Do I need a Fire Alarm and What Type?
What is a Fire Alarm?
A fire alarm is a device that is used to alert people of fire and can come in many forms. It can be as simplistic as a bell or more complicated as an Addressable intelligent system.
Do I need a Fire Alarm?
Many factors will determine whether a fire alarm is required. The size of the property, the risk of a fire occurring, the speed at which the fire could spread, high fire risk due to site activities, are their people sleeping on the property etc. But how would the owner or the responsible person ultimately know if a system is required?
In many buildings the awareness that a fire has started may be obvious to the people in the building (e.g. in a simple open plan office or Hall). In such senarios, where escaping from the building is a simple operation, a shout of ‘fire’ or a basic device such as a manual operated bell that can be heard by everyone from a central point, may be all that is needed.
However, if an alarm given from any single point as stated above is unlikely to be heard throughout the premises (minimum sound level of 65 decibels),a fire alarm system with sounders and manual call points is likely to be required.
Another scenario is, where there are unoccupied areas, or escape corridors in occupied buildings, in which a fire could start and progress to the extent that the escape routes could be compromised and become impassible before the fire is discovered. An automatic fire detection system with zone or area identification of the activate detector will be required.
Fire Risk Assessment
A Fire Risk Assessment needs to be undertaken, and this will determine whether a fire alarm system is required.
The person chosen to carry out the assessment must be competent, and this is usually proven by using a registered assessor of one of the authorised schemes. The assessor will carry out a comprehensive survey of the building, identify any fire risk and produce a report. The report will recommend what works needs to be carried out, or procedures to implement.
Function of a Fire Alarm
Fire alarm and detection systems have two primary functions: to safeguard life inside the building and to protect the structure and its contents.
You will find three main types of systems.
1. All those designed to safeguard life are classified as Category L system.
2. To protect property by summoning the Fire and Rescue Service without delay are classified as category P.
3. While manually operated systems, wherein the fire alarm is by means of manual call point and so on, are classified as category M
Fire Alarm Category
Fire alarm systems could possibly be installed in properties in order to meet one, or both, of two important factors, which is life protection and that of the property.
The reasons may vary with time or place. Alternative probable reasons can be found, for instance, safeguards against company disturbance and safety of the environment; these will probably be satisfied with the recommendations within the fire code BS5839-1:2013 to safeguard of properties.
As a result of a huge assortment of programs for systems discussed within the fire code BS 5839, the types of systems are separated into several different Categories.
The assessor will confirm which fire alarm design is necessary for the risk involved. For the protection of Life, one of the following categories will be selected:
L1 – Highest coverage all areas of the building
L2 – Escape routes, Rooms off of the escape routes and areas of high risk
L3 – Escape routes and rooms off of the escape routes
L4 – Escape routes only
L5 – A mixture of the above
M – Manual call points only
Type of System
Following that, you will have to select what type of system is best for your requirements and budget. The assessor will not tell you what kind to install as long as it is designed to the correct category and is installed to the fire alarm design code BS5839-1.
When choosing a fire alarm, the user usually has the following choices:
1. Conventional or Addressable
2. Wired or Wireless
Conventional Fire Alam System
A conventional fire alarm is a non-intelligent system, which means it cannot identify which detector or manual call point has been activated. It can only identify an area or in fire alarm terms it is called a zone. The building is divided into fire zones and these zones are represented at the control panel with a light indicator and an area label for each zone, such as “Ground Floor” etc.
On activation of a detector or manual call point, a zone indicator will illuminate on the front of the control panel providing the user with the area of the activated device.
Due to the limited identification information, Conventional fire alarms are preferred for small installations of twenty devices or less, but are the cheaper option.
Addressable Fire Alarm System
Addressable fire alarms are intelligent and this enables them to identify precisely which device has activated. The user receives a text message of forty characters on the front of the fire alarm control panel facia with a message such as “Managers Office Room 28 – Grd Floor”. You also have many additional programming features for the purpose of cause and effects programming, for example, you can control a relay interface to shut down plant of ground the lifts, all programmable from the panel software. Equipment cost is approximately three times that of a conventional system, but you can recoup back some of the cost as the addressable system requires less wiring.
here precise and accurate information regarding the position of a fire is crucial to the protection of life, it is usually recommended to install an addressable fire alarm.
Wired or Wireless?
A summary of the Pro’s and Con’s are as follows:
Wired fire alarms would be the preferred choice if the cable is easy to install, having some wiring or containment on display not being an issue, limited budget, lower maintenance cost
Wireless fire Alarms are the preferred choice for sites with limited access, aesthetics is an issue, minimal disruption, quick installation.
Manual Fire Alarms
Manually operated fire alarm systems in many cases are adequate to meet legislation in places of work whereby no person sleeps. Automatic Fire Alarms are typically necessary by fire legislation to complement the manually operated system in properties whereby persons sleep.
Automatic Fire Alarms
Automatic fire alarms could also be required to meet regulations in accordance with the following conditions:
1. In which the automatic fire alarm is integral to a component of a fire engineering alternative.
2. Where fire alarm systems, such as door shutting equipment or smoke vent equipment, have to be controlled automatically in the case of fire.
3. Where the minimal degree of occupation of a property, or section of a property, has the possibility of fire to block the means of escape by people before they become aware that there is a fire.
In addition, Automatic fire alarms tend to be commonly employed to safeguard properties by making sure the quick presence of the fire brigade, as a result of being called by the inhabitants of the property or through automatic signalling (RedCare) to an alarm receiving control centre from which the fire brigade will be called. Automatic fire alarms could possibly, be necessary or advised by the building insurance companies.
The quick discovery of fire by an automated method, and swift calling of the fire brigade in the eventuality of fire is likewise essential in properties in which persons are unable to promptly evacuate without delay (e.g. Medical facilities). In a few buildings of this kind (e.g. residential care premises), it is usually imperative that you provide precise details to staff members with regards to the specific location of a fire. Generally speaking, this particular section of fire code BS 5839 does not make any suggestions as to if the fire alarm ought to be addressable; it is feasible for addressable and non-addressable alarms to meet the advice of contained in Section 2 of the fire code.
Fire Alarm Suppliers
Being an independent installer allows us to choose from a variety of fire alarm manufacturers, we have no single agreement to any one supplier. Therefore, when designing a fire alarm system for our client, we can pick a system that best suits their needs.
There are many different types of fire alarm systems in the Market, all having advantages and disadvantages, the balance is providing the client with a good product suitable for the required specification, for the money they have available in their budget.
In today’s economic climate, the client will usually choose the cheapest quote they receive; however, the cheapest system is not always the most cost-effective. Like most cheap products, the chance of them failing is higher than with a quality product, this will lead to attentional cost over the lifetime of the system, due to parts and labour to repair.
Closed Protocol or Restrictive Access Systems
However, when choosing a fire alarm company to install a system, the client should be aware of fire alarm manufacturers that have a restricted access policy to their software and parts. The fire alarm company will have an agreement with the manufacturer, in return for such an agreement, the manufacturer will only train and sell equipment to that particular group of companies. Or the manufacturer and the fire alarm company are one unit. Therefore, when the company installs the fire alarm system, they are the only ones who are able to carry out maintenance and repairs over the lifetime of the system. This usually leads to higher cost, due to limited or no competition. The term used in the fire industry for such systems is “Closed Protocol”. However, the true meaning is “Restricted Access”. So when inquiring about the system the company are proposing to install, make sure you ask the question.