN 1938: 1999 and ISO 7010:2003+A2:2007)


These standards ensure signs are readable from appropriate distances through sufficient lighting, and the pictograms used are widely understood with clear directives. Almost everyone recognizes these sorts of emergency signs and are recommended because of this. In the case of a fire or other emergency, familiarity with emergency signage can save lives.


For newer buildings, it is recommended that Type 1 emergency exit signs are used and that all non-graphical “Exit” signage be replaced to comply fully with legislation.


Placement of Emergency Exit Signs

When designing an emergency exit system, several things must be considered. 


This includes the building’s use. A building with a busy factory floor, for example, with machinery throughout, could be a potentially hazardous escape route in an emergency. Contrariwise, an office with clear, straight corridors offers ideal routes that can easily accommodate a safe escape route.


As well as the building’s use, facilities managers should also consider the following, all of which can affect the way an escape route is designed and used:

  • Building specific legislation

  • Evacuation strategies

  • Occupant familiarity with the building


The chief aim is to eliminate ambiguity and confusion of an escape route’s path. Strategic placement of exit signs is the primary way of achieving this. In short, make sure exit signs are always visible.


Emergency exit signs can be either externally or internally illuminated and must feature at the final point of exit, as well as along the route where it is deemed necessary to guide occupants along the route. Where the final exit point is not immediately visible on a route, a series of signs must be used to assist progression towards it. They must not be placed on doors or other aspects of a building that can be obstructed or moved out of the occupant’s line of sight.


The placement of emergency signs must ensure that an escape route or doorway to an escape route is visible within a room. If a route is not clear, emergency lighting should be used to assist in progression. If the maximum viewing distance of a sign is exceeded, an intermediate sign should also be installed.


Throughout a route, emergency exit signs should take precedence over other signage to prevent confusion. For example, an art gallery may have work that resembles or makes use of conflicting signage. In this case, if the true exit sign cannot be reasonably identified, the compromising artwork would need to be removed. Facilities managers would need to assess their buildings and look out for similar ambiguities that may adversely affect the directional information of the emergency exit signs.


Facilities managers should also consider the area immediately outside the final exit that leads to the assembly point. A risk assessment should be undertaken to determine if the area requires additional lighting or further signage to guide occupants.


Testing and Servicing

According to the requirements outlined in the Emergency Lighting and Amendment 1:2017, the following checks should be undertaken:


  • Logbooks should be checked to confirm repairs have been completed.

  • Central battery systems checked via indicators.

  • Automatic test systems checked via indicators.

  • Deficiencies should be recorded correctly in the logbook for rectification.


  • Visually check at least 25% of emergency lighting lamps are maintained.

  • Check the status LED of at least 25% of self-contained systems (green LED).

  • Replace any lamps if necessary.

  • Ensure 100% of the system is checked every 4 weeks.


  • Standalone systems should have a power failure simulated, using 30 minutes per 3 hours as a guideline. During this time, all lamps are illuminated by the end of the test period.


  • Central Battery systems that power emergency lighting should be checked to ensure that the automatic testing systems using the recommended procedure by the manufacturers.

  • For both, a report should be issued in accord with Annex C7 of the Emergency Lighting and Amendment 1:2017.


  • An annual certificate is issued if no defects are found.

  • Compliance guides are detailed in Annex D of the Emergency Lighting and Amendment 1:2017.


For further information, contact the expert team at www.sammin.ie