Preparing for emergencies is rarely much fun, but it’s something that needs to be done. Let’s discuss some of these issues.
For those of you who live in a large multi-unit building, there are likely to be emergency lights in the common area hallways and stairwells. These are designed so that if the building loses primary power from the utility then these lights will come on to illuminate the path for you to leave the building safely.
This is a typical emergency light with newer LED bulbs. The test button is on the bottom.
There’s a battery inside each light unit. This battery should be able to power the light for at least 90 minutes (reference: International Fire Code section 1006.3). But eventually the battery will go bad and need to be replaced. And sometimes the light bulbs go bad (this is obviously not so much of a problem with the newer units with LED lights).
So these emergency lights should be tested every so often. There will always be a test button on emergency lights, but its location will vary so you might have to look for it. In larger buildings testing these lights should be done on a routine basis by the folks who manage the building. This might not be done in smaller buildings, so it might be up to you to test the lights. I will generally test the lights near a unit I’m inspecting, although sometimes they’re too high up to reach without a ladder.
And of course a bad emergency light needs to be fixed to assure that in a power-failure emergency you can see well enough to safely get out of the building. Sometimes it just needs a new battery, or new bulbs. But sometimes the whole unit needs to be replaced.
In these larger building there should also be exit signs, so that you know where to go to get out of the building. Sometimes the exit light has emergency lights built
into it, as in this example, and sometimes the exit sign stands alone. Exit signs should always be illuminated, 24 hours a day, every day. So if you see an exit sign that’s not lit up it needs to be fixed.
If your building has fire extinguishers then they need to be serviced once a year. A licensed technician will come and do a visual inspection, and confirm that the fire extinguisher is in good condition and hasn’t been discharged. Then a tag with the year and month is attached to the fire extinguisher. So you should occasionally check this tag to make sure that the service has been done within the last year.
We all hope that we aren’t faced with an emergency requiring emergency lights, exit signs, and fire extinguishers. But a little preparation ahead of time could make a huge difference if something bad happens. Please be prepared.