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Understanding Commercial Fire Alarms: A more in-depth look

Understanding Commercial Fire Alarms

In a previous blog, “Keeping Your Business Safe: A Guide to Commercial Fire Alarms in the UK,” we discussed the basics of fire alarm systems and the importance of adhering to British Standard BS5839-1. 

In this follow-up, we explore the core components of these systems in more detail, which will help you make more informed decisions about your business’s safety.

Detection Devices

  • Smoke detectors: These devices come in ionisation, optical, and beam detectors. Each is best suited to different environments; for example, optical sensors aren’t suitable for dusty areas. Understanding the specifics around detectors will help ensure the most effective early-warning system for your business is identified from the outset. Read our blog post Smoke Detectors: Choosing the Right Type for Your Business
  • Heat detectors: These detection devices react to changes in temperature, making them useful in areas where smoke might be a regular occurrence, like kitchens. Fixed-temperature detectors, which trigger at a specific temperature, and rate-of-rise detectors, which react to rapid temperature changes, are available.
  • Manual call points: These are the familiar ‘break glass’ buttons that allow anyone to manually trigger the alarm system. Their strategic placement and visibility are crucial for maximising response time.

Understanding Commercial Fire Alarms and Panels

  • The heart of the operation: While detection devices sense a fire, the alarm panel analyses those signals, makes decisions, and activates alarms. Choosing the right panel means getting the appropriate capacity for the size of your building and the potential to integrate with other safety systems.
  • Addressable systems: Panels can divide a building into zones, helping emergency fire services pinpoint the fire’s location. They also allow phased evacuations in more significant buildings, helping move people to safety quickly and efficiently.

Alarm Devices

  • Sounders and beacons: Traditional audible alarms and flashing lights are the primary ways to alert occupants. Ensuring their volume and placement provide adequate coverage across your premises is essential.
  • Voice alarms: In recent years, voice alarms have become popular. They provide clear instructions in addition to traditional alert sounds. These are particularly helpful in complex environments or for assisting people with disabilities.
  • VADs (Visual Alarm Devices): use bright lights to signal fire alarms for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or in noisy environments. EN 54-23 is the critical European standard for VADs, ensuring their effectiveness in emergencies. This standard covers light output, flash rate, colour, environmental resistance, and markings.

Beyond the Basics

  • Addressable vs. conventional systems: Addressable systems can help identify the exact device and area that triggered the alarm, aiding in rapid response. Conventional systems group devices into zones.
  • Integration: Many fire alarm panels can integrate with other safety systems like access control and sprinkler systems for a coordinated response to the breakout of a fire.
  • Maintenance and testing: BS5839-1 legally mandates regular testing and maintenance. Ensure your business has a plan for this with a qualified fire safety company such as Scope Fire & Security.

Understanding fire safety devices and your fire safety needs

Understanding the types of detectors, the role of the alarm panel, and the various ways to alert employees and other occupants empowers you to choose the most appropriate fire alarm system for your business’s unique needs. Remember, fire safety isn’t just about compliance – it’s about protecting your employees, your assets, and the future of your business.

Do you have more questions about commercial fire alarms or need help assessing your current system?  

Contact us on 0330 088 4647 to arrange a consultation.

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