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Where should Fire Alarms be placed in Commercial Buildings

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Although we are responsible for both business and residential customers, this blog specifically relates to commercial premises. We discuss fire alarms, smoke detectors and alarm sounders, for whilst they are interconnected, they each perform slightly different functions.

Firstly, fire alarms. This is the most widely used description as it covers numerous options - from a full-scale fire alarm system, to a single alarm designed to alert a building’s occupants that there is either a fire incident in close proximity, or that a fire drill is about to take place, and everyone needs to evacuate the premises.

Secondly, smoke detectors. These are located to detect when smoke is present within the local vicinity.

And thirdly, there are alarm sounders. These devices work in tandem with detectors, making an audible sound confirming that the smoke detector has picked up the presence of smoke. A signal is then sent to a control panel which sets off the fire alarm.

What are the legal requirements for commercial fire alarm systems? 

All commercial buildings are required by law to have equipment and procedures in place to detect, alert and notify building occupants to act in the event of a fire.

Indeed, there is far more legislation which governs the installation, placement and the testing and maintenance of fire alarms in commercial premises, than in the residential sector.

UK fire alarm regulations stipulate that all business premises must have “an appropriate fire detection system”. This is to ensure that in the event of a fire outbreak, it is easily detectable and that those inside the building are alerted as soon as possible.

Not every commercial building needs to be fitted with a fire alarm system, however.As examples, these would include small single storey or open plan premises where no high-risk, inflammable substances are stored, or where there are no cooking facilities, or where the premises are not occupied by the young, elderly, or vulnerable. Other than that, the overwhelming number of business premises – from small offices to sprawling factories – will need a fire alarm system in place.

In any event, your Fire Risk Assessment should specifically state whether you should or should not install automatic fire detection.

What is the best location in the building for a fire detection device?

Whatever the size and scope of a commercial property, every building has a unique set of potential fire risks. It is crucial, therefore, that any fire alarm device can detect anything that might act as an indicator that fire danger is present. This could be anything from initial smoke, excess heat, changes in the air, a smell of gas and, of course, flames.

Depending on the type of commercial property and the business activities taking place within the building, detection equipment must be installed either in every room, or on every storey of the property. This will be determined by a fire safety order, issued after a thorough fire risk assessment has been carried out by a competent person.

Every enclosed area needs its own smoke detector. i.e., a partitioned office, separate from the main open plan area, would require its own smoke detector.

In an existing commercial building, then fire detection equipment should already have been installed. When a company is taking over these premises, a new fire risk assessment should be carried out, to ensure that any planned changes, required by the incoming tenant or occupier, include adequate smoke detector coverage.

If there are not any fire safety systems currently in place within a commercial property, a fire risk assessment would be advisable, to identify the correct classification of fire alarm protection required under BS 5839-1

It is also worth pointing out that should a fire break out in a commercial building, the insurance policies may be invalid if it can be shown that the fire alarms and fire detection devices on the premises were inadequate. That’s why it is essential that any faults and maintenance or inspections are logged in the fire logbook.

When it comes to positioning fire alarm systems in commercial settings, there is always plenty to consider.

At Justice Fire and Security, we have decades of experience installing fire alarm systems in homes and businesses. We can provide you with all the detailed advice you need to ensure that any current or future system is fit for purpose.

At Justice Fire & Security, our main priority is that your premises are safe at all times, but also that you and your staff are entirely comfortable with how the alarm system works. If you require further advice about how to activate and disarm your alarm system, please call our support team on 0845 468 0927. They will be happy to give you all the help you need and to ensure you don’t inadvertently have fire engines heading in your direction.

For more information please download our FREE guide or browse our Fire and Life Safety systems sub menu on the right.