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Emergency Lights, Exit Signs, Stairs Signs

These lighting systems are designed to provide residents with illumination and directional information in the case of emergency, such as a power failure or urgent evacuation. A working emergency lighting system is a requirement of Chicago code, an OSHA requirement and an NFPA Life Safety Code requirement.

Similar to fire extinguishers, failing to maintain these systems can expose a Board of Directors or commercial property owner to significant legal risk. The types of emergency lighting units available and the associated maintenance requirements are discussed on this page.

Emergency Lights

Exit & Stairs Signs

Emergency lighting units are designed solely to provide illumination in the case of a loss of power. These units are automatically activated when a loss of electricity is detected. The headlamps, which run off of battery power, provide critical lighting so that residents can see and safely exit the building.
Exit and Stairs signs provide residents with directional information to safely exit the building. These signs should be illuminated at all times by internal light bulbs. If the building's power is functional, the unit's AC powered bulbs provide lighting for the sign. If the electricity is lost, the unit's internal battery backup will automatically activate the unit's DC powered bulbs.
The Municipal Code of Chicago requires that all emergency lighting units meet specific structural guidelines. Units installed in buildings must be "Chicago Approved".

Maintenance & Certification Requirements

The legal servicing requirements are the same for emergency light units and exit signs. Since these units utilize a battery backup system to provide illumination in the case of a power outage, each must be fully tested on a regular basis. This testing helps to ensure that the unit will function correctly if an emergency occurs.

We track and monitor the required service dates for our clients' emergency lighting systems. When servicing is due, we pro-actively contact the client to schedule a convenient time for our technician to visit the property and perform the required servicing. (We service all of the building's fire safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, during the same annual service visit.) The servicing steps are below.

Annual Maintenance - Each year our technician will perform the following:

  • 90-Minute Load Test: test to ensure battery can carry a full load for a minimum of 90 minutes.
  • Battery Charging System Test: test to ensure the fixture’s charging system is properly charging the battery.
  • Battery Voltage Test: battery output is tested for proper voltage.
  • Examination of Leads and Terminals: ensures proper connections.
  • Lamp Check: each light is checked for physical damage.
  • Alignment: beam of each light is checked and adjusted for proper alignment.
  • Power and Bulbs: AC and bulbs are tested, replacement of bulbs performed if necessary.
  • Cleaning: clean the unit to maintain appearance and extend fixture life. 
  • Replacement: replacement of faulty units (only as needed).
  • Testing Label: units passing inspection will be certified and a testing label will be attached.
  • Inventory Report: results of all testing and equipment compliance recorded in a report that is provided to the customer, uploaded to the Fire Safety Portal, and maintained on file.
    In Chicago, this detailed service record must be prepared and retained for 10 years.
Chicago Code The annual 90-minute load test is a legal requirement that must be performed on all units. The history of all testing should be recorded and maintained in a secure, offsite location such as our Fire Safety Portal.

Determining if existing equipment is “up to date”

After a technician has performed the annual servicing of an emergency lighting unit, he or she will apply a certification label to the side of the unit. Similar to the certification tags used for fire extinguishers, the technician will “punch” the month, year and type of service performed on the label. The company and technician details will also be listed. The label is good for one year from the service date listed.


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