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Maintaining Exit Signs & Emergency Lights

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About Maintainance

Correctly selecting and properly installing all necessary exit signs and emergency lighting is not the end. Testing and maintenance are also required. Egress pathways need to be kept clear. Any clutter which can hide or impede the proper operation of exit signs and emergency lighting need to be removed. Equipment may have become physically damaged, over time batteries lose the ability to hold charge, and bulbs and lamps grower dimmer and finally stop working. Following NFPA guidelines, mandated in most states, will keep your fire safety equipment functioning as it is intended.


NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® 7.9.3 & 7.10.9 require that exit signs and emergency lighting systems be maintained according to the following:

  • visual inspection of the equipment once every 30 days
  • 30 second illumination test under battery-backup power performed once every 30 days
  • 90 minute illumination test under battery-backup power performed once every year
  • written records of visual inspections and tests to be kept for inspection by the authority having jurisdiction

Allowances are made for the types of testing capability that may be built into each unit:

  • 7.9.3.1.1 refers to equipment that needs to be "Manually Tested" (i.e. by pushing and holding down the "Test Button" on the unit)
  • 7.9.3.1.2 refers to equipment designated as "Self-Testing / Self-Diagnostic" (i.e. has built-in circuitry that can perform the 30 second monthly and 90 minute annual tests)
  • 7.9.3.1.3 refers to equipment designated as "Computer-based Self-Testing / Self-Diagnostic" (these advanced integrated systems allow testing to be controlled by computer)

Maintainance Tips

Visual Inspection -
  • Look for exposed or loose wiring (frayed wiring is itself a fire hazard and loose wiring can be accidentally snagged and lead to further damage). Any loose or exposed wiring should be secured.
  • Is the unit securely mounted to the wall or ceiling? If not, this could easily lead to further damage.
  • Look for cracks or blemishes in the housing. These could be considered cosmetic, but outdoor units with cracks may need to be replaced because of water seepage issues.
    [ Consider purchasing and installing protective guards & shields to protect your exit signs, emergency lights, and exit light combos from physical damage. ]

30 Second Battery Test -
  • "Manual Testing" - find the "push-to-test" button which is usually a distinctive red button. Depressing this button will interrupt AC power and engage the back-up battery. Exit signs should stay illuminated, and emergency lightings should turn on. Hold the button down for 30 seconds, noting that the illumination also stays on for the full 30 seconds.For facilities with large number of units, consider investing in "Self-Testing / Self-Diagnostic" exit signs and emergency lights.
  • "Self-Testing / Self-Diagnostic" - This Self-Testing / Self-Diagnostic Exit Signequipment has a "push-to-test" button and a diagnostic LED which illuminates to convey test results. While the actual self-test process may vary based on manufacturer and model, the following example shows how this feature works in general. Find the "push-to-test" button and push the button twice to activate the 30 second test. Leave, do something else and come back. Examine the LED telltale. Steady Green indicates normal service, while red (steady, double-blink, or triple-blink) indicates a failure of some sort. Press the test switch button again (once) to reset. (In addition to the above manual test process, these units can be set up to automatically perform a 30 second battery self-test once every 30 days).
  • "Computer-based Self-Testing /Self-Diagnostic" - All testing is triggered and tracked via computer.
    [ The Exit Light Company does not carry this type of equipment at this time. ]

90 Minute Battery Test -
  • "Manual Testing" - Same as above, except a clamp of some sort is recommended to depress the button for the full 90 minute test. The Exit Light Company sells a patented testing clamp that is specifically designed to fit all standard exit signs and emergency lights. Call us at (877) 352-3948 for details.
  • "Self-Testing / Self-Diagnostic" - Same as above, except depress the "push-to-test" button 4 times to activate 90 minute testing. (In addition to the above manual test process, these units can be set up to automatically perform a 90 minute self-test twice every year).
  • "Computer-based Self-Testing /Self-Diagnostic" - Same as above.

After Testing

Now is the time to evaluate repairing or upgrading versus replacing. For units that are in need of repair, The Exit Light Company carries a full line of replacement batteries, bulbs & lamps, as well as energy-efficient LED retrofit kits to upgrade older style exit signs with incandescent bulbs. The Exit Light Company also carries extremely modern, energy-efficient, cost effective exit signs, combos, or emergency lights.

Best Practices Tip: When evaluating cost of ownership, don't forget to consider self-testing / self-diagnostic exit signs and emergency lights for reduced maintenance time, and power-free exit signs which require no wiring and use no AC for zero energy costs.


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