The Top 4 Fire Alarm mistakes

Fire Alarms - Don't Cut Corners

Fire Alarm Failings – Fire Safety Legislation in the UK already places a great duty-of-care on business holders with severe legal ramifications for non-compliance. However, in light of recent tragic events the law looks set to change again this year and become even more stringent.
Most UK businesses require a fire alarm and exactly what type should be decided after having had a fire-risk-assessment, a legal requirement for any UK business with five employees or more. Most business owners want to comply and keep their people and assets safe but when choosing an installer many can be driven purely by price.
So how do fire alarm contractors deliver a bargain price? By cutting corners and not meeting the standard perhaps? Here are the most common for mistakes made by non-approved fire alarm installers:

  • Failing 1 - Wrong 230v Mains Point
  • Failing 2 - Wrong Type of Cable
  • Failing 3 - Wrong Type of Cable Fixings
  • Failing 4 – Insufficient Sounders
Mains Points

A very simple way to save money is to ignore the fire alarm standard (BS5839) and fit a conventional 230v mains supply, simply tapping into the nearest socket for example. A fire alarm spur, meeting the standard, must have its own dedicated supply with lock-off devices at each end and labelled correctly at each end and must be run in fireproof cable not just ordinary mains cable.

Fire Alarm Cable

Early fire alarms allowed detectors to be run in mains cable and sounders only needed fireproof cable. This has not been the case since the late 90’s but you would be shocked at the number of systems still installed this way. The standard now requires that all critical signalling-paths (all cables) are fireproof. It also states that the colour of the cable should be unique within the building and preferably red.

Fire Alarm Cable Fixings

One of the biggest ways to cut costs is to install the cables using plastic clips. This saves masses of labour compared to how the cable should be fixed with metal clips (drilled and plugged) and spaced every 30cm horizontally and 40cm vertically. How fireproof do you think a plastic clip is?

Insufficient Sounders

Saving on the number of sounders is potentially one of the worst shortcuts when it comes to fire safety. At design stage calculations should be made to determine the exact number of sounders required to achieve the following requirements: 65dBA generally within the building, however the sounders must achieve 5dBA above ambient noise. Where people sleep the sound level must achieve 75dBA at the bedhead. VAD’s (Visual Alarm Devices) must be used where conventional sounders would be ineffective; this could be where the noise level in the building is just to high but more frequently it would be to meet the equality act. Where the hearing-impaired may be likely to enter a building then VAD’s must be used – surely that’s every building that allows the general public in isn’t it?

Responsibility

The Fire safety (Regulatory Reform) Order requires you to use competent contractors and carry out due-diligence in your selection. Government advice tells us one of the easiest ways to prove due-diligence is to use a third-party approved contractor. The BAFE Sp203 modular scheme is widely recognised as the industry benchmark for approved contractors. Business owners may have a raft of management and or directors handling such things as fire-safety but the business owner remains ‘The Responsible Person’.

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