Battery Powered Emergency Lights

Q: NFPA 101-2012, section 7.9.3 requires 1½-hour testing of battery powered emergency lights annually. The Joint Commissions wording of EC.02.05.07 EP-2 states to do that OR the hospital replaces all batteries every 12 months and performs a random test of 10% of all batteries for 1½-hours. Because NFPA 101 does not give that second option, can we really do that (the second option) and be compliant? We’ve felt it’s easier to replace the batteries annually and test a random 10% during that time period than to test all of the over 100 battery powered emergency lights we have. Secondly, NFPA 101-2012, section 7.9.3 does not mention egress vs. task battery powered emergency lighting. Seeing it is located in chapter 7 ‘Means of Egress’, is it implied it only means battery powered emergency lights used for egress? Joint Commission specifically says egress lighting. Several of our battery powered emergency lights are task lights and this would allow us to cut down on monthly and annual testing. Do we need to be as stringent on task lighting as we are on egress lighting to remain compliant?

A: First of all, Joint Commission dropped the option of replacing the batteries and testing 10% of the battery powered emergency lights, in the 2018 CAMH manual, standard EC.02.05.07, EP 2. Starting January 1, 2018, you need to conduct monthly tests and annual tests of all battery powered emergency lights.

I am aware that Joint Commission tries to give the hospitals a break by saying only the battery powered emergency lights used for egress and Exit signs need to be tested. And in their 2018 manual, standard EC.02.05.07, EP 2 they inserted a new section that says battery powered emergency lights in new construction/renovated sedation and anesthetizing areas are tested for 30 minutes annually. But please understand that Joint Commission’s standards are not compliant with the 2012 Life Safety Code, section (3) which requires 90-minute annual test. If you follow Joint Commission’s standards on this issue, you may be cited by a state surveyor for not complying with the annual testing requirements of section (3).

Section of the 2012 LSC says if you have an existing feature of life safety that is not required by the LSC but is obvious to the public then you must maintain it or remove it. I think we’d all agree that battery powered emergency lights would be obvious to the public whether they are used to supplement the EM powered egress lighting or if they are used for task lighting in certain areas. According to the 2012 LSC, section 7.9.3, maintaining it includes the monthly 30-second test and the annual 90-minute test.

To be compliant with the 2012 LSC, you need to test the battery powered emergency lights monthly and annually. I suggest you re-evaluate the need for all of the battery powered emergency lights that you have, and invest into self-diagnostic units to eliminate the monthly test requirements.

Brad Keyes
Brad Keyes, CHSP

Brad is a former advisor to Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) and former Joint Commission LS surveyor. He guides clients through  organizational assessment; management training; ongoing coaching of task groups; and extensive one-on-one coaching of facility leaders. He analyzes and develops leadership effectiveness and efficiency in work processes, focusing on assessing an organization’s preparedness for a survey, evaluating processes in achieving preparedness, and guiding organizations toward compliance. 

As a presenter at national seminars, regional conferences, and audio conferences, Brad teaches the Keyes Life Safety Boot Camp series to various groups and organizations. He is the author or co-author of many HCPro books, including the best-selling  Analyzing the Hospital Life Safety Survey, now in its 3rd edition. Brad has also authored a variety of articles in numerous publications addressing features of life safety and fire protection, as well as white papers and articles on the Building Maintenance Program. Currently serving as the contributing editor of the monthly HCPro newsletter Healthcare Life Safety Compliance  gives Brad further insight into the industry’s trends and best practices.