Laws on emergency lights

Written by noel shankel | 13/05/2017
Laws on emergency lights
Exit signs must be properly lit in order to be legal. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Laws regarding emergency lighting are designed to aid people in the event of an emergency. Emergency lighting systems must be tested and maintained and have the capability of working on a consistent basis. Buildings that don't have properly installed emergency lighting systems can place innocent lives in danger.

Public Buildings

Laws on emergency lights
Emergency lighting systems must be tested on an annual basis. (stopwatch image by Dariusz Urbanczyk from

Under the guidelines of the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), all public buildings are required by law to have fully functional emergency lighting systems. The emergency lights must be tested once a year for an hour and a half, and once every 30 days for a period of 30 seconds.


Laws on emergency lights
All exit signs must be visible to a person with normal vision. (exit sign image by Katya Mikhlin from

Under the guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Section 1910.37(b)(1), exit routes in buildings must be properly lit so that a person with normal vision can see along the route in the event of an emergency. "Exit" signs must be lit by a reliable light source and produce at least 5 foot candles of light.

Emergency Vehicles

Laws on emergency lights
Drivers must stay a safe distance behind fire trucks responding to an emergency. (fire truck image by Byron Moore from

Emergency vehicles, such as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, are required to flash their emergency lights in the event of an emergency. Some states place restrictions on other vehicles following an emergency vehicle when its lights are activated. For example, under Section 1217 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, vehicles must be at least 200 feet behind a fire truck when the truck is flashing its lights and responding to an emergency.

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