The banking and finance sector is a highly competitive industry that is committed to looking after the financial assets and operations of individuals as well as the economy as a whole.
Banks receive millions of transactions in a day with customers constantly looking for convenient ways to meet their requirements.
As a result, most banks have to operate 24/7 to accommodate the growing requirements and work hard to give their customers the best service.
As is with every property, banks carry a high safety and security risk, usually higher than other properties due to the nature of the work and day-to-day operations.
One of the most common safety risks is that of fire. It can cause unexpected delays and disruptions to their services and have devastating effects on business continuity and customer service.
In addition to providing continuous and reliable service, banks often employ several hundred staff members and have a lot of valuable items on-premises. A fire could not only result in serious downtime for the bank but also risk valuable lives and property.
Therefore, it is necessary for banks and other financial institutions to have a suitable and reliable fire detection system in place to provide the earliest possible warnings of the threat, allowing ample time for people to safely evacuate and to save valuable property from damage and destruction.
Read on to find out about the most common fire risks in banking and finance, how to identify those risks, and the best fire alarm systems for your unique needs and requirements:
WHAT ARE THE FIRE RISKS AND CHALLENGES?
Buildings in the banking and finance sector carry several risks due to the way they are constructed and the nature of goods in them. Some of the most common fire risks include:
Banks and other financial buildings are usually constructed in a way that makes it difficult to detect and control fires.
They consist of several corridors with secure vaults, storage cupboards, and office spaces that pose quite a challenge when it comes to fire safety.
As mentioned above, banks house several vaults that are used to safeguard customers’ valuable items.
These items can be anything and, at times, often be made of flammable materials that may add to the risk of fires in the building.
Faulty electrical installations and ill-maintained and damaged equipment can create sparks and generate unnecessary heat, causing flammable materials around the building to burn.
Banks usually have an abundance of paper, waste bins, and furnishings, and if any of them come in close contact with faulty electrics, it can cause a serious fire to start.
Unfamiliarity and negligence
A huge chunk of all fires is caused by unfamiliarity and negligence. Not being aware of the basic fire safety measures, misusing machinery and electrical equipment, and most importantly, smoking near flammable materials all cause fires and are serious threats to the safety of the building and everyone inside it.
HOW TO MINIMISE THE RISKS?
To minimise fire risks in banking and finance, you need to take the necessary preventative measures to ensure you, your employees, and your property remains safe and protected. The best fire safety measures include:
- Conducting a fire risk assessment
- Installing fire alarm systems
- Regular maintenance of the systems
- Installing fire suppression systems
- Training the employees on the best practices
FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT FOR BANKING/FINANCE
There are strict regulations for fire safety in the UK for all commercial premises, and non-compliance can lead to serious consequences.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the law that governs the general fire safety laws in the UK, under which all business premises are required to conduct a thorough fire risk assessment.
What is a fire risk assessment? A fire risk assessment of the building is a detailed inspection that helps you identify all areas of concern, mitigate the risks, and give you a better understanding of how compliant you are with fire safety regulations.
If you are the owner, employer, or anyone in a controlling position in a bank or financial institution, you are the ‘responsible person’ and it is your responsibility to carry out the fire risk assessment and keep it up to date.
There may be more than one ‘responsible person’ and, if that is the case, you need to work together and take on equal responsibility in meeting the safety regulations.
A bank fire risk assessment helps you identify the likely causes of a fire to start in the premises, i.e., sources of ignition, fuel, and oxygen, and people who may be most at risk.
Based on the findings of the fire risk assessment, you need to ensure that the appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of damages, injuries, and loss of life in the event of a fire.
The action plan must include training the occupants, staff members, and employees of the building, conducting fire drills and making evacuation plans, and installing and maintaining fire safety equipment such as portable multi-purpose fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, fire hose reels, emergency lighting, and fire alarm systems.
As a responsible person for fire safety in banking and finance, you must:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly,
- Inform your employees and staff members about the identified risks,
- Take measures to mitigate those risks and put in place the appropriate fire safety measures,
- Devise an action plan for emergencies, and
- Provide fire safety instructions and training to everyone on the premises.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS USED IN BANKING/FINANCE?
There are several types of fire alarm systems, each providing a suitable solution for a number of applications. Some of the most common fire alarm systems used in banking and finance are:
Conventional fire alarms
Conventional fire alarms are the most basic and commonly found fire alarm systems in commercial settings.
Their main components include the alarm points, fire detectors, and a control panel to detect a fire and give a general idea about the location of the fire.
They are designed while keeping in mind the ease of installation along with saving considerable amounts of time and money.
They provide a simple yet effective solution for banks, but their drawback is that they give a general idea about where the fire is located instead of pointing directly towards it.
During an emergency, this increases the time in locating the fire, which is why they are suitable for smaller bank buildings where only a few alarm points should be adequate.
Addressable fire alarms
Addressable fire alarms work in a similar way to conventional systems. However, instead of dividing the area into broad zones, these systems give each call point or detector a unique address.
What this does is that it allows the fire and rescue services to instantly locate the fire without wasting a single minute.
These systems also carry less risk of false alarms, which can be a nuisance for both the occupants of the building and the fire and rescue services.
Since each connection is part of a single loop, if one part of the connection fails, the signals can still run the other way. It also becomes easier to add more devices to the system because of the minimal cabling required.
Aspirating fire alarms
Aspirating fire alarms and smoke detectors draw air through a network of pipes and test it for smoke particles. This continuous sampling of air allows for early detection, making these systems very useful in particularly challenging environments such as banking and finance buildings.
They come in different types and variants, with each one better suited for a particular environment. You can place them strategically around the building to cover all the key risk areas.
Make sure to place a high-power fan near the detectors to ensure regular intake of air as opposed to waiting for the smoke to drift towards them.
Wireless fire alarms
Wireless fire alarms, also called radio alarms, eliminate the use of wires and instead use radio frequencies to connect the components of the system.
The absence of cables makes them easier to install and more suitable for buildings where it is either impractical for cables to run through or is aesthetically unappealing.
Since all detectors are in contact via radio connectivity, several frequencies are used to preserve the strength of the signal, resulting in a strong and disturbance-free connection.
Also, since there is no cabling involved, the installation of wireless fire alarm systems is much simpler. They do, however, come at a higher cost as compared to standard wired systems.
Monitored fire alarms
Monitored fire alarm systems are the most comprehensive fire safety equipment there is. They provide all the benefits of an effective fire alarm system with the added benefit of the system being monitored by trained professionals.
These systems ensure that no alarm ever goes unnoticed, even when the building is empty and unoccupied. When the alarm is raised, an alert is sent to a professional monitoring centre where it is first checked and tackled on an urgent basis.
Monitored fire alarm systems use both landline and wireless networks to alert the alarm receiving centre, from where the emergency and rescue services are alerted right away without wasting a single minute.
Other than that, fire alarm systems are also divided into various grades and categories. The three main categories are category M (manual), category L (life protection), and category P (property protection).
All fire alarm systems under category M are manual systems where the alarm needs to be manually activated by someone using a break glass unit. These are pretty basic systems and rely on people to discover the fire and take the necessary action.
Category L systems are all made for life protection and are further divided into 5 types; L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5, with L1 being the most advanced and L5 offering only localised protection.
While category L systems are designed to protect life, category P systems are focused on protecting property. These are divided into 2 types; P1 and P2, with P1 offering complete protection for the earliest possible warning and P2 for only specific parts of a building.
FIRE ALARM MAINTENANCE IN BANKING AND FINANCE
Installing an effective fire alarm isn’t the only legal requirement. For it to work properly and to successfully detect the earliest signs of a fire and alert the occupants of the building, they need to be regularly maintained and tested.
Fire alarm maintenance includes weekly and monthly inspections carried out by the users of the system which fall under the responsibility of the responsible person(s), and inspections and maintenance checks carried out by a competent person, who is usually a trained engineer.
The user tests are carried out on a weekly and monthly basis, whereas the more detailed inspections carried out by the trained engineers are done a minimum of two times each year.
During an inspection special attention must be given to three main areas of the fire alarm that include the condition, sound, and connection of the system.
These involve checking the overall condition of the system and if it is suitable or not, checking whether the alarm makes an audible sound since that is an integral part of the system, and checking the link to the Alarm Receiving Centre in case of professional fire alarm monitoring services.
Routine fire alarm maintenance checks must include six-month follow-ups by a competent individual and weekly and monthly inspections conducted by the users that include checking the control panels, connected devices, call points, voice alarms, batteries, and the building works.
WHO CAN INSTALL AND SERVICE YOUR FIRE ALARM SYSTEM?
Fire alarms are an integral part of fire safety in commercial buildings such as banks, and as is obvious, there is a no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to the best type.
In addition to choosing the right system, you must also make sure that it is installed and maintained properly. It takes careful planning, design, and assessment to choose the best type of fire alarms and the ideal places to install them.
According to the UK fire alarm regulations, you must choose a competent person to install and maintain your fire alarm systems so that they provide you with maximum protection and also help you stay compliant with the law. You must choose someone who:
- Understands the various types of fire alarm systems and is familiar with all the different models,
- Can identify the grades and categories of fire alarm systems, and
- Has good knowledge of the British Standard BS 5839.
CONTACT CALDER SECURITY
At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for your banking/finance fire safety needs that include professional installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repair.
We understand that every building is different and the specification of the system depends on several factors including the type and size of the building, the nature of the operations, and the number of employees and staff.
We can help you cut through all that and advise you on the best fire detection system for your bank that complies with British Standards, HSE, Building Regulations, and Fire Officer Guidelines, in addition to meeting the requirements of business insurance.
We also understand fire regulations and provide professional maintenance checks and reminders for when the checks are due to help you stay compliant with the law. We work fast to restore your fire alarm system to excellent condition and always strive to meet your expectations.
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.
If your system starts to malfunction, you can rely on our highly skilled engineers to 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 right away!