Barns and stables are a common part of farms that are used to house livestock such as horses and cattle, as well as items such as equipment, machinery, feed, and hay.
They can be built in the traditional way using timber or stone, or constructed using modern materials such as concrete or steel.
They are often very large buildings with high ceilings, with many older ones having gambrel roofs – symmetrical roofs that are sloped on each side – to maximise the size and capacity of the roof space.
Due to the way that they are built and the valuable livestock, feed, and machinery that they store, barns and stables need to be protected from all kinds of safety threats; the biggest one being fire.
A fire erupting in a barn or stable can be devastating both in terms of human and animal lives lost and destruction of property.
To minimise this risk, all barn and stable owners need to adopt the necessary fire safety practices and install the appropriate fire alarm systems to protect themselves, their precious animals, and their valuable property from the threat of fire.
Read on to find out what the fire risks are in barns and stables, what to do to minimise those risks, and the best fire alarm systems for the agricultural buildings:
WHAT ARE THE FIRE RISKS IN BARNS/STABLES?
Barns and stables present a unique array of safety challenges due to the way that they are built and the nature of their occupants and stored materials.
They are large and open stand-alone buildings with high ceilings and are often unmanned. The sheer size of these buildings, coupled with the fact that they’re mostly occupied by animals only, can cause difficulties when trying to detect a fire at the earliest possible signs.
Some of the most common fire risks in barns and stables include:
Barns and stables are full of highly combustible materials that can catch fire in an instant. These include the bedding and feed for the animals that comprise of wood, dry feed, haw, straw, and grains, all of which can easily ignite, causing fire to spread rapidly and wreak havoc in the building.
Other common combustible items stored in barns and stables include grooming products for the animals that include shampoos, liniment, paint, and alcohol-based products.
Machinery and equipment
Machinery and equipment are there to make our lives easier. However, if they are misused and not maintained properly, they can turn into sources of ignition by heating up and causing sparks, and present a serious fire risk in an otherwise safe environment.
Issues with electrical and lighting equipment may also be causes for barn and stable fires. Faults with the wiring, cables, and outlets all contribute to the fire risk and must be installed and maintained properly.
Chewed or damaged electrical cables and machinery due to rodent infestation may also add to the risk.
HOW TO MINIMISE THE RISKS
There are a few things that you can do to minimise fire risks in barns and stables. They include:
- Completing a fire safety risk assessment
- Installing an adequate fire alarm system
- Installing a fire suppression system
- Updating the electrical services
- Good housekeeping
- Storing combustibles away from the animals
- Banning smoking
- Training the barn and stable workers on the best practices
FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT FOR BARNS/STABLES
According to the UK fire alarm regulations, you are required under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 to perform a thorough fire risk assessment to identify the risks and draw up an effective action plan to minimise them.
You are responsible for fire safety in your barn or stable if you are the owner, landlord, employer, or anyone in a controlling position.
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.
The 5 steps of a detailed fire risk assessment are:
Step 1: Identify the hazards
This includes identifying all the fire hazards around the property such as the sources of ignition., sources of fuel, and oxygen.
A few common sources of ignition found on barns and stables include farm machinery, vehicles such as tractors and quad bikes, naked flames, damp hay, faulty electrics, and smoking materials.
Sources of fuel are anything that could burn easily and cause a fire to spread, such as petrol, diesel, and gas cylinders.
Oxygen inside the barn/stable may come from either the natural airflow through doors, windows, and other openings or the ventilation systems.
Step 2: Identify any people at risk
The next step of a fire risk assessment is to identify those at risk in case there is a fire. To do this, you need to identify where people are working, the nature of their work, and who is visiting the barn or stable and when.
This also includes all the animals on the property, in addition to anyone near the barn or stable, the workers and employees, young people, and the fire and rescue services responding to a fire.
Step 3: Evaluate, remove and reduce the risk
Fire safety protocols consist of three steps: evaluating the risk of fire, evaluating the outcomes of fire, and taking action to reduce the risks.
Once you’ve evaluated the risks of a fire occurring and the risk to people and animals from the fire, you need to remove or reduce the hazards by installing smoke or heat detectors, fire suppression equipment, draw up evacuation plans, keep the escape routes clear, and carry out regular maintenance on electrical equipment and machinery.
Step 4: Record the findings and devise an action plan
If you employ more than 5 people, you are required by the law to record the findings of your fire risk assessment.
However, we believe that since recording the findings can be beneficial for you in the future, you must do it regardless of whether you are required by the law or not.
This not just helps you become compliant as per the UK fire safety laws but also helps you learn from your mistakes and is great for future reference.
By identifying how a fire is likely to start and spread, and how you can eliminate certain risks, you can draft an informed emergency plan of action.
You must prepare an emergency plan, inform all those who might be affected, and provide training on basic fire safety and regularly practice the emergency evacuation plan so that everyone, including the animals, is brought to safety in the event of a fire.
Reviewing and updating the fire risk assessment
Once you record the findings of your risk assessment, keep them safe and keep reviewing and updating them periodically, especially if there are any substantial changes to the layout and operations in your barn/stable.
FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS FOR BARNS/STABLES
Barns and stables are special buildings that require special types of fire alarm systems. A fire alarm for your home will not be suitable and you will require one that can withstand the temperature changes and dust commonly found in stables.
The main goal in some barns and stables is to protect the animals, and in some situations, it is to minimise property damage.
Early detection devices are an effective fire safety tool, but only certain types are suitable for barn/stable use. The reason is that although there are many such systems available in the market, they were developed mostly for residential purposes and not for agricultural ones.
This severely limits the type of fire alarm systems you can install in barns and stables since they tend to be dustier, more humid, and colder than other residential buildings.
For fire alarm systems best suited for your barns and stables, it is recommended to seek advice from professionals who can guide you in a better way, depending on your unique needs and requirements.
All fire alarm systems are made up of a few basic components such as detection devices, call points, and the control panel.
Detection devices are what lies at the core of a fire alarm system. From intelligent smoke detectors to manually operated break glass units, various types of fire alarm detectors can be used in barns and stables. Some of the most common ones include:
Heat detectors are one of the oldest types of automatic fire detection devices that work in one of two ways; on a fixed temperature basis where the alarm will be triggered if the temperature exceeds a set value, or on the rate of temperature change.
The former type is more commonly used and is set to operate when the temperature reaches high levels, usually 135 to 165°F. The latter, also called rate-of-rise detectors, triggers the alarm when the temperature changes at an alarming rate.
Both systems work best when installed closer to the heat source, which is why you must be very careful when choosing the right installation positions for the detectors and place them on all key risk areas based on the fire risk assessment.
Heat detectors are highly reliable and not as affected by the dusty and moist conditions of barns and stables. However, their effectiveness in the environment is a bit debatable since they require the fire to be in the later stages before the system can detect its presence and trigger the alarm.
The longer the fire has to develop and spread, the greater damage it can cause and become difficult to control. Also, since there are several fire risks and flammable materials found in these agricultural buildings, fire can spread very easily and very fast.
For this reason, heat detectors are usually not used as sole detection devices and are preferred in combination with other detection systems, especially in barns and stables.
Smoke detectors come in 3 basic types: ionisation, light scattering, and light obscuring smoke detectors.
Ionisation smoke detectors contain two chambers: the first is used as a reference to assess changes in the ambient temperature, humidity, and pressure, and the second contains a radioactive source that ionises the air passing through it where there is a flow of current between two electrodes.
When the smoke enters the second chamber, the flow of current decreases signifying the presence of fire, hence, triggering the alarm.
Light scattering smoke detectors have a photocell and a light source that are separated from each other using a darkened chamber.
Once smoke enters the chamber, it causes the light from the source to scatter and fall on the photocell. This confirms the presence of a fire and initiates the alarm.
In light obscuring smoke detectors, there is a light source throwing a light beam at a photocell that measures the amount of light it receives.
The presence of smoke interferes with the light beam between the light source and photocell and the variation in the photocell output triggers the alarm.
Smoke detectors work great for detecting the early warning signs of a fire and can identify a fire when it is in its early stages.
However, they are not as reliable in barns and stables due to the inherently dusty and humid environment in said buildings. The airborne dust and humidity may trigger false alarms, making them more suited in more controlled environments such as homes and offices.
Flame detectors are the most effective, albeit expensive early warning detection devices. They imitate human sight and are most commonly found in industrial settings such as factories, refineries, and mines.
They need to be installed in a way to be directly looking at the fire source so that they can assess the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.
When the system recognises a flame, it monitors the source by recognising its wavelength, cycle, and consistency, which allows it to differentiate between hot objects and actual fires resulting in minimum false fire alarms.
They are highly reliable fire detection systems, especially for hot burning fires that are not likely to give off smoke. They just need to be placed near the source for maximum efficiency, since the greater the distance between the flame and sensor, the larger the fire must be for the sensor to detect it.
Multi-point detectors combine inputs from various sensors, such as heat and smoke sensors, and process them using an advanced algorithm.
They are designed to be sensitive to a wide range of fires and trigger the alarm based on the combined responses from the multiple sensors.
They work great in barns and stables where the environment is particularly challenging and relying on one type of fire detection system might not be adequate.
Manual call points
A manual call point also called a break glass point, is a device that allows individuals to raise an alarm by breaking the glass. Instead of relying on automatic sensors, these systems rely on people and their observation skills to detect a fire.
These systems are not recommended for buildings containing animals, such as barns and stables, where the preferred system of choice are automatic detection systems.
For the people working in barns and stables, manual call points must be installed at every exit so that it becomes easier to trigger them when evacuating the premises during a fire emergency.
They must be positioned in a way so that no one would have to travel more than 45 metres to get to the nearest call point and trigger the alarm as soon as a fire is detected.
CONTACT CALDER SECURITY
At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for your barn and stable fire safety needs that include professional installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repair.
We understand that every barn and stable is different and the specification of the system depends on several factors including the type and size of the building, the number of livestock, and the level of associated fire risk.
We can help you cut through all that and advise you on the best fire detection system for your agricultural building that complies with British Standards, HSE, Building Regulations, and Fire Officer Guidelines, in addition to meeting the requirements of 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!