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Emergency Lighting Systems
in Industrial Facilities:

Our Comprehensive Approach 

Operating as both an electrical engineering firm and an electrical contractor in Houston and other cities in Texas, Blanco Electric LTD has designed and implemented emergency lighting systems in industrial and public facilities. A critical component of industrial safety, these lighting systems are designed to provide illumination and guide personnel to safety during emergencies. 

 

Multi-building plants present difficult challenges for the electrical engineer, especially those facilities processing hazardous materials like chemicals, where the stakes are even higher in terms of personnel safety. 

 

This page outlines the methods deployed by Blanco Electric LTD to study, design and install emergency lighting systems in 2 types of industrial environmens: a chemical plant and a plant manufacturing heavy mechanical equipment.

I. Initial Consultation

A. Assessment of Needs

(i) Evaluating the Layout of a Facility

Spatial Configuration: Our first step is to map out the spatial configuration of each building within the plant. This includes the dimensions of rooms, corridors, and exits, as well as the location of electrical panels, machinery, and hazardous material storage.

Accessibility: We assess the accessibility of emergency exits and routes, ensuring they meet the minimum width and height requirements as per NFPA 101. Special attention is given to areas with heavy machinery, where the layout may be more complex.

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Lighting Fixture Placement: We determine the placement of emergency lighting fixtures based on the layout, ensuring adequate illumination for all areas, including stairwells, corridors, and exits.

Electrical Infrastructure: We evaluate the existing electrical infrastructure to determine if it can support the additional load of the emergency lighting system, in compliance with NFPA 70.

B. Assessment of Factors Depending on the Nature of Plant Activity

The nature of activities within a plant—be it a chemical plant or a heavy mechanical equipment assembly plant—affects the design and implementation of the emergency lighting system. We need to understand these activities to tailor the system to the unique risks and operational requirements of each type of facility.

(i) Chemical Plants

Storage Conditions: Chemical plants often store volatile or flammable substances. The storage conditions, such as temperature and pressure, can significantly affect the type of emergency lighting used. For example, explosion-proof lighting fixtures may be necessary in areas where flammable gases are stored.

Toxic Fumes: In the event of a chemical fire, toxic fumes can be emitted. The emergency lighting system may need specialized filters and seals to remain operational in such conditions.

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(ii) Heavy Mechanical Equipment Assembly Plants

Machinery Interference: High-powered machinery can generate electrical noise that may interfere with the emergency lighting system. Specialized circuitry or shielding may be required to prevent this.

Moving Parts: The presence of moving machinery parts can pose a risk if not adequately illuminated during emergencies. Therefore, the lighting system may include features like strobe lights to highlight these hazards.

(iii) More on Storage Conditions

In chemical plants, the types of storage can vary—sealed containers, open vats, pressurized systems, etc. Each comes with its own set of challenges:

Sealed Containers: May require temperature-resistant lighting fixtures due to heat generated during chemical reactions.

 

Open Vats: Could emit fumes or vapors that may require corrosion-resistant materials in the lighting fixtures.

 

Pressurized Systems: May necessitate explosion-proof lighting due to the risk of rupture and subsequent explosion.

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(iv) Interference with Machinery Operation

In heavy mechanical equipment assembly plants, the emergency lighting system could potentially interfere with machinery operation in several ways:

Electrical Interference: As mentioned, electrical noise from machinery can interfere with the lighting system’s controls.

 

Visual Interference: Improperly designed lighting can create glare or shadows that make it difficult for operators to see machine controls or readouts, posing a safety risk.

By conducting a detailed assessment based on these factors, we can design an emergency lighting system that is both effective and tailored to the specific needs and risks of each type of facility.

C. Types of Risks Involved

Fire Risks: Both electrical and chemical fires are considered. Electrical fires often require quick isolation of electrical systems, while chemical fires may involve toxic fumes, requiring specialized filters and seals in the lighting fixtures.

Flooding Risks: Both external sources like rivers or dams and internal sources like pipe breakages are considered. Special waterproof fixtures and corrosion-resistant materials may be required.

 

Extreme Weather: For areas prone to snow & ice storms, the risk of electrical grid damage is considered. Battery backups and generators may be included in the design.

 

Toxic Spills and Fumes: In the case of chemical plants, the potential for toxic spills and fumes is assessed. Specialized fixtures that are sealed to prevent ingress of toxic materials may be used.

D. Technology Preferences

We discuss your technology preferences, such as LED lighting, centralized control systems, and remote control via IP or RF, to ensure the system meets your operational needs.

 

Remote control of emergency lighting systems enhances both the functionality and manageability of the system.

(i) Remote Control via IP

Technology: This involves connecting the emergency lighting system to a network that can be accessed via the internet. Each lighting fixture or control unit has an IP address, allowing for individual or group control.

Functionality: Real-Time Monitoring: Allows for real-time status checks and system diagnostics from any location with internet access.

 

Configuration Changes: Enables you to modify lighting settings, such as brightness or activation conditions, remotely. Security: Given that the system is accessible via the internet, robust cybersecurity measures, including firewalls and encrypted data transmission, are essential.

 

Applications: Large Facilities: Particularly useful for plants with multiple buildings, as it allows centralized control.

 

Quick Response: Enables immediate system adjustments in case of emergencies, such as rerouting power to essential areas.

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(ii) Remote Control via Radio

Technology: This involves using radio frequency (RF) signals to communicate between the control unit and the individual lighting fixtures.

Functionality: Local Control: Unlike IP-based systems, radio control is generally localized within the facility.

 

Less Complexity: No need for extensive networking infrastructure.

 

Security: The system is not connected to the internet, reducing the risk of cyber-attacks. However, the radio frequency used must be secure to prevent unauthorized access.

Applications: Isolated Areas: Useful in parts of the facility that lack network infrastructure.

 

Quick Installation: Easier and quicker to install compared to IP-based systems, making it suitable for temporary setups or expansions.

II. Design Phase

A. Zoning and Layout

We divide the facility into zones based on function and risk. High-risk zones like chemical storage areas require specialized solutions, such as explosion-proof lighting and systems that can operate in the presence of toxic fumes.

B. Regulatory Compliance

Our design complies with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations. This includes Houston-specific building codes and Texas state laws governing industrial safety.

C. System Architecture

Given your preference for LED technology and centralized control, our design will feature an intelligent, networked system that can be controlled remotely. This allows for real-time monitoring and adjustments, which is crucial during emergencies.

III. Implementation Phase

A. Installation

Our team of certified electrical engineers and contractors will handle the installation, ensuring all components meet the stringent quality and safety standards.

Steps typically involved:

Preliminary Site Survey : Before any installation work begins, a comprehensive site survey is conducted to assess the existing electrical infrastructure, identify potential installation points for the lighting fixtures, and evaluate any challenges that may arise during the installation process.

 

Permit and Approval: We secure all necessary permits and approvals from local authorities and ensure that the installation plan aligns with NFPA and other applicable standards. This step is crucial for compliance and legal reasons.

 

Material Procurement: Based on the approved design, we procure all the required materials, such as lighting fixtures, control units, wiring, and other electrical components. Quality checks are performed to ensure that all materials meet the specified standards.

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Installation of Electrical Infrastructure: The first major installation task involves setting up the electrical infrastructure that will power the emergency lighting system. This includes installing electrical panels, circuit breakers, and wiring.

 

Fixture Installation: The lighting fixtures are then installed at the predetermined points. Special attention is given to high-risk areas like chemical storage or machinery zones, where specialized fixtures may be required.

 

Control Unit Setup: The control units, which could be IP-based or radio-controlled, are set up and configured. These units are the brains of the emergency lighting system, allowing for remote control and monitoring.

System Integration: All components are integrated and connected to the control units. This is a critical step where we ensure that all parts of the system communicate effectively with each other.

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Initial Testing: Once the system is set up, initial tests are conducted to verify that all components are functioning as expected. This includes testing the remote control features via IP or radio.

 

Safety Inspections: Safety inspections are carried out to ensure that the installation complies with all relevant safety standards, including NFPA 101 and NFPA 70. Any necessary adjustments are made at this stage.

 

Final Commissioning: After successful testing and inspection, the system is officially commissioned and is ready for use. By following these steps, we aim to provide a seamless installation experience while ensuring that the emergency lighting system meets all operational requirements and safety standards.

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B. Testing

Post-installation, the system undergoes rigorous testing under simulated emergency conditions to validate its performance. This includes testing its resilience against electrical and chemical fires, flooding, and extreme weather conditions.

C. Training

We provide comprehensive training to your staff on how to operate the system, including how to engage the remote control features via IP or radio.

IV. Addressing Specific Catastrophes

A. Electrical and Chemical Fires

Fire-Resistant Materials: All components are made of fire-resistant materials.

 

Toxic Fume Resilience: Specialized filters and seals to ensure the system remains operational even in the presence of toxic fumes.

B. External and Internal Flooding

Waterproofing: All electrical components are sealed to prevent water ingress.

 

Chemical Spill Resilience: Materials resistant to corrosion from toxic spills are used.

C. Snow & Ice Storms

Cold-Resistant Components: Materials capable of withstanding extreme cold are used.

 

Grid Independence: Battery backups and generators to ensure operation even if the electrical grid is damaged.

Electrical engineering firm and electrical contractor Blanco Electric LTD offers a comprehensive solution for emergency lighting in industrial facilities, tailored to meet the unique challenges posed by different types of emergencies. Our approach is thorough, compliant with all regulations, and employs state-of-the-art technology to ensure the safety and well-being of all personnel.

Notes On Fire Safety Standards

NFPA 1: Fire Code: This standard provides a comprehensive, integrated approach to fire code regulation and hazard management. It addresses fire prevention, fire protection, life safety, and safe storage and use of hazardous materials.

NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code: This standard covers the application, installation, location, performance, and inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, supervising station alarm systems, and public emergency alarm reporting systems.

 

NFPA 101: Life Safety Code: This standard focuses on occupant safety in case of fire or other emergencies. It outlines construction, protection, and occupancy features that minimize the effects of fire and related hazards.

 

NFPA 704: Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response: This standard provides a simple, readily recognized, and easily understood system of markings (commonly referred to as the "NFPA hazard diamond") that provides an immediate general sense of the hazards of a material and the severity of these hazards as they relate to emergency response.

 

NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations: This standard is a guide for fire and explosion investigations. It is widely accepted as a standard of care to be followed within the fire investigation profession.

 

NFPA 2001: Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems: This standard outlines the requirements for clean agent fire extinguishing systems to help ensure they function as intended throughout their life cycle.

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