Everything You Need To Know About: Commercial Fire Alarm Systems

If you are a business owner or a building manager, protecting your premises, as well as the people who might be present from the risk of fire is your legal responsibility. The first step to ensuring that everyone is safe is to install and maintain a reliable commercial fire alarm system compliant with the fire safety standards and regulations in the UK that provides adequate fire detection.

Read our handy guide on commercial fire alarm systems to learn everything you need to know about fire alarms in the workplace and how to get them right. 

What is a commercial fire alarm system?

The fire alarm regulations for commercial buildings provide the following definition for a commercial fire alarm system – it must simply be ‘an appropriate fire detection system’. If this is your first time dealing with fire safety and prevention in the workplace, this wording may leave you a little lost.

However, there is a very good explanation of the vague definition given and it is that every building will have different specific fire safety requirements based on the fire hazards uncovered during the mandatory fire risk assessment

That being said, for any commercial fire alarm system to be considered “appropriate”, as a basis, it must serve its purpose – to ensure that everyone in the building is quickly and easily notified of a fire incident if one occurs. For that to be achieved, it must contain all the necessary components as described by the BS EN54 (see a comprehensive BS EN54 summary here). 

Types of Commercial Fire Alarm Systems

After conducting a 5-step fire risk assessment, you will be advised to install one of three types of commercial fire alarm systems:

  • Conventional: A fire alarm system consisting of a main control panel and several zones equipped with fire detectors that feed back to the main panel. If a single detector goes off, the whole alarm will be triggered. It’s a good solution for large buildings
  • Addressable: An addressable fire alarm system provides more detailed information, allowing you to monitor and pinpoint the exact location of the fire based on the information relayed to the control panel. As these systems are more precise, evacuation can be triggered only in the area endangered by the fire
  • Wireless: Unlike conventional and addressable fire alarm systems which both use wiring to transmit information, wireless fire alarm systems use radio-frequencies to communicate with the main control panel. Apart from that, it works as an addressable alarm system, giving you information about where the fire started and allowing you to evacuate only parts of the building

Interlinked Fire Alarms

If you are looking for commercial fire alarm systems with superior functionality, interconnected fire alarms might be the answer.  This type of system combines one of the traditional fire alarm systems with a range of other fire detection equipment, such as:

  • Smoke Detectors: There are two types of smoke detectors – ionisation and optical detectors, both of which react to the presence of smoke in the air 
  • Heat Detectors: These detect unusual or unexpected changes in the temperature that may indicate a fire 
  • CO Detectors – Triggered by dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the air 

Confused by the terminology? Learn more about the difference between smoke and heat detectors or smoke directors and fire alarms next. 

Commercial Fire Alarm Systems Categories 

Commercial fire alarm systems can also be split into specific fire alarm categories, as described below: 

  • Category M (Manual): An alarm can only be activated manually by using manual call points when you discover a fire 
  • Category L (Life Protection): Designed to save lives (rather than prevent property damage) these alarms are split into various subcategories based on their specificities, e.g. earliest detection, detection by specific area, fire escape route protection, etc.
  • Category P (Property Protection): The main purpose of this category is to prevent destruction of your physical assets in the event of a fire 

Wired vs Wireless Commercial Fire Alarm Systems

If you are wondering what commercial fire alarm system you should get for your premises, you should definitely weigh the pros and cons of wired vs wireless fire alarms. Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison below: 

Wired Commercial Alarm Systems Benefits 

  • Lower cost per unit 
  • Mains-powered – no need to replace batteries
  • Wired communication – RF signal interference isn’t a concern
  • Limited maintenance costs 

Buy Hardwired Fire Alarms 

Wireless Commercial Alarm Systems Benefits 

  • Lower installation cost 
  • No need for drilling holes into walls – minimal disruption
  • Battery-operated – power outages won’t be a problem
  • Perfect solution for temporary construction sites 
  • Easy to modify system layout 

Buy Wireless Fire Alarms

Commercial Fire Alarm Systems: Installation, Maintenance & Servicing

To ensure that your commercial fire alarm system is compliant with the UK laws and regulations, you need to also arrange for it to be installed, maintained and serviced by a competent fire safety engineer. 

  • Fire Alarm Systems Installation: Your commercial fire alarm systems should be installed by a BAFE accredited expert to ensure regulatory compliance and to minimise the risk of malfunction due to installation errors 
  • Fire Alarm Servicing: Your fire alarm system must be inspected by a competent professional at regular intervals (every two years) to make sure it’s in a good working condition
  • Fire Alarm Maintenance: In addition to your fire alarm service, you should also make sure that daily visual checks performed by the fire marshal and weekly fire alarm tests are carried out as part of your regular maintenance routine

Book your fire alarm servicing and maintenance

Looking for expert help and advice? Get in touch with Evacuator Alarms today. We are Midlands-based specialists in commercial fire alarm safety offering a wide range of wired and wireless fire safety alarm systems, fire safety equipment, including a range of fire extinguishers, fire safety stands and storage, fire safety signage and more.