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British Standards: Categories of Fire Detection Systems

What are the British Standards for?

The British Standards are an essential resource for those who design and install fire detection systems in commercial properties, as well as for local authorities, housing associations and the fire brigade. They outline the types of fire detection and alarm systems that should be installed in commercial buildings to give protection against fire.

These standards act as a guide to ensure fire alarm systems fulfil two key objectives – saving lives and protecting property. Due to the huge variety of applications for fire detection systems, the British Standards divides them into several different categories. Here’s a run through of the categories, the levels of system and what they mean.

Category M Fire Detection Systems

Alarms under this category are manual fire alarm systems where the alarm must be activated, for example by a person using a fire call point. These systems tend to be fairly basic and require a human to discover the fire and take action.

Category L Fire Detection Systems

Category L systems are automatic fire detection and alarm systems with the aim of protecting life. There are 5 levels within this category, each offering a different level of fire protection.

L1 – Earliest possible fire detection

Fire alarms should be installed throughout a building to provide the earliest possible warning. This is critical in commercial premises where there are many people present on site.

L2 – Fire detectors for defined areas

This level of protection requires alarms to be installed in defined parts of a building to give occupants as much time as possible to be evacuated, before escape routes become impassable due to smoke and flames.

L3 – Protecting paths to fire escape

Similarly to level 2, this level involves installing detectors in defined areas, the difference being with level 3 that fire detectors should be placed in rooms that open onto an escape route.

L4 – Protection of fire escape routes

Fire detectors should be placed along escape routes and in other circulation areas, such as corridors and stairways. The objective of this is to protect escape routes so that people can exit a building safely during the event of a fire.

L5 – Localised fire protection

In some buildings fire detection systems may be needed to satisfy a specific fire safety requirement. For example there may be an area where a fire would pose a high risk to the lives of occupants. Under these circumstances, detectors would be required in these locations whether this includes just one room or even entire section of a building.

Level 5 may be needed as an additional requirement to those mentioned under levels 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Category P Fire Detection Systems

Category P systems have the primary aim of protecting property from fire. There are 2 levels, which offer a different level of protection depending on the fire threat.

P1 – Complete fire protection for earliest possible warning

These detection systems offer the earliest possible fire warning. Detectors and alarms should be placed in all areas of a building, so that the moment a fire breaks out the fire brigade can be alerted to stop the spread of the fire and minimize damage to property.

P2 – Fire detectors for defined parts of a building

Where the threat to property and therefore business is high in particular areas of a building, more specific coverage may be needed. Areas with high fire risk, particularly where there are several fire hazards present will require special warning. This could refer to a single room but it can also be extended to cover the entire floor of a building.

Choosing the right fire alarm system to protect your premises

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution. In order to find the most appropriate category and type of detection system for your premises – you need to look at your specific fire safety objectives.

Ask yourself; what are your primary fire safety objectives – protection of people or property? This will depend on your business, the people present on site and numerous other factors.

With something as critical as fire safety, it’s important to gain professional advice from a fire alarms specialist. A professional will be able to quickly assess your premises and provide recommendations on the type and level of system that you require. 

If you’re looking for expert advice on fire alarm systems, get in touch with Euro Fire Protection now on: 08000 515 199 

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