Choosing power for life safety applications

Building owners are legally required to install a range of life safety systems to ensure that anyone using the building is safe during an emergency situation. Both owners and facility managers could be liable for any accidents or events that occur as a consequence of a lack of adequate emergency planning, so it is important to plan and design systems that are reliable.

By their nature, these systems must be able to work when the mains power fails, meaning a secondary power supply connected to a regularly tested system must be in place. Facility managers and system engineers need to ensure that all alarms, emergency signage, sprinklers, ventilation, lifts, doors and other safety services are working properly.

The three common ways to power life safety equipment include:

  • A secondary medium voltage (MV) supply, fed from an alternative mains connection
  • Standby generators, with associated fuel supplies
  • Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)

Often arranging a separate mains supply is impractical as it will depend on geographic location and involve considerable bureaucracy, thus it is often the domain of large government supported facilities such as major hospitals or military facilities.

Standby generators are a valid and proven solution, however restrictions on fuel tank placement, noise and airborne emissions, which even for standby equipment are generated by required regular testing, mean that alternative solutions are increasingly required.

This means a growing numbers of buildings are turning to  a UPS as a reliable and effective option to power life safety equipment. UPS systems run on batteries, so when a power outage occurs, building systems automatically switch to the UPS, enabling immediate operation of critical equipment such as emergency exits and life safety lifts. The best UPS solutions combine space-saving cabinets with reliable power levels, so you know your building is adequately protected in any emergency.

How does UPS support critical life safety systems?

An uninterruptible power supply is specifically designed to run as a secondary supply to the mains power. The relevant quality standards in this area – particularly BS 9999 – require buildings to be able to operate sprinklers, pumps, firefighter lifts and shafts with lighting, pressurisation and depressurisation fans, smoke control systems and evacuation lifts. These are all life-critical elements of the emergency plan, so building managers must be confident in the choices they make. This will include confidence that the chosen system will be able to operate non-IT loads such as fan motors, regenerative loads from lifts and be able to effectively operate distribution circuit protective devices, tripping circuit breakers for faulty circuits.

The UPS you choose must comply with regulations: not just the general electrical requirements in BS 7671, but life safety specific elements and regulations too. It can also be monitored, either by the building management system or by a remote monitoring system.

When planning to install a UPS system for your life safety systems, there are some key things to consider:

  • You must take the load profiles of emergency equipment into account to ensure you choose the right UPS system.
  • The UPS should be able to start the safety devices when it is operating in the emergency condition from the inverter supplied by the battery.
  • UPS equipment must comply with the requirements of BS 7671 Regulation 560.6.10, and with BS EN 62040-1 and BS EN 62040-3, as applicable.
  • Your UPS system must be installed in a protective, vented environment.

It’s critical that you work with a UPS supplier who can help you to design the UPS system that meets your requirements and that will ensure your load is covered. Life safety systems have very dynamic load profiles that need to be fully understood, to correctly size the UPS and battery. Working with a supplier such as Kohler Uninterruptible Power lets you access UPS expertise at the highest level to make sure your backup system is both suitable and safe.

Whether you are planning a new building, upgrading existing life safety systems including emergency lighting, or want to switch to a new method of power backup, the expert team at Kohler Uninterruptible Power can help. Reach out to us at [email protected] or call KUP on 0800 731 3269.

Plus, don’t miss our CIBSE CPD-accredited webinar running at 1pm BST covering this topic in more detail on the 11th June. This hour-long, free webinar is a must attend if you are responsible for maintaining life safety systems in your facility. Register for your free space here.  

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