Category Archives: Emergency Lighting Picture

Emergency Lighting Picture

Recent national disasters and emergencies have discovered a need for safe, emergency lighting. Without emergency lighting, a building can become completely dark making exiting slower and more dangerous. Studies have proven that people will remain calmer when they are able to see their surroundings in a crisis. In addition to providing a safer situation, manufacturers and environmentalist are both looking for low voltage emergency lighting alternatives to traditional emergency lighting.

On way people have supplied emergency lighting is to have traditional incandescent lamps and fluorescent lamps that are powered by a generator. When the main power supply is cut off, the generator kicks in. Space to store the generator and maintenance to the generator makes them less desirable for widespread use. Besides the additional cost of upkeep, if a generator fails to work properly then there is no emergency lighting.

Scientists have long desired to find a product that can be used easily to produce light with little to no electricity. Radium was once the preferred method for self-luminous lighting. During the early 1900s, radium was used for watches, clocks, and instrument dials. Later it was also used for low voltage emergency lighting. In a twenty year span more than 100 former watch dial paints died from radiation bone poisoning after handling the radium paint. Production workers making the radium paint and lighting fixtures also had extremely high rates of cancer and illness.

By the early 1960s radium was no longer in use because it was found to have serious health effects which included blood disorders, open sores or more seriously, bone cancer. Tritium’s beta radiation replaced radium for these applications, but this product is still dangerous if it is ingested. It also contains radio active materials. Anything using Tritium must be specially disposed of because of its radioactivity. This extra expense has made tritium lighting nearly non-existent in commercial buildings and structures today.

The significant health concerns associated with radium has lead to the development of photo luminescent materials to produce less toxic low voltage lighting. This product slowly reabsorbs the energy the light source gives off thereby allowing it to omit light for several hours or days at a time. Essentially thought of as “glow-in-the-dark” material, photo luminescent lighting has gained popularity. It is non-toxic, long lasting, and saves electricity.

In an era being defined by its attempts to “go green”, this lighting material is being praised for its low voltage emergency lighting applications. Hard-wired, electric exit signs are now being replaced with photo luminescent signs. With an annual energy savings of approximately $300.00 or more, the initial investment quickly pays for itself. Adding to the conservation of resources, these lighting fixtures require no maintenance and have an estimated life span of 25 years or more. These features make photo luminescent materials a green option for emergency lighting.

Photo luminescent materials are now being commissioned for use in emergency lighting of stairs, hallways and exit ramps in addition to the exit signs. One company has developed an emergency lighting apparatus which they call the Firefly(TM) Dots. These small, round dots are placed being used by subway terminals and trains, cruise ships, and large buildings. Giving the ability to light darkened areas during a disaster, decreases the liability of building owners and helps ensure people will be able to exit in a more orderly fashion. These materials ensure a safe, effective low voltage means of providing emergency lighting.

By Robert J. Hartl

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