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What Types of Fire Alarm Systems Are There?

Installing a fire alarm system in your premises is absolutely essential to protect your company and your staff against fire. There are of course many different types of fire alarm systems available, from basic conventional non-addressable fire alarms and detectors to fully programmable fire alarm systems. You must think very carefully when deciding which type of fire alarm system you choose, to ensure that the system you pick best suits your fire safety requirements and follows current fire safety legislation. The system you choose will vary greatly depending on several factors the foremost of which arises from your fire risk assessment and then includes your budget, the size of your premises and the needs of the people present.

By law all fire alarm systems should conform to British Fire Safety Standards, so if you’re not sure, get a qualified fire alarm specialist to check that your system complies.

Conventional Non-addressable fire alarms

These systems serve their purpose of detecting fire and then sounding an alarm to warn the occupants of a building about the danger. Conventional fire alarms systems work by having automatic detectors wired on separate circuits (each referred to as a zone) to a central control panel. In multi-story buildings the design will depend on the grade and/or category of a system. Ideally there should be detectors placed throughout each floor, though where a lesser specification exists then the design should pay particular attention to areas where there is a greater fire risk such as kitchens or where flammable materials are stored.

When a fire is detected the alarm should sound and the control panel indicates the zone. This should help detect the location of the fire so that it can be isolated quickly. Conventional fire alarms are best suited to smaller premises.

Analogue addressable fire alarm systems

For protecting larger buildings against the threat of fire, analogue fire alarm systems would be more effective than a conventional alarm system. These systems are wired up to a central control unit that can pinpoint more accurately the exact location of the fire as they display a specific text location description for each detector or alarm device. They also reduce the risk of false alarms as there is more control possible over monitoring systems.

Wireless fire alarms

These can be either addressable or non-addressable system. As the name suggests wireless fire alarms do not require wiring up so are perfect for situations where it may not be possible to install cabling, such as listed buildings or museums where this may appear unsightly. These alarm systems are easy to set up so can be installed on a temporary basis if a short term solution is required. They can have a range of up to 1.5km so are suitable for all size buildings. This is particularly useful for example; in building sites as construction progresses – the alarm system can be moved if necessary. The advantage of these alarm systems is that you are not tied down to one physical location.

Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus (VESDA)

In situations where it’s critical to know immediately when a fire occurs, VESDA systems are essential. These systems monitor air and can detect smoke before it is even visible. This gives valuable extra time which can saves lives and minimise the impact that fire has on property.

Special fire alarms for deaf and voice alarm systems

Some fire alarm systems are designed specifically for people with hearing difficulties. They allow the alarm system to be connected up to a pager, which will automatically vibrate and send a message in the event that the fire alarm is activated. These have a range of 10,000sq/ft and are suitable for both commercial and industrial use.

Large, busy areas that have several exits may require specific fire evacuation instructions can have voice alarm systems installed, with either live or pre-recorded announcements to provide safety information in the event of a fire. These would be highly recommended for public places such as shopping centres, hospitals or prisons.

Testing and maintaining your fire alarm system

Fire alarms are designed to save lives, so it’s incredibly important to ensure that they are working properly at all times. All systems should be tested on a weekly basis and regular inspections must be carried out by a professional fire alarm technician.

For all your fire alarm system installation, maintenance and servicing needs – contact Euro Fire Protection today on 08000 515 199.

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What Fire Safety Signage Do You Need?

It is important to install fire safety signage in workplaces, schools and public buildings to give easy visual guidance so that people can quickly identify the location of fire exits, alarms and equipment.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 together with the Health & Safety (Safety Signs) & Signals Regulations it is also a legal requirement for public buildings, and any to which the general public or customers have access, to display fire safety signs, so it’s essential to know what types of fire signage are available and which types you require for your business premises.

Appearance and location of fire safety signs

Fire safety signage has a standardised appearance and will usually be made up of text and a pictogram (both in white), with a colour coded background of either red or green. Fire safety signs with a green background indicate fire escape routes, emergency exits and assembly points, whereas signs with a red background identify and show the location of fire fighting equipment and alarm activation points.

There are also some signs that also include additional information on usage of the equipment, particularly fire extinguishers which have specific usage requirements; these are positioned immediately by the equipment and usually have a red background.

Some additional signage placed around fire alarm points may provide information on what to do in the event of a fire. This signage typically features white pictograms and/or text on a red background. These types of signs vary slightly as they offer specific instructions for a building, but most follow a standardised format.

A fire may affect a building’s lighting, so it would be recommended that fire safety signs are photoluminescent and glow in the dark so they can still be read in poor light.

Emergency exit and escape route signage

These signs are used to show alternative escape routes to exit a building in the event of a fire. They are usually placed above a fire escape door where they are clearly visible. In large buildings or factories where the location of fire escape doors is not immediately obvious, fire exit signs with arrows may be placed at points around the building to direct people along an escape route towards fire escape doors.

Fire exit doors often have push bars, so additional signs may be found on the door instructing people to push the door in the event of a fire.

In some cases fire escape doors may be located in an area that could easily become obstructed; therefore signage is then necessary informing users to keep the fire exit clear at all times. This should be placed on both sides of the door to ensure the fire escape door can function properly if needed and are white writing on a blue background.

Signage indicating fire fighting equipment & alarm activation points

All fire fighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers, hose reels and fire blankets should have a sign placed in close proximity to identify the equipment. If the equipment is hidden from view there may need to be additional signage used with arrows to guide people to the equipment.

As some fire equipment, particularly fire extinguishers have specific usage guidelines, signs are needed to outline their use. For example there are different type of fire extinguishers and some are more appropriate to use on a certain class of fire than others. In some environments where there may be the threat of several types of fire, all extinguishers should include signage explaining which types of fire that they are suitable for.

‘Fire Action’ and ‘In Case of Fire’ signage

When a fire occurs people often panic, so it is helpful to display information on what they should do. This will usually be located on the wall in public areas with high footfall such as reception areas, canteens and next to fire alarm activation points.

Information should be given on what to do if a fire is discovered and where the nearest assembly point is. Additional advice may be supplied at the bottom of the sign against a red background, on what should not be done under any circumstances during a fire.

These signs usually include special advice relating to a specific building’s fire evacuation plans.

Additional Fire Signage

If your business has fire doors installed, these will need to be kept shut unless you have a system that automatically closes all of the fire doors when the fire alarm is triggered. Signage should be placed on fire doors to identify which should be kept closed. The sign should be positioned where it is most noticeable, usually at eye level towards the centre of the door. Fire door signs are usually round with white writing on a blue background.

In some situations there may also be the need for specialist fire instructions, these are usually displayed on signs with a green background. An example of this may be ‘in case of fire break glass’ signs where the sign displays a direct instruction on what a person should do in the event of a fire.

Fire Safety Signage – Quick Tick List

  • Fire escapes/keep clear fire exit signs
  • Fire assembly point signs
  • Fire fighting equipment signs
  • Fire extinguisher identification and instruction signs
  • Fire call point signs
  • Fire action/In case of fire signs
  • Fire door signs
  • Electrical or hazard warning signs

If you’re unsure what fire safety signage your premises needs, then get in touch with the professionals. At Euro Fire Protection we can provide you with a free site survey to assess the types of fire safety signs you need and the where these should ideally be positioned.

For expert fire protection advice and equipment – contact the Euro Fire Protection team today on 08000 515 199

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What is Fire Loading and How Do You Minimise it?

In simple terms fire loading is a measurement used by fire-fighters and other fire safety professionals to determine the potential severity of a fire in a given space. It describes the amount of combustible material in a building or confined space and the amount of heat this can generate. The more flammable materials there are present in a space, the higher the fire load and therefore the faster a fire will spread, increasing the potential impact of the fire.

A bare room with no furnishings or items present and concrete walls will have a fire loading of nearly zero. The problem occurs when people bring combustible materials into a space, as this increases the fire loading. However these materials are often essential for the useful functioning of the building, so you can’t completely eliminate fire loading in a building, although you can take steps to reduce it.

Reducing Fire Loading

Some specific uses of a building may carry a high fire load than others however. For example, art galleries tend to have paints, solvents and wooden picture frames present, so therefore the fire load is higher. Storing combustibles separately, with space left in between is advisable and even though it may not be the most efficient use of space, it can dramatically help limit the spread of fire. Also thinking about the types of materials that you are storing in a building and considering the possibility of moving them elsewhere is a good idea. 

Calculate the Fire Loading of your building

If you want to delve further into the way that fire loading is calculated, this will show you why certain materials contribute more to the fire loading. To calculate the fire loading of a building, multiply the number of flammable materials in a room by the BTUs they generate per pound. You then divide this by the number of square feet in the room to get the fire loading.

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a unit of heat equal to the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at normal atmospheric pressure. Different materials have different BTU ratings per pound for example burning paper produces 6,500 BTUs/lb whereas burning petrol produces 19,000 BTUs/lb. As you can see, having petrol present in a building will greatly increase the fire load of a building, so if you want to reduce the fire loading of a particular building, it can help to find out the BTU ratings of the materials you have present and take steps to remove or carefully plan their safe storage.

Fire Loading and Flashover

One of the reasons why calculating the amount of heat generated by a particular substance when burning is so important, is that the build-up of heat in a fire can trigger deadly flashovers – that can engulf a room in seconds. Flashover occurs when organic materials are heated and undergo thermal decomposition. They then give off flammable gases which lead to simultaneous ignition of the combustible materials in a room.

Call the Professionals

When dealing with fire safety, it’s important to consult the opinion of a fire protection specialist. If you’d like more information on fire loading and how to reduce it in your premises, please get in touch with us today for our expert fire protection advice.

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