Public assembly Emergency lighting:
A Place of Assembly space is where large groups of people gather for any activity. The Department of Buildings requires a Place of Assembly Certificate of Operation in two circumstances:
1) where 75 or more people gather indoors or on roofs or roof terraces; or
2) where 200 or more people gather outdoors.
Assembly spaces include but are not limited to restaurants, museums, theaters, auditoriums, churches, and sports arenas.
Public Assembly Emergency lighting.
All assembly spaces shall be provided with emergency lighting facilities sufficient to provide at least five-foot candles of illumination at the floor level. Such lighting shall be on circuits that are separate from the general lighting and power circuits, either taken off ahead of the main switch or connected to a separate emergency lighting power source and be arranged to operate automatically in the event of failure of the normal lighting system.
The provisions of this section shall apply retroactively to all existing places of assembly that are or would be classified in occupancy groups F-3 and F-4 or are changed to such classification under this code, in accordance with the following schedule and specifications:
1. Cabarets, dance halls, nightclubs, and taverns having an occupant load exceeding one hundred fifty persons shall complete the installation required by this section on or before April twelfth, nineteen hundred seventy-nine.
2. Cabarets, dance halls, nightclubs, and taverns having an occupant load of one hundred fifty persons or less shall complete such installation on or before July twelfth, nineteen hundred seventy-nine.
3. Spaces occupied exclusively as restaurants shall complete such installation on or before October twelfth, nineteen hundred seventy-nine.
4. All other spaces in occupancy groups F-3 and F-4 shall complete such installation on or before January twelfth, nineteen hundred eighty.
5. The wiring shall conform with the electrical code of the city of New York and have the same protection as specified for wiring in reference standard RS17-3, RS17-3A, or 17-3B
6. Storage battery equipment may be used as the sole source of energy provided it conforms with the provisions of section four of reference standard RS 17-3 or consists of two battery packs listed by an acceptable testing laboratory or conforms with nationally accepted standards for such source of emergency energy.
Emergency Lighting Requirements
Sometimes referred to as egress lighting, emergency lighting is designed to illuminate and identify hallways, stairwells, and exits to facilitate a safe and orderly evacuation from a facility. Emergency lighting is generally required in all commercial, industrial, educational, religious, institutional, public housing, medical, and many other facilities whether for-profit or non-profit.
While OSHA does not have any regulations specific to emergency lighting, the NFPA’s Life Safety Code addresses the topic in detail. The local AHJ is the best resource to answer emergency lighting compliance questions related to your specific occupancy.
Within the Life Safety Code, the NFPA’s requirements for emergency lighting are referenced under section 7.9. Emergency illumination (when required) must be provided for a minimum of 1.5-hours in the event of failure of normal lighting.
The emergency lighting must be arranged to provide initial illumination of not less than an average of one foot-candle (10.8-lux) and a minimum at any point of 0.1-foot-candle (1.1-lux) measured along the path of egress at floor level. These levels can decline to a minimum of 0.6-foot-candle (6.5-lux) average and 0.06-foot-candle (0.65-lux) at any one point at the end of emergency lighting time (1.5-hours).
The maximum illumination at any one point can be no more than 40 times the minimum illumination at any one point to prevent excessively bright and dark spots (section 18.104.22.168.3). And the emergency lighting system must be arranged to provide illumination automatically in the event of any interruption of normal lighting (section 22.214.171.124).
Testing Requirements for Emergency Lighting
Section 7.9.3, of the Life Safety Code, addresses the NFPA’s requirements for periodic testing of emergency lights. The section acknowledges three different categories of emergency lights: traditional, self-testing/self-diagnostic, and computer-based self-testing/self-diagnostic.
It essentially requires both a monthly activation test, where the lights remain illuminated for a minimum of 30-seconds and an annual test where the lights are activated for 1.5-hours to simulate a long-term emergency event.
Written records of the monthly and annual tests must be maintained for inspection by the AHJ. Computer-based emergency lighting systems must be capable of generating a self-report of testing at all times.
Again, best to check with your AHJ to ensure your testing and recording keeping program is sufficient.
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When should I schedule the Place of Assembly inspection with NYC DOB?
Once your plans are approved and construction is completed, you can call the DOB Construction unit in your borough office to schedule an inspection.
Who must be present at the inspection?
Someone representing the establishment must be on-site during the inspection to provide access and ensure that the required documents are on site. This should be the owner or the owner’s representative, such as an employee, the PE/RA, or the filing representative.
What is the DOB inspector looking for during the inspection?
The DOB inspector will be looking for general compliance with the Construction Codes, including adequate egress, lighting, and exit signs. In addition, the following items must always be kept on-site.
1) Complete Set of DOB-approved Place of Assembly Plans
The actual layout of the PA space, including tables, chairs, etc., must match the DOB-approved plans. During the inspection for the initial PA Certificate of Operation, the DOB inspector will also check for a Construction Permit.
2) Flame Spread Letter
A flame spread letter is a letter from the manufacturer of certain products describing the flammability of the product. Products that require a flame spread letter include, but are not limited to, carpeting, window treatments, wallpaper, foam, and upholstery. The PE/ RA should be familiar with most of the materials used at the site, and will inform the applicant which letters are required and how to obtain them.
3) Emergency Lighting Letter or the TR1 Form:
• An Emergency Lighting Letter (or Electrical Letter) is submitted by the licensed electrician on record and certifies that he/she completed work; OR
• The TR1 form is submitted by a special inspector, hired by the owner, prior to the PA inspection to certify that the electrical work in the site is compliant. A special inspector is someone that works for a DOB-registered special inspection agency to perform tests or inspections of materials, equipment, construction-related activities, and periodic maintenance.
4) Maximum Occupancy Sign
A sign indicating the number of people that may legally occupy the space, as determined by the Certificate of Occupancy, must be created and posted. It should read:
“OCCUPANCY BY MORE THAN PERSONS IS DANGEROUS AND UNLAWFUL Certificate
of Operation No Commissioner, (where applicable) Dept. of Buildings, City of New York “
Most common reasons for failing DOB Place of Assembly inspections
1-Exit signs are not in the correct area (they do not comply with Construction Codes or do not match approved plans).
2-Failure to post “occupancy sign” indicating the maximum number of people allowed in the space.
3-Failure to produce Emergency Lighting Letter or TR1 Form.
4-Improper locking devices on doors (they do not comply with Construction Codes or do not match approved plans).
5-Missing Documentation: Items such as the approved plans, flame spread letter, or TR1, are missing from the site.
6-Plan Deviation: The physical layout of the establishment does not match the approved plans.
7-Construction Codes Violations: Construction Codes violations are issued during the inspection.