Commercial fires are a serious threat with Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) in the UK attending 153,957 fire-related incidents in 2019-20.
Due to this ever-looming risk, it is important to protect all commercial properties including offices, hospitals, schools, hotels, shopping malls, retail stores, farms, warehouses, and garages.
The best way to go about this is by adopting fire safety practices that involve risk assessment and management in the form of commercial fire alarm systems.
In the event of a fire, a fire alarm is capable of alerting everyone in the premises to evacuate immediately and more importantly, call the fire department to deal with the blaze before it spreads and becomes uncontrollable.
This not only protects valuable life and property but is also a requirement laid out by the law. According to the UK government, you are responsible for fire safety on your commercial premises if you are the owner, employer, landlord, occupier, or anyone in a controlling position.
Let’s look at how commercial fire alarm systems work, their different types, and how to choose the best one for your business.
HOW DO COMMERCIAL FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS WORK?
Commercial fire alarms work using a specialized sensor that detects smoke, heat, or an increased level of carbon monoxide levels.
The sensor gets triggered the second that any unusual activity is detected and an alarm goes off warning people in and around the premises to take the necessary action.
A commercial fire alarm is made up of various components that include:
- A control panel
- Power supplies (primary and backup)
- Initiating devices (manual pull stations/break glass stations or automatic sensors)
- Notification devices (bells, sirens, or lights)
Some fire alarm systems may also include sprinklers to instantly extinguish the flames, two-way communication, and remote monitoring services.
COMMERCIAL FIRE ALARM MONITORING
Fire alarm monitoring links your commercial fire alarm system with a professional Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) that constantly monitors your system. The ARC is guaranteed to take an instant action in case of a fire by reaching out to the fire department and relevant authorities.
It works by the fire alarm sending a signal to a professional monitoring centre via landline or 3G/4G network and the monitoring centre receiving the signal and notifying the fire department and named keyholders of the property for the necessary action to be taken.
Here is a step-by-step explanation of what happens in commercial fire alarm monitoring:
- The fire alarm is activated
As soon as smoke, heat, or increased levels of carbon monoxide are detected by the system, it gets activated. It could be done through manual pull stations or automatically picked up by the system.
- The alarm is sent to the ARC
When the alarm gets triggered, an alert is instantly sent to the ARC through the telephone line or via mobile networks, and the professionals manning the stations are prompted to take action.
- The authorities are notified
The monitoring station notifies the police and fire department about the alarm received from the address, after which help is dispatched ASAP.
- The customer is notified
After the relevant authorities have been notified, the ARC contacts the customers to inform them to take action if they are on the premises, and also if they are away.
Commercial fire alarm monitoring is important to keep a watchful eye over your property, and for the ARC to take immediate action in case a fire breaks out.
It is a great way to ensure your property remains safe from fires, especially when it is empty and unattended.
TYPES OF COMMERCIAL FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS
There are two types of commercial fire alarms to choose from; conventional and addressable systems. While both link initiating devices such as sensors, detectors, and pull-stations to the control panel, they differ in the way they are linked and work.
Let’s look at each one in detail:
- Conventional fire alarms
These systems can be set up in zones with each initiating device linked to the control panel on its own wire. When the alarm is triggered, the system can help identify the location of the fire by identifying the zone on the system.
However, these zones are broad and do not give the exact location of the fire. For example, if a commercial building has four floors and each floor is a different zone, a conventional fire alarm would help identify the floor that the fire erupted in, but not where exactly on the floor the threat is.
These are ideal for small commercial properties such as individual offices and retail shops and are much less expensive than addressable fire alarms.
- Addressable fire alarms
With addressable fire alarms, each device on the system has an address or location, and each device is monitored from a central location. This enables identification of the exact place where the fire erupted.
This makes them the perfect choice for large commercial properties such as multi-storey buildings and huge complexes.
They are more expensive than their conventional counterparts but the added cost is justified in the invaluable information that they provide to efficiently and effectively combat fires.
GRADES AND CATEGORIES OF FIRE ALARMS
Fire alarms run through different grades and categories as laid out by the British Standard BS 5839.
There are six grades of fire alarms according to the BS 5839-6:2019 that detail the kind of equipment used in the system.
- Grade A: Separate detectors and sounders with back-up power supply and central control equipment that conform to British Standards BS EN 54.
- Grade C: Separate detectors, sounders, and central control equipment connected to a common power supply, comprising of the mains and standby supply.
- Grade D1: One or more detectors, powered by the mains supply along with a tamper‑proof standby supply consisting of a battery or batteries.
- Grade D2: One or more detectors, powered by the mains supply along with a standby supply consisting of replaceable battery or batteries.
- Grade F1: One or more detectors powered by a tamper‑proof, replaceable primary battery or batteries.
- Grade F2: One or more detectors powered by a replaceable primary battery or batteries.
There are three categories of fire alarm systems according to the British Standards; category M, L, and P.
- Category M: The M here stands for “Manual” and it constitutes all manual fire alarms where the alarm must be triggered by someone manually, for example, someone using an activation/call point to sound the alarm. These systems are fairly simple, not automated, and rely on humans to detect fire and trigger the alarm.
- Category L: The L here stands for “Life protection”, comprising of fire alarm systems geared towards protecting life. There are 5 levels in this category, L1–L5, with L1 offering the highest level of protection and early fire detection, and L5 offering enough to fulfil the basic safety requirements.
- Category P: The P here stands for “Property”, comprising of fire alarm systems geared towards protecting property. There are two levels, P1 and P2, with P1 providing complete fire protection at the earliest possible sign and P2 with detectors for certain defined parts of a building.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST COMMERCIAL FIRE ALARM SYSTEM
When choosing the best fire alarm system for your commercial property, there are a few things that need to be considered:
- The size of the property: this will determine whether a conventional or addressable fire alarm system would be suitable for your premises since the main difference between the two systems is that of scale.
- The location: whether the property is located in an isolated area or a busy neighbourhood will hugely impact the type of system and the relevant grade and category that must be chosen.
- The industry: the type of establishment and how it is run is a major factor to consider. For example, a small school would require a different type of fire alarm than a fireworks factory.
- Features: your requirements and preferences for specific features and functions will play a huge role in choosing a fire alarm for your commercial property.
Other than the above-mentioned deciding factors, there are a few features and qualities in a commercial fire alarm system that you must keep an eye out to get the most out of it and to protect your property to the fullest:
- Early detection
Fires are fast. There’s a reason they compare fast-spreading things to fires. They can engulf your entire property within minutes if not controlled at the right time. Fire alarm systems are great at detecting fires but what you need is quick detection, possibly the earliest.
Early detection fire alarm systems are made specifically for detecting even the slightest bit of unusual activity such as smoke, heat, and other factors, and send out a signal for action to be taken ASAP.
- False alarms
Fire alarms can malfunction due to faulty equipment and installation causing false alarms. Only state-of-the-art fire alarm systems must be installed that won’t go off due to obstructions such as dirt and insects, and also to have them regularly maintained.
False fire alarms not just drain valuable fire department resources but also cause disruptions to businesses and nearby properties, which is why the authorities hold the business owners responsible for false alarms and charge a fee as punishment and resources compensation.
- CCTV integration
A CCTV uses cameras and monitors to record events happening around the premises and display them in real-time to be used for surveillance.
By integrating CCTV cameras with commercial fire alarm systems, security experts monitoring the systems will not only be able to respond to the alarm trigger but also visually investigate the scene of the threat through CCTV footage.
This will make things much easier and will immensely help them determine whether to call the fire department or not (in case of a false alarm).
- One-way or two-way communication
Sometimes, communication between the monitoring staff and the occupants of a building under fire is very important to ensure everyone’s safety.
Some fire alarms come equipped with one-way communication where the monitoring station can alert and send instructions to those in danger, while others offer two-way communication where the people in the building can also communicate and respond to the monitoring station staff.
The best way to choose the right fire alarm is by conducting a comprehensive fire risk assessment of your commercial property along with the primary safety objectives.
If you are unsure and need help, you may consult with a professional to guide you properly. Our experts at Calder Security will be able to quickly assess your premises and provide recommendations on the type, grade, and level of system you require. Contact us right away!
CONTACT CALDER SECURITY
We offer you a comprehensive solution for all your commercial fire alarm system needs and guarantee the best service in all of Yorkshire and beyond!
We are experts in the security industry and have been working for over 40 years. Our experienced installers and contractors and skilled and trained to help you secure your property from all kinds of threats. Our commercial fire alarm services include:
- Commercial fire alarm installation
The proper installation of a fire alarm system is just as important as the quality of the system itself. It is a complex task requiring expertise in the field.
We understand every business is different and that the specification of the system depends on several factors including the type of building, the nature of the business, and the number of employees and staff.
We can help you cut through all that and advise you on exactly what you need to comply with British Standards, HSE, Building Regulations, and Fire Officer Guidelines.
We only install high-quality equipment from our trusted suppliers and all our systems comply with business insurance terms
- Commercial fire alarm maintenance
It is not enough to simply have a fire alarm system installed on your commercial premises. The law states that it must be maintained properly and, depending on many factors, this can be anything up to 3 times per year.
We understand fire regulations and will provide professional maintenance checks and reminders for when the checks are due to help you keep compliant with the law.
We work fast to restore your fire alarm system to excellent condition and always strive to meet your expectations.
- Commercial fire alarm monitoring
Fast response to an activated fire alarm can make all the difference in minimizing risk to life and property.
Fire alarm monitoring adds an extra layer of safety to your fire alarm system. Knowing that experts at an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) are looking out for your safety and taking the necessary steps to ensure that safety remains intact in the event of a fire is a very reassuring thought.
We offer various levels of monitoring via a 24-hour monitoring centre, using Dualcom and BT Redcare signalling, which is the most secure alarm monitoring system and the largest supplier of intelligent alarm signalling services in the UK. BT Redcare is a widely used service established around 30 years ago, securing many residential and commercial properties throughout the country.
Fire alarm monitoring can not only significantly minimise the seriousness of the situation through fast action, but also reduce your insurance premiums.
- Commercial fire alarm repair
As per the law, if a fire alarm system becomes faulty, it is mandatory to get it repaired quickly and professionally. The inability to do so can leave you, your staff, and your property and all of its assets in a vulnerable state.
A faulty fire alarm can result in false alarms or, in a worst-case scenario, prevent it from triggering at all in the event of a fire.
Our engineers are highly skilled and can restore your system to full working order in one visit. We offer a 24-hour call-out service for customers and can also repair fire alarms not installed by us thanks to our extensive knowledge and experience.
Contact us here or call us today free on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our experts. Let’s try and make the world a safer place to live in!