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How to Choose a Fire Alarm System for Your Business

Fire alarms are proven to save lives and are one of the most important investments your business can make. It’s also a legal requirement to have a Fire Risk Assessment which will define the requirements for a fire alarm system to be installed on all commercial premises and that it is tested regularly.

When choosing a fire alarm system, don’t just go for the cheapest option. The deciding factor should be how effectively the alarm alerts people on your premises to danger and protects their safety.

Identify all of the fire threats to your business

The first stage in choosing a fire alarm system is to work out what the fire risks to your business are. This should be included in your fire risk assessment, which will set out potential hazards that could result in a fire and areas of higher risk. From knowing where, how and what types of fires can start on site, you can come up with a strategy for combating the fire threat to your business.

For example if materials stored on your premises would produce a lot of smoke when they burn, then smoke detectors would be most appropriate. Likewise if materials produce a lot of heat when burned and relatively little smoke, then heat detectors would be preferred. Using this method of examining and understanding fire threats provides better insight to help you protect your business.

Consider the size and layout of your business premises

Size and the layout of your business premises will be a key consideration when deciding upon an alarm system to offer complete coverage and fire protection. Smaller commercial properties tend to be more suited to conventional fire alarms, which will consist of detectors and call points that can be activated manually or automatically to raise the alarm. These systems use basic fire detection zones to identify which zone the alarm has been triggered as they are wired back to a central control panel.

Larger premises often require much more sophisticated alarm systems. Buildings may have multiple floors and will require at least one fire detector to be placed on every level and in some cases each room, depending on what is set out in their risk assessment.

In huge buildings it saves valuable time to know the exact location of the fire, down to the alarm or call point that was triggered. This can be pinpointed by using addressable fire alarms systems which are programmed so that each device has its own specific location. These alarms can be set up to control a whole host of crucial fire safety features such as shutting down equipment, activating fire suppression equipment and recalling elevators to ground level.

If your business is spread out over several different buildings in close proximity on the same site, you may need alarms to communicate with one and other. Wireless alarms allow you to manage these alarms via a central control system, without the need for hardwiring.

Choosing the most appropriate alarm to protect the people on site

By far the most important objective of a fire alarm system is to ensure that it alerts all of the people on your premises to danger. The people on site at any time may vary, depending on the nature of your business. It is your responsibility to protect these people whilst they are on site, so your alarm system must consider their potential requirements.

If there are a number of people on your premises, particularly members of the public – you may need a way of communicating directly with them. For this a fire alarm system that has a public address system built in would be most appropriate, as it allows you to give specific evacuation instructions whilst also reassuring people.

There may also be vulnerable people on site or people that are hard of hearing. In these cases you must ensure that your alarm system and fire evacuation policy takes into account their safety needs. For people with hearing difficulties, special fire alarms may be required. These can send radio wave signals to pager devices, which vibrate providing warning that there is danger.

Do you need a fire alarm system that allows two way communications?

Similarly, two way communications may be necessary so there can be communication between people on the inside and outside of a burning building. This may be appropriate if the building has a delayed evacuation procedure or in particularly dangerous situations.

Does your business require an alarm system that’s monitored around the clock?

If there are times when there is no one present on your premises (for example at night or on weekends) then you may require a monitored fire alarm system. This is particularly important for shops and warehouses where they may be a great deal of stock that needs protecting 24/7. Monitored alarm systems can be set up to notify designated people if the alarm system is triggered or automatically alert the fire brigade.

Special requirements for fire alarm systems

In some situations very early warning smoke detectors or VESDAs may be needed to detect a fire the moment it starts, so evacuation can begin immediately. This may be used in places where there are a lot of people gathered in a small space, for example theatres, concert and entertainment venues.

Listed buildings or museums may require wireless fire alarms, as there is less damage and upheaval caused by having to lay physical cabling which may spoil the building.

Contact a professional fire alarm specialist for installation and maintenance

All commercial fire alarm systems must conform to British Standards so it’s advisable to consult the advice of a professional when deciding how to best protect your business from fire. 

Euro Fire Protection are fire alarm specialists based in Croydon, South London. We supply, install and maintain a variety of fire alarms ranging from conventional fire alarms to fully addressable fire alarm systems.

Call us now for advice on fire protection for your business – 08000 515 199.

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Smart Fire Alarms – Fire Detection Technology of the Future?

Earlier this year, Internet giants Google splashed out a cool $3.2 billion on Nest Labs, a company who are aiming to revolutionise fire detection systems. This was seen as quite a bold and unusual move from Google, but in time it could turn out to be a very shrewd move, as smoke alarms are about to get their own smart rethink.

What is Nest and how does it differ from conventional fire alarms?

The idea behind Nest is to integrate systems that control security, heating, lighting and fire protection with one device. This device is connected to the internet and can be managed remotely via a smartphone. Therefore it allows you to monitor your smoke alarm when you’re out and about.

Nest combines both carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and aims to reduce unwanted false alarms with its advanced fire detection system.  

How does Nest detect and alert you to fires?

Anyone who has experienced their smoke alarm screeching after burning their morning toast will agree that it is certainly not the most pleasant sound. False alarms triggered by burnt food are an annoyance and can often result in people removing the batteries from their alarm, meaning they are no longer protected in the event of a real fire.

Nest uses a far more sophisticated method of fire detection that actually enables it to distinguish between the signs of a fire and a sign you’ve ruined your breakfast! If the alarm detects smoke from burnt food, it will provide a polite warning in a spoken voice before sounding. The alarm can easily be silenced with a simple hand gesture, so there’s no need to brandish a tea towel at it.

Connected systems and advanced fire alarm monitoring

If there is a real fire detected then the system will alert you to where the danger is and provide a warning. For example if you’re elsewhere and a fire starts in the kitchen, the alarms will communicate with one another to provide you with a warning to the danger, wherever you are. Even if you are out and about then the alarm will send a notification to your smartphone and provide you with extra information and an option to dial the fire brigade immediately.

Linking fire detection systems to other systems in the home can also provide smart protection, for example if Nest detects Carbon Monoxide then it will automatically turn the gas off. It may be early days for Nest, but the benefits of this system are clear to see.

What does Nest mean for commercial fire alarms?

Although Nest is predominately designed as a residential fire alarm system, some of these advancements in fire detection technology could be applied to commercial alarms too. False alarms can create disruption in a working environment so having a system that offers a similar way of dealing with false alarms as Nest may become a more popular choice in the future, as people get used to this in their homes.

Monitoring fire alarms via smartphones may also become more widespread as this provides an effective way of keeping track of the security of work premises remotely, in real time and around the clock. The technology is already in place, so it is a case of seeing how well this is adopted by businesses.

Nest may also lead to further integration of smoke alarms with other systems. Currently many commercial fire alarm systems are connected to safety systems and fire suppressants such as sprinklers, but in the future other systems such as heating and lighting could all in theory be controlled by one device.

It’s still early days for Nest smoke detectors…

The impact Nest has on the fire protection industry remains to be seen, but as technology for commercial fire alarm systems has been becoming more and more sophisticated – it seems that now alarms designed for the residential market are finally starting to catch up.

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Euro Fire Protection Feature in Interview about Capital Business Centre

This year we’re celebrating 10 years of being based at Capital Business Centre in South Croydon, making us the complex’s longest standing residents.

Recently, the centre’s manager Teresa Hocking carried out an interview with Martin Hughes from the Euro Fire Protection team. In the interview Martin discusses the early days of Euro Fire and how he and Colin joined forces to take over and build upon the existing company.

Martin explains how the business was originally based out of his Selsdon home and Colin’s garage. However as the company expanded, they needed to find a new location to cater for their growing business. Capital Business Centre proved to be the perfect base, as it was close to the A23 and just a short distance from Croydon town centre. As we provide complete fire protection services to many businesses across London and the south east, this location proved great for business.

So in 2004, Euro Fire Protection became the first company to move into the newly built Capital Business Centre and from our shiny new offices, the business went from strength to strength. All these years later, we’re still here, offering excellent fire protection and maintenance services to clients nationwide. Here’s to another 10 successful years!

You can read the full interview with Martin here.

Euro Fire Protection are fully qualified fire protection experts – providing equipment, services and maintenance to protect businesses against fire. We offer 24/7 response. Call us now on 08000 515 199.

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Fire Safety Advice for Your Business during Colder Weather

The threat of fire breaking out exists all year round but winter brings with it specific fire safety concerns that need to be addressed. By following these guidelines you can reduce the likelihood of a fire occurring in your workplace during the colder winter months and ensure your business is best protected.

Be prepared for power cuts and use a torch instead of candles

Unsettled, stormy weather particularly like the treacherous conditions many parts of the UK have experienced this winter; result in a higher risk of power outages. It’s worth being prepared in case electricity supplies are cut off and your workplace is plunged into darkness. Keeping battery powered torches on your premises is advisable so you have a back-up plan if all else fails. This is a far safer option than using candles, which can pose a significant fire threat.

If candles are your only option during a power cut, follow these essential safety guidelines:

  • Make sure candles are positioned in a place where they are away from materials such as curtains or other flammables that could be catch alight.
  • Place candles somewhere safe where they won’t be knocked over. Avoid window sills.
  • Don’t leave candles unattended and make sure they are completely extinguished before you leave the premises.

Take care when using portable heaters

Portable heaters are one of the biggest causes of domestic fires during the winter, but they can also pose a threat to commercial properties too if they are brought into the workplace. Fires can start if the heater is placed too near to furniture or other combustible items. During periods of cold weather, space heaters are a popular choice as they are great at quickly boosting the temperature of a room.

To reduce the fire risk:

  • Check the wiring and plug for damage before using, especially if you’ve had the heater for more than 5 years.
  • Do not use extensions cords with portable heaters.
  • Keep at least 3 feet distance around the heater, making sure it is kept away from desks, cardboard packaging and paper which may be present in an office environment.
  • Ensure that heaters are not left on for an extended period of time and the last person to leave the premises at the end of the day turns the heater off.
  • Do not place any items on top of the heater.
  • If you are buying a heater for your workplace, choose one that includes safety features, such as a time safety switch, so that it cannot overheat or one that automatically turns the heater off if it falls over.

Keep flammable materials away from sources of heat

It goes without saying at all times of the year that any materials that are flammable should receive special attention regarding their storage. If you have highly flammable materials on your premises you’ll need to check that they are kept away from heat sources such as radiators and electrical equipment.

This is a concern as the weather turns colder, as items may have been stored near radiators and boilers that were previously not in use. Therefore every year, before you turn on your heating for the winter it’s advisable to have a general inspection to ensure that all flammable materials present on site are stored properly and safely.

Ensure smokers keep to designated smoking areas

Ok so it may be snowing outside and the temperature may be below freezing but that doesn’t mean that smokers shouldn’t uphold your smoking policy! If your regulations state that staff should only smoke in designated areas, then this rule should be observed even though your smoking areas are outside the building and the weather is bad.

Discarded cigarettes are one of the top causes of fires in the workplace so it’s important to enforce your rules and ensure smokers aren’t compromising safety.

The designated area should be properly kitted out with proper cigarette disposal bins to make this safer. Employees should be encouraged to follow your smoking guidelines and make sure their cigarettes are put out properly.

Make sure your fire evacuation procedure is winter-proof

A change in the seasons can bring very different conditions so you should make sure that your fire evacuation plans are effective all year round. For example during a spell of cold weather fire assembly points may become slippery due to ice or snow. Appropriate measure must be taken to ensure the safety of employees, especially during a fire evacuation.

Therefore assembly points and pathways leading to these should be gritted, cleared of snow or alternatives found that are less dangerous to employees. Staff should also be encouraged to keep coats or warm items of clothing on hand so that in the event of a fire, they will be able to keep warm if forced to be outside for long periods of time.

The best way to ensure that your fire evacuation policy is effective year round is to test it regularly and have regular workplace fire drills, even in winter. This may mean that employees will have to venture outside into the cold but it is all in their best interests to protect their safety.

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