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  • Writer's pictureKCS Projects

How To Prepare For A Commercial Fire Alarm Installation

If it’s your first time arranging a fire alarm installation for your premises, you may be wondering where to begin. With so many regulations in place, it’s easy to feel the pressure to get everything right – especially as mistakes can lead to fines and expensive remedial work.


That's why, in this article, we will cover the essential steps you need to take before you arrange for a commercial fire alarm system to be installed.



1. Conduct A Fire Risk Assessment


Having an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment is essential for determining the level of fire alarm system you need to install, identifying the points where fire alarm systems should be placed, and discovering any current fire safety risks.


Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Responsible Person(s) (usually the employer), must regularly carry out a fire risk assessment and ensure that any risks identified are quickly and appropriately responded to.


The UK Government advises Responsible Person(s) to follow a five-step process when conducting a fire risk assessment:


1. Identify fire hazards - This can include equipment such as waste incinerators, heaters, air conditioning units, and hazards like blocked exits.


2. Identify at-risk individuals - For example, these may be elderly staff members, those with extra mobility or communication needs, or personnel working in hazardous conditions.


3. Make changes to reduce fire risks - E.g. ensuring easy access to fire extinguishers.


4. Plan your fire safety protocol in detail and deliver regular fire safety training. In addition, you should record any fire safety issues and update your risk assessments to reflect these.


5. Regularly review your risk assessments and inform staff members of any updates.

Under UK law, you must record your fire risk assessment in writing if your business employs over five people.


2. Identify The Level Of Fire Alarm Required


You will need a different type of fire alarm depending on the kind of premises you occupy, and on the area of the building the alarm is located in.


Here’s a brief explanation of the different levels of fire alarm system:


L1 - Earliest possible fire detection – typically used in care homes, hospitals, and hotels etc. These systems should be installed in every room that is over 1 metre squared.


L2 - Additional life protection automated fire alarm – typically used in high-risk areas, multi-storey buildings, and escape route openings.


L3 - Standard life protection automated fire alarm system – typically used in small or low-risk buildings such as offices, and in escape routes within a building.


L4 - Modest life protection automated fire system – typically used in low-risk areas and ground floor offices.


L5 - Localised life protection automated fire system. These contain additional fire detection measures to identify potential fire threats in high-risk locations.


3. Addressable Or Conventional?


You will also need to determine whether an addressable or conventional fire alarm is more appropriate for your premises.


Conventional fire alarm systems will give you a rough estimation of where the fire is, but not the precise location. The building will be divided into ‘zones’, which will then light up on the fire panel if there is a fire in the area.


An addressable fire alarm system, however, will tell you exactly where the fire is located - like for example, by displaying 'Room 4' on the user interface.


The type of fire alarm you should choose depends on the size of your premises, how quickly you will need to respond to the fire, and your organisation’s budget. You can learn more about addressable and conventional fire alarm systems – and the differences between them – on this page.


4. Wired Or Wireless?


Next, you will need to choose whether your business needs a wired or a wireless fire alarm system.


Wired fire alarms are usually cheaper than wireless systems at the point of sale, but can be more expensive to install due to the labour involved in running wires through the walls and ceilings.


By contrast, wireless alarms can be more expensive upfront, but are quicker and cheaper to install. Plus, as there are no wires to conceal in the structure of the building, they can be removed and reused as required.


Wireless alarms may also be more suitable for organisations with high footfall and/or vulnerable occupants. This is because while many of a wired alarm system’s wires will be concealed, it might not be possible to hide all of them.


In addition, wireless alarm systems can be a great option for listed buildings and finely decorated areas. They are also ideal for rooms with ceilings that contain asbestos, because these shouldn’t be drilled into (as would happen during the installation of a wired alarm system) for safety reasons.



5. Create Accurate Drawings Of Your Premises

Ideally, you would hire a BAFE SP203-approved company to create professional drawings of your premises using your building plans.


These drawings should include voids and external entrances to boiler rooms and basements to get an accurate cost estimation. This will prevent any unexpected expenses further down the road.


Note that to be compliant with BAFE regulations, as a minimum, you will need to have some form of basic and accurate floor plans drawn up of your fire zone areas.



6. Speak To Staff And Stakeholders

Your staff and stakeholders should be fully informed and consulted regarding their needs. This will ensure that your fire alarm plans remain within your budget and are appropriate for any scheduled changes to the building, such as redecorating or relocating.


In addition, if you have a facilities team, you will likely need to ensure that they can manage the installed system effectively.


7. Seek Professional Advice

Fire alarm specialists will be able to give professional advice about where to position your fire detectors, alarms, and panels. They will also be able to tell you the preferred route that emergency services will use to access your building in the event of a fire, as this could affect where you decide to install your fire alarm panel.


Lastly, consider your fire alarm monitoring facilities.


For instance, at KCS Projects, we can work with organisations to develop an effective 24/7 fire alarm monitoring protocol that includes specified keyholders being notified if a fire alarm is triggered, and help to setup a remote monitoring service which automatically calls the fire brigade if the keyholders do not respond within a defined length of time.



Want more info about commercial fire alarm systems and how to install them in your premises? Contact us!


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