Lighting for Safety: The Sky’s the Limit

The decision to update lighting isn’t just a matter of cost. Safety is also on the line. Those poised to convert to LEDs may need to take a leap of faith and plan for safety that exceeds current standards.

“Too often, lighting for a safe environment is thought to be achieved as soon as it meets safety specifications and regulatory requirements. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Anixter senior lighting specialist, Eric Bronson. “True safety is a result of the design of the building, road or infrastructure. It is a common-sense application of design standards, specifications and regulatory requirements.”

Bronson recommends becoming familiar with the safety standards that are in place for lighting, including those put forth by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) and National Electric Code (NEC or NFPA 70), ASHRAE 90.1, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the U.S. Department of Justice’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), U.S. Green Building Council/LEED, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

But since LED lighting and associated technologies are advancing at breakneck speed, meeting requirements is not necessarily enough. “New models, new manufacturers and new technologies are available weekly. Lamps, as we knew them, are disappearing,” he points out. Behind this flurry, however, are ways to exceed standards and provide world-class safety measures while still achieving the cost savings of converting to LED.

When it comes to safety, says Bronson, new lighting technologies are incorporating:

  • Security via video and audio
  • Emergency/exit lighting equipped with annunciators and egress designation
  • Fire, temperature, moisture/humidity and hazardous chemical/gas detection
  • Wi-Fi and Li-Fi capabilities for remote monitoring
  • Biometrics that not only gather and read data but also adjust to it
  • Control systems that self-adjust for degradation or designate luminaires for replacement prior to failure

These “smart” capabilities are showing up both inside facilities and outside on streets, roads and parking structures. According to ABI Research, smart streetlight luminaires with network-controlled nodes are set to rise in popularity worldwide from 2 million today to 40 million by 2019.1 One city already utilizing smart streetlights to improve public safety is Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city cites curbing gang violence as a major reason it converted to the new technology in 2011.2 Ahead of the most recent Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro installed streetlights that can sense environmental data, light and air quality, and even detect gunshots.3

Mark Lien, industry relations manager for the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) of North America, asserts that utilities should be forward thinking when installing streetlights, even if they haven’t yet planned to harness the full potential of their enhanced capabilities immediately. “Smart poles are positioned to be the central hub of the Internet of Things (IoT) for utilities out in the field,” Lien says, referring to the potential Bronson outlined for these structures to house everything from video and biometrics to fire detection and other safety technology. “Utilities installing street lighting now should consider upgradeable options so additional capabilities may be added in the future.”


1 ABI Research

2 Government Technology

3 Inverse Culture