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New Residential Fire Alarm Regulations

New legislation regarding smoke detectors in residential properties is being introduced by the government later this year.

From October 1st 2015 landlords will be expected to install working fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their properties or be faced with possible fines of up to £5,000.

Statistically, those in rented accommodation are less likely to have working smoke alarms installed, so the government are putting new measures in place to offer tenants greater protection. It’s estimated that the new regulations could prevent an estimated 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year in the United Kingdom.

What do landlords need to know about changes to fire alarm legislation?

If you’re a landlord, to comply with the new rules you’ll need to ensure that smoke detectors are installed on each story of your property. Although the exact placement of these isn’t specified, guidelines suggest that for maximum safety, detectors should be present in hallways, landings and sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide detectors will be required in areas where there is the highest risk for example in the kitchen area, with alarms placed in sleeping quarters so that occupants can be woken if asleep.

As landlord, you will be responsible for checking that fire alarm system is working correctly at the start of each tenancy, although regular testing is down to tenants.

Funding will be available from the government to support landlords in meeting the new requirements, with the Fire and Rescue authorities supplying smoke detectors free of charge.

Current fire regulations for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Houses with multiple occupants include:

  • Shared Flats/Houses
  • Bedsits
  • Hostels
  • Bed and breakfasts with long term occupants

In properties that are considered to be HMOs, landlords also have other additional fire safety responsibilities.

Fire risk assessments

To comply with the Fire Safety Order a full fire risk assessment of a house in multiple occupation must be carried out and documented by a professional. This is to identify fire risks and find measures to mitigate them throughout the property.

Fire escapes

Fire escapes should be able to resist fire for at least 30 minutes to allow occupants to exit a building safely. Escape routes should be kept clear in HMOs and it is the landlord’s responsibility to enforce this.

Fire resistant furnishings

In furnished properties, any furniture provided by the landlord must be fire resistant so that it does not catch fire easily. Modern upholstered furniture such as sofas and beds should be labelled, but it’s important to check that fire resistance standards are met by all furnishings. 

Fire safety equipment

To minimize damage in the event of a fire, basic fire-fighting equipment should be provided for tenants. This may be outlined in your property fire risk assessment, specifying the type of equipment that will be required and its positioning.

As a rough guide each floor should have its own fire extinguisher, which must be of the most appropriate type. Fire blankets should be installed in kitchen areas, away from the stove, so that they can be reached safely if pans catch fire.

Summary of fire safety advice for tenants

If you’re renting an HMO property and are concerned that it does not have adequate fire protection, in the first instance you raise this with your landlord, if possible in writing.

Your landlord should provide you with:

  • Working fire alarm system
  • Fire safety equipment
  • Adequate means of escape – which should be kept clear
  • Fire resistant furnishings (if furnished property)

Does your rental property comply with the new fire alarm regulations?

Are you a landlord and need information on the new fire alarm regulations for rental properties? Euro Fire Protection provides fire risk assessments and can install managed fire alarm systems in your property.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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Why Avoiding False Fire Alarms is so Important

London Fire Brigade has named the buildings in the capital that they received the most call outs for false alarms from last year.

Approximately a third of all 96,599 calls to the fire services over the past 12 months were false alarms, which works out at 1 every 15 minutes. Out of the top 10 locations revealed, 9 of these were hospitals, with St George’s Hospital in South London as the worst offender, having had 168 call outs as a result of false alarms in 2014.

Infographic showing LFB statistics on false alarm call outs

Charge for false fire brigade call outs

Since January 2014, London Fire Brigade has been charging for false alarm call outs with £295 fines handed out for the tenth false alarm at the same site and all subsequent timewasting calls after. It’s estimated that this has cost the NHS nearly £200,000 so far and although the number of false alarms resulting in actual call outs has fallen, more must be done to tackle the causes.

Top causes of false alarms

The fire brigade has been working to establish the main reasons behind false alarm activations. Findings show that 36% of incidents are resulting from fire alarm systems that automatically alert the fire services.

Activations can occur from something as trivial as smoke from burnt toast. Other top causes include steam, aerosol sprays, dust from building work and bugs nesting in detectors. Users are often responsible for causing false alarms too, via either accidental or malicious activation of call points.

Faults in the system, water leaks, poor alarm maintenance and even having the wrong type of fire alarm system in place from the start can also be ultimately responsible for unnecessary setting alarms off.

Why are false alarms so dangerous?

Put simply, false alarms can cost lives. Not only do they waste firefighter’s time and delay their attendance to real fires, they can also cause people to become complacent and not react upon hearing the fire alarm sound. Fatalities have been caused by people believing that it was ‘just another false alarm’ and failing to evacuate in the event of actual danger.

In locations, such as hospitals, schools and shopping centres where there are a large number of people on the premises, the threat becomes even greater. When a fire occurs, every second counts and any delay to evacuation can result in tragedy.

How can false fire alarms be prevented?

Reducing the number of false alarms is an important obligation for all organisations. Once the root causes have been established, then you can set about tackling them. Prevention may be as simple as putting plastic covers over fire call points, to stop accidental activation, or installing CCTV as a deterrent to pranksters.

Regular maintenance of fire alarm systems is also essential in fixing faults and stopping a build-up of dust on detectors from triggering the alarm. Your fire risk assessment should cover how often your alarms must be checked over.

Addressable fire alarm systems reduce false alarms

If false alarms are a regular occurrence, then perhaps installing an addressable fire alarm system on your premises would be advisable. The system allows ‘pre fire warnings’ that don’t ‘result in full activation, therefore if air in the detector is contaminated by dust for example, the staged warnings mean that you can investigate the issue before it causes a false alarm.

Need to reduce false fire alarms?

We can provide advice on fire alarm installation and maintenance to help you choose the most appropriate type of alarm system and maintenance plan.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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What are Addressable Fire Alarm Systems?

An addressable fire alarm system is made up of a series of fire detectors and devices that are connected back to a central control panel.

With addressable systems, each device has an address or location, enabling the exact detector that was triggered to be quickly identified. This makes addressable alarm systems ideal for large buildings, particularly commercial premises spread over a wide area.

Advantages of addressable fire alarms

  • Quickly determine the location of a fire.
  • Specific actions can be programmed by the user.
  • Reduced likelihood and better handling of false alarms.
  • More reliability, less likely to lose connection.
  • Lower overall cost of wiring.
  • Ability to monitor integrity of the system, with detector health checks.

Fire alarm systems that can be programmed

One of the biggest advantages of addressable fire alarm systems is that they can be configured so that a specific action triggers a specific response.

For example, cause and effect programming can be used to say that a particular ‘cause’ such as activation of a fire detector, has the effect of alarms sounding in a specified area and the system being put on alert mode in another. This means that phased evacuation can take place, with priority areas evacuated first. Each area of a building can then be evacuated one at a time, which allows safer fire evacuation procedures in large buildings.

Reduce false fire alarms

False alarms cause disruption and can be costly, so it’s in any business’s interests to minimise their impact and reduce the likeliness of them occurring in the first place.

One of the advantages of addressable fire alarms is that they can allow air to be monitored through the detectors, so if air is contaminated for example with dust (which can activate some fire alarm systems) then a ‘pre-fire’ warning is triggered. This allows investigation to take place, so any issues can be rectified before a full scale false activation of the system takes place.

Addressable fire alarms are more reliable than conventional

Due to the way that addressable alarm systems are connected, any breaks in the circuit caused by damage are less likely to result in devices being disconnected. Unlike conventional systems, all devices are wired up on a loop and are connected to the panel unit at both ends. Therefore if connection breaks at one end, devices will still be connected.

Cost of wiring up alarm system is cheaper

Addressable fire alarms are wired on a loop, which is basically a circuit that connects the system to other devices such as sprinkler systems, call points and detectors. With conventional fire systems each zone and sounder circuit has its own wire, so the cost of wiring can potentially be higher, depending on how many devices need connecting up.

Monitoring and checking all individual fire detectors for faults

Fire alarms are arguably one of the most critical aspects of fire safety on your premises. Another benefit of addressable fire alarm systems is that all devices can be individually monitored and checked for faults, which makes maintenance easier. If an issue is found with a particular detector for example, then a notification will be received by the central control panel.

Having an addressable system therefore means that any problems can be discovered immediately so that they can be rectified, ensuring that everything is in good working order should an incident occur.

Do you need an addressable fire alarm?

This will depend on the requirements of your premises. Usually addressable fire alarms are more suited to larger commercial premises, as they provide accurate and detailed information as to the location of a fire, which isn’t necessary in smaller buildings.

These systems provide sophisticated fire protection, so therefore they do tend to be more expensive than conventional alarms overall. However if having a reliable method of alerting you to danger, that cuts down false alarms and allows for smooth evacuation is critical to your business, then it’s a worthwhile investment.

Of course, the type of fire alarm system installed is important to get right and we’d strongly advise talking to a fire protection expert before making a decision.

Further advice and information

For advice on whether addressable fire alarms are the most appropriate choice to protect your business, contact Euro Fire Protection. We supply and install fire alarm systems across the UK.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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What is a Fire Alarm Panel?

Fire alarm panels act as a control unit for fire alarm systems that have multiple linked detectors. They are typically used in larger buildings and commercial properties. Their primary tasks are to monitor fires, alert people to the location of a fire and supply power to fire detectors.

Types of fire alarm panel

Fire alarm panels usually fall into two categories, conventional and addressable; we take a look at their uses, features and which environments they are best suited to.

Conventional fire alarm panels

  • Modern conventional fire alarm systems work by having a series of circuits that link all fire sensors back to the central panel.
  • With conventional fire alarm systems, a building is divided into zones and devices wired up accordingly. Zones will usually represent a floor or general area of a building.
  • If a fire is detected then a signal is sent from the sensor to the panel, this will result in an LED light coming onto to indicate the location of the potential fire. This is often represented with a map/floor plan of a property on the panel. This is used by fire fighters when locating a fire.
  • The cost of installing this type of system is fairly expensive, primarily due to the labour needed to install the cabling required for each zone and sounder circuits. Overall however, this system is a cheaper option that the more advanced, addressable systems.
  • Conventional fire alarm panels are best for managing fire alarms systems in small to medium sized locations e.g. in shops, schools, restaurants and flats.

Addressable fire alarm panels

  • Addressable fire alarm systems are more advanced and need a more sophisticated control unit. Addressable fire panels have more capacity and flexibility, allowing more control over the system. They are therefore best suited to larger offices, commercial buildings, entertainment venues and environments with very specific fire protection/safety requirements.
  • These systems are generally used in situations when it’s critical to know where exactly where a fire is straightaway. With addressable, rather than a building being wired into zones, the entire system is wired in one or more loops, with devices being labelled with an exact location description on the panel, so that a fire can be pinpointed down to the individual detector that was activated.
  • Rather than just locating a fire as ‘first floor’ this type of system will track the fire down to ‘first floor, HR department, smoke detector in interview room 2’ for example.
  • Advanced ‘cause and effect’ programming is allowed by addressable panels to trigger specific responses to certain events. This provides the capability to tailor a system to the exact requirements of an environment.
  • As all devices are wired in loops, more reliability is provided in the system than that of conventional as if damage occurs at some point in the cable signals can still reach the panel.
  • If a key consideration when choosing your alarm system is to limit the occurrence of false alarms, then addressable is the best option. The panel unit can monitor the air flow through smoke detectors to check for dust contamination that could lead to false activation.
  • Wireless fire panels are also available as a subset of addressable alarm panels and are used typically in situations where wiring up a system is not suitable or practical. Devices can be connected remotely back to the central control.

Typical system features on the panel

  • System reset – this allows the system to be manually reset after an alarm. This should stop the alarm from sounding, providing conditions have returned to normal. If there is still smoke etc. present, then detectors will pick up on this and trigger the alarm again.
  • Silencer – stops the alarm from sounding, so that emergency workers can communicate once inside a building after evacuation. Can also be used when testing the system discretely.
  • Drill – special drill feature, so that a fire drill can be carried out without an automatic notification being sent to the fire brigade.
  • Pre-alarm – a stage of alert that suggests there may be a potential fire, before a full scale activation of the system occurs. This reduces false alarms as investigations can be carried out prior to the alarm sounding.
  • Trouble and fault detection – the panel monitors for faults with devices and indicates faults in the system.

Do you need a fire alarm panel?

Whether you need a fire alarm panel or not will depend on the fire alarm system you require. Fire alarm panels are would usually be recommended for medium to large buildings, commercial premises and multiple occupancy residential properties. If you’re not sure which type of alarm you require, it’s best to take advice from fire protection specialists.

For more information

Euro Fire Protection supply, install and maintain fire alarm panels for commercial and residential properties. We can advise on which fire alarm system is best for your premises.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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British Standards: Commercial Fire Detection Systems Recommendations

The British Standards feature a set of recommendations on the fire alarm and detection systems for businesses and other commercial properties.

Here’s a summary of the recommendations specified by the British Standards

British Standards Recommendations for Commercial Fire Alarm Systems

a) The category of fire detection and alarm system required should be stated in recommendations from the relevant enforcing authorities or insurers. This is so that there is no ambiguity over the most appropriate category of fire alarm system for a property.

b) The person responsible for purchasing of an alarm system for a commercial property should inform the system’s designer of the category of detection system required. This should for example be stated in tender specifications.

c) When no category is set in the requirements, it is the responsibility of the system designer to make it clear to the purchaser as to which category of system is proposed.

d) In situations a, b and c – further information as to the location of where fire detectors should be placed in a building should be provided. The only exceptions are for L1 or P1 systems

e) Category L1, L2, L3 and L4 fire detection systems (which are for the protection of life) should also satisfy the recommendations of a Category M system. A Category M system is one that is defined as needing manual operation/human input to activate the alarm.

f) In some cases, Category M manual fire detection systems may be required in conjunction with a Category P1, P2 or L5 system. Under these circumstances these will be named as follows:

- Category P1/M
- Category P2/M
- Category L5/M

g) When more than one category of system is required to satisfy your building’s fire alarm system requirements, this should be referred to in the following way:

- Category L2/P2
- Category L3/P2

h) The system design certificate is a document that should state the category of fire detection and alarm system designed. It should also include details on the areas of a building that are protected by automatic fire detectors. This is excepted in the cases where Category M, L1 or P1 systems are installed.

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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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Is a Conventional Fire Alarm System Right for Your Business?

Conventional fire alarms are the most basic type of fire detection system. They usually consist of several linked detectors, which are split into different zones – with each having its own circuit connecting multiple devices.

Conventional fire alarms are most appropriate for small businesses

Conventional fire detection systems are best suited to smaller businesses such as small offices, shops and restaurants. Larger premises or those with several different buildings spread out across one site will require a more complex and sophisticated system.

A good option for smaller budgets

One of the key considerations when deciding which alarm system to choose will obviously be your budget. In general, conventional fire panels, detectors and devices do tend to be the cheapest available, although there will be higher costs associated with installation. This is because all of the alarms in each zone have to be wired up, which will take time and more man hours to set up.

Once this has been completed however, the setup of the actual alarm system itself is fairly straightforward as unlike addressable systems, there is no configuration needed.

Wiring may be unsightly or unsuitable for some buildings

As conventional alarm systems require wiring, there are some situations where this may not be practical. Wiring can be unsightly and spoil the look of a building. This is a particular concern for listed buildings, as installing the cabling may cause disruption and damage to the fabric of the building.

How accurately do you need to pinpoint a fire’s location?

This is crucial in larger buildings as you need a way of quickly identifying where a fire has started, so the fire brigade can be informed. Conventional fire alarms can identify the zone that the alarm has been triggered in, although this is where they are limited. If your premises require a more accurate way of locating a fire, then analogue addressable fire systems would be more appropriate as these can track which detector picked up the fire.

How quickly does the alarm need to be raised?

In some larger buildings or where there are many people present within a confined area, it may be the case that the alarm needs to be raised very quickly so that evacuation can begin. If this is the case then standard smoke detectors which are zoned and incorporated into conventional systems may not be the most appropriate and the precision of addressable systems may be needed together with possibly even more advanced detection equipment.

Instead a special type of detector that can alert you to danger the exact moment a fire starts may be required. These are known as VESDAs (very early smoke detection apparatus) and are commonly found in public places such as cinemas, theatres and conference suites.

Not sure which type of fire alarm is best for your business?

If you’re not sure about which system would be the most appropriate for your premises, it’s important that you get an expert opinion. Fire safety is important and alarms play an essential role in protecting your workplace and your employees.

Get in touch with Euro Fire Protection for specialist advice on choosing fire alarms. We supply, install and maintain commercial fire detection systems, panels and devices across the UK. Call us now on: 08000 515 199.

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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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Differences between Fire Alarms for Commercial and Residential Properties

Fire alarm systems are a crucial part of fire safety in both commercial and residential properties. They are designed to save lives and protect property by alerting people that a fire has broken out, giving them extra time to escape and call the fire brigade.

There are many different types of fire alarms available; to suit various different requirements, depending on the environment they are used in. In this article we are going to examine some of the differences between residential and commercial fire alarm systems.

What are residential properties?

This covers places that people are living, from houses and single stories to large blocks of flats. The term residential property includes both private and rented accommodation.

What are commercial properties?

The definition of commercial property is any building used to generate profit; however this can be expanded to cover other types of non-residential properties. Commercial properties include:

Office Buildings – including serviced offices.

Industrial Buildings – warehouses, distribution centers and garages.

Retail/Restaurants –  includes shopping centers, leisure facilities and pubs.

Other non-residential properties such as entertainment venues, hotels, nursing homes, medical and self‐storage complexes, as well as many more.

Types of fire alarms in residential properties

Most people should be familiar with the types of smoke detector used in residential properties. There are two main types, photoelectric (often referred to as optical) and ionisation. Photoelectric smoke detectors use light beams, which cause a reduction in light passing to a photocell if smoke is present. Ionisation smoke detectors work by ionisation reactions inside the alarm being disrupted by the presence of smoke particles.

In a residential setting, photoelectric alarms are more responsive to smouldering fires whereas ionisation detectors are better for flaming fires. Photoelectric tend to be more commonly used in homes, as they are quick to detect smoke coming from burning fabrics and furnishings.

Power supply for domestic smoke detector

In homes smoke detectors are often operated by battery although there are also smoke alarms that are designed to run off the mains and are becoming more prevalent as building regulations now require their fitment in new constructions. The obvious drawback with battery operated smoke alarms is that when the battery runs out the alarm will not work. Often people forget to replace smoke alarm batteries, meaning that their homes are not protected.

Legal requirements for residential fire alarm systems

Although it is strongly advisable to have a working smoke alarm fitted in a residential property, it is not a legal requirement. The exception however is rented properties where, by law landlords must ensure that a mains powered smoke detector is installed and maintained. In rented apartment blocks this means that every individual property has to have at least one smoke or heat alarm.

Positioning and size of residential fire alarm systems

In residential properties fire alarm systems tend to be fairly small and simple. They will usually consist of one or two smoke or heat detectors fitted in a central location or near to areas that pose a greater risk of fire, such as kitchens.

Where there are compartmented areas, such as a block of flats, smoke detectors will needed to be fitted in each flat and ideally these should be interlinked, so that if one alarm is triggered, then the rest of the alarms in the building will sound to warn people of the danger.

Testing and maintenance of domestic fire alarms

It’s advisable to test smoke alarms at least once a week. Testing is straightforward as most domestic alarms are fitted with a test button which can be pressed to check the alarm is working as it should. This is usually sufficient to make sure that the alarm is operating correctly should a fire break out.

Monitored fire alarm systems in homes

To provide extra support, in some types of residential properties there can be monitored alarm systems installed which will automatically notify the fire brigade if the alarm is triggered. This is especially useful for protecting property whilst the occupants are away.

Generally however, monitored alarm systems are a much more common feature in commercial properties and would only be used for residential applications under special circumstances.

Commercial fire alarm systems

Due to the varied nature of commercial premises there are many types of fire alarms systems which are designed to cater for many different potential fire safety requirements.

Size, positioning and interlinking of commercial fire alarms

As commercial properties can vary greatly, they carry a variety of different types of fire safety requirements.

Fire alarm systems in commercial buildings are usually much bigger and more complex than those used in residential applications. With larger sized buildings such as big office blocks or retail areas, fire alarm systems will need careful design and planning, with a full fire risk assessment taking place before installation.

Fire detectors will need to be spread out across buildings, with several in each main area as required to provide full coverage – so that anywhere a fire starts, the alarm will be able to quickly alert people to the danger.

All fire alarms or sub components of such need to be interlinked together with a central control panel, which should ideally be monitored around the clock. These systems should preferably be addressable, so that the exact location of the fire can be pinpointed.

Detectors will have to be able to detect smoke or heat, whichever is most appropriate for the environment; a professional fire protection technician should be consulted to provide advice on this.

Fire alarm activation points

As well as detecting fire, call points will be needed in commercial buildings so that individuals can raise the alarm immediately should they discover a fire. These trigger points, are usually activated by the user breaking a glass which will sound the alarm.

With the types of fire alarm systems used in commercial premises, there is more flexibility provided with the central control panel. This means that beforehand the system can be setup to your special requirements and you can choose which alarms will sound. This is particularly useful if there are several buildings on a site and you only want alarms to sound in the building where the activation point has been triggered.

Different types of fire alarm used in a commercial environment

Protecting members of the public and the safe evacuation of people present in a building are top fire safety priorities in a commercial setting. Due to the varied nature of these environments, there are many different types of commercial fire alarm systems to fulfil specific fire safety requirements.

These include wireless or radio fire alarms, VESDA and voice alarms with built-in public address systems.

Fire alarms with PA systems

There may be the need to provide specific evacuation instructions and communicate these to the people inside a building that is on fire. Voice systems allow public announcements to be made, which can speed up evacuation and save lives.

Wireless and radio fire alarms

Large buildings will require wireless or radio fire alarms. The advantage of these is that they do not need hardwiring and can cover a large range of up to 1.5km.


VESDAs (Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) is a type of alarm system that constantly samples air and processes it looking for smoke, as opposed to waiting for smoke to be detected – which is the way that most conventional fire detectors work.

These systems are essential for more sensitive applications, where there are a large number of people gathered, for example entertainment venues, including cinemas and theatres. In this type of environment, the fire detection system will need to raise the alarm the moment a fire starts so that evacuation can begin immediately.

Monitoring and triggering fire suppression systems

In many cases commercial fire alarms will need 24/7 monitoring. This allows complete fire protection even when there is nobody on the premises. The objective in this case is to protect property by raising the alarm and potentially triggering suppression systems to stop the spread of the fire. Monitored systems can be setup up to automatically notify the emergency services of the fire and its exact location.

Maintenance and testing

As commercial fire alarm systems are often responsible for protecting a larger number of people than residential alarms, they differ in that they are governed by stricter legislation concerning maintenance and testing.

Unlike with residential fire alarms, testing will usually need to be carried out by a qualified professional on a regular basis set out in a formal fire risk assessment. Inspection and servicing of fire alarms should take place at least 2-4 times per year, although this may be more often, depending on specific requirements of the location.

In busy environments or places that are open 24/7 such as hotels, there may be no choice but to test the fire alarm when there are members of the public present on the premises. This must cause minimum disruption and in the interests of safety must not result in down time for the alarm system.

Legal requirements for commercial fire alarm systems

As you can imagine, there is a lot more legislation concerning the installation, placement, testing and maintenance to regulate fire alarms in commercial premises than in residential buildings. British Standards provide guidelines that should be complied with and failure to do so is seen as a breach of a responsibility towards safety and can be punishable by law.

Fire alarms systems play such a key safety role in commercial buildings and there are a lot of lives potentially at steak. If the fire alarm systems are not sufficient then harsh penalties can be given, including hefty fines and in the case of extreme negligence, this can even result in imprisonment if lives are lost as a result of an ineffective approach to fire safety.

In addition if a fire does occur in commercial premises insurance policies may be voided if it can be proved that the fire alarm and smoke detectors were ineffective.

Get in touch with fire alarm specialists today

In both commercial and residential properties, the importance of having a working fire alarm system cannot be underestimated. Fire alarms save lives and there can be no bigger incentive than to ensure that the people who enter a building, be it commercial or residential are fully protected.

For this reason it is always recommended to consult a professional fire alarm specialist to help you choose the most appropriate type of fire detector and monitoring system. 

Get in touch with us at Euro Fire Protection today for more advice on fire alarm systems for commercial and residential properties – we can also provide you with a complete fire risk assessment of your premises.

Call now on – 08000 515 199.

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