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Emergency Lighting: The Basics

Emergency lighting is a really important part of fire safety and following the latest addition to our range of emergency lighting, the 1W Self Test LED Emergency Down Light, we thought we’d talk about the different types of emergency lights available to our customers in order to help you decide which is best for your application.

What Is Emergency Lighting?

Emergency lighting illuminates the way to safety in an emergency, such as during a fire alarm. It is usually only activated in the event of mains power failure in a building and emergency lighting units have internal battery packs to power them through the emergency situation (commonly up to 3 hours).

You can expect to find emergency lighting in public buildings, workplaces and the communal areas of high-occupancy residential buildings.

Are There Different Kinds?

Emergency lights all work on the same principals but, depending on your premises and how you want your lighting to operate, there are a few types to consider:


Non-maintained emergency lighting will only be activated in the event of a full power failure. This type of lighting cannot be used when the mains power is healthy. A battery pack will power this lighting in an emergency.


Maintained emergency lighting can be set to stay on constantly and will use the mains power in normal situations and battery power in an emergency. This can be useful for business owners who want to a multi-purpose lighting solution.


Sustained emergency lighting has two sets of lamps and is an evolution of non-maintained lighting. One set of lamps is powered by the mains, the other by batteries. During a power cut the mains powered set will go out and the battery powered set will light up.

Where Should It Be Used?

Emergency lighting is essential to allow people in distress to find their way out of a building.

Legislation relevant to your situation will tell you specifically where emergency lighting should be installed but generally it should cover:

  • exits (both internally and externally)
  • escape routes (inside and outside)
  • stairways and corridor intersections
  • windowless rooms and rest-rooms
  • fire alarm call points and fire-fighting equipment
  • lifts and changes in floor level

What’s On The Market?

There are various emergency lighting products on the market today and chances are you’ll need more than one type to fully equip your building.


Emergency bulkhead lighting is, as it sounds, a larger form of lighting. It is weatherproof, made of strong plastic and surface-mounted. We stock both maintained and non-maintained options.

Emergency light legends are available to purchase with this kind of lighting to convert the bulkhead to an emergency exit or direction sign.

Exit Signs

Emergency exit signs are illuminated signs. We have an option that comes with self-adhesive legends to create your own exit signs or pre-printed with a running man legend.


Recessed emergency lighting has a flush finish with the wall or ceiling and is a good option if you are concerned about aesthetics. We stock recessed fittings for bulkhead emergency lighting.

Again, emergency light legends can be used with this kind of fitting.


Emergency spotlights are very bright lights that shine light on a specific area. We stock twin- and tri-emergency spotlights.


LED emergency lighting is low-cost, low-energy and is fast becoming the emergency lighting option of choice.

We have maintained, non-maintained, retrofit and self-testing options.

Discount Fire Supplies sell a range of fire alarms, fire alarm accessories and much more. Browse our online shop or contact us for a quote today.

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