Fire alarm regulations are simple once you get your head around them. While they look daunting at first, common sense prevails when it comes to keeping your commercial building – and those inside – safe from fire at all times.
Current UK regulations stipulate you need an “appropriate fire detection system” in the building and the ability to detect a fire at all times, giving those inside enough warning to get out safely. While this doesn’t mean a fire alarm is legally required, it is highly recommended and necessary in the majority of buildings.
You need to designate a person for matters of fire safety in the building. Again, this is common sense stuff. The designated individual should be someone with existing responsibility for the building and its occupants – such as the manager or owner.
This person ensures everyone can escape quickly and safely from the building in the event of a fire, completes fire safety risk assessments and resolves any issues that crop up. Failure to do this can result in anything from a fine to a prison sentence.
As you’d expect, this person needs to minimise fire risks wherever possible, ensuring any potentially vulnerable individuals (such as those with a physical disability) have suitable measures in place and that any flammable or explosive materials are safely stored.
There are lots of alarm types. It can be difficult to decide which is best for your building. Thankfully, the type will be determined by the results of the risk assessment completed by the responsible person.
There are three types of alarm system:
Conventional Fire Alarms
These are basic detection devices connected to a control panel using wires. If the device registers signs of a fire (for example heat or smoke), it will notify the control panel. This sets off the alarm. The control panel can also tell you which building zone the fire has been detected in. Unfortunately, it can’t pinpoint which device has been triggered.
These systems differ from the conventional set up because each alarm holds a unique address, allowing you to track the triggered device. Unsurprisingly, this alarm is more expensive.
As the name suggests, these don’t require ungainly wires and because each alarm is battery operated, they don’t rely on a mains electricity supply. Wireless alarms can therefore be installed with far less fuss. However, this is usually the most expensive system of the three.
Once you’ve bought your alarm it isn’t simply a job well done. Cutting corners on fitment is out of the question. The system needs fitting by a BAFE accredited company to make sure your occupants are safe and to protect you from legal action should your alarm malfunction.
Once your system is fitted you need to keep it in tip-top shape. Establish a maintenance contract with an accredited firm to ensure the continued health and legality of your fire alarm system. It will save you considerable worry in the long term.
How and when is the fire alarm testing performed?
Firstly, tell everyone there will be a regular test at a particular time. Try to do it at the same time every week – it stops people thinking the test is real.
How often should a commercial fire alarm be tested?
Fire alarms should be tested once a week by the designated person.
Are small businesses subject to the same fire alarm requirements?
All non-domestic buildings with over four people are subject to a mandatory fire risk assessment. If the building or business is overly complex a third-party risk assessor can be brought in to help.