How to Test Exit Lights

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Exit signs must be tested monthly to ensure they work properly
Exit signs must be tested monthly to ensure they work properly (Image: exit sign image by bawinner from Fotolia.com)

Exit signs are designed to help people find the outer doors in a building during a power outage. When they are lit, they show the word "EXIT" and an arrow in the direction of the nearest door that leads to the outside. Because they are supposed to be on 24/7, exit signs usually contain two sets of light bulbs, according to St. Johns County, Florida, Fire Rescue. The first set runs on the power of the building. The second set of bulbs only come on during a power outage. They run on batteries and are a lower voltage. That's why, you can't look at an exit sign when the electricity is on and assume it's working properly. When the electricity in the building shuts off, and the exit sign is running on battery power, it may not work. The battery or the bulbs may have failed. For this reason exit signs need to be tested at least once a month.

Things You'll Need

  • Wristwatch
  • Breaker box

Test each exit sign individually if you can reach them. First, look at each light to make sure it's lit when the electricity to the building is on. Then, locate the "Push to Test" button on the body of the light.

Push the button in and hold it for 30 seconds; look at a wristwatch to measure the time. This will test the battery and the low voltage light bulbs to ensure they are working properly. The exit sign should light up and remain at the same level of brightness for the entire 30 seconds, according to St. Johns County, Florida, Fire Rescue. If the lights dim, or doesn't come on at all, they need service.

Test many exit signs. First, check each light to make sure it's lit when the electricity to the building is on. Then, find the breaker box that powers the lights. Shut the power off to the lights. Check the time on a wristwatch. The exit signs should maintain an even level of brightness for 30 seconds. If the lights become dim at any time during the test, or don't come on at all, they need to be repaired.

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