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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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