Laws on emergency lights

Updated February 21, 2017

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

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.


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

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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About the Author

Based in California, Noel Shankel has been writing and directing since 2002. His work has been published in "Law of Inertia Magazine." Shankel has a Bachelor of Arts in film and writing from San Francisco State University.