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Fire Alarm Systems for Offices

As an employer, one of your biggest responsibilities is to make sure your workplace is safe from all kinds of safety and security risks.

Regarding fire safety, you aren’t only morally obligated but also have strict regulations to follow to keep your employees, visitors, and property safe.

According to the UK fire alarm regulations and under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, also known as the RRO, all business premises must have an adequate fire detection system so that a fire outbreak can be easily detected and the occupants are easily warned.

This, however, does not mean that all business premises need a fire alarm system. You shouldn’t need a fire alarm system if:

  • Your office is small, open-planned, and single-storeyed,
  • You don’t store hazardous materials and high-risk substances,
  • You do not partake in any high-risk activities,
  • You do not have vulnerable and at-risk occupants,
  • A fire would be easily spotted and all the occupants are easily warned.

If you are unsure whether or not your office needs a fire alarm system, read our detailed guide on how to identify the level of risks and the best fire alarm system for your office:

WHAT CAUSES OFFICE FIRES?

Before we discuss the different types of fire alarm systems and how to choose the best one for your office, let’s look at what causes fires to erupt in the workplace:

Faulty electrical equipment

Topping our list of the most common causes of workplace fires, faulty electrical equipment and installations can result in some serious safety threats.

One of the reasons it is so common is because every office is equipped with electricity, and faults can happen anywhere. Loose wires, overloaded sockets, and faulty installations can all add to the fire risk of a property.

Flammable and combustible materials

If your office deals with flammable and combustible materials, you need to make sure they are stored properly since the inability to do so may turn into a contributor to office fires.

Given the danger they pose to employees and visitors, all flammable materials such as paper, wood, and cardboard must be kept away from ignition sources, stored carefully, and disposed of regularly.

Clutter

A common issue found in many offices, clutter due to lack of consistent cleaning leaves the workplace untidy and messy. While it may look visually unappealing, it also adds to the fire risk, especially if it happens in a poorly ventilated office.

Lack of cleanliness and maintenance may also cause office equipment to overheat and malfunction, causing a fire to start if left unattended.

Human error

With so many people in an office at any given time, human error can be a huge contributor to office fires.

From improper equipment usage to their inability to report faulty machinery and smoking carelessly, employees and visitors, if not given the proper training and told the correct procedures to follow, can lead to accidents causing fires.

Arson

It might sound strange and unbelievable, but a large percentage of all serious fires in the UK, both residential and commercial, are thought to be caused by arson.

It can have devastating consequences to a workplace and lead to damage to both life and property. For this reason, it is imperative that you correctly identify the risks and secure yourself, your office, and all its occupants against outside vandals.

IMPORTANCE OF OFFICE FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS

In the event of a fire, fire alarm systems provide detection and notification of the threat so that the necessary action can be taken right away. The biggest benefits of an office fire alarm system include:

Early fire detection

Every second counts. Especially when it comes to fires and how quickly they can spread. With a fire alarm system, you can receive an audible or visual signal that is triggered at the earliest signs of a fire.

This enables you to take the necessary action, such as to safely evacuate all the occupants, use a fire extinguisher, or call the fire and rescue services to prevent the fire from spreading any further and to avoid any serious damage or destruction.

Life and property safety

Hands down one of the most important reasons to get a fire alarm system installed in your office are to protect human life and property. The faster people are aware of the danger of a fire, the faster they can get out of harm’s way and save themselves.

Similarly, the faster a fire is detected, controlled, and extinguished, the less time it has to cause damage to valuable office property.

Discounts on insurance

When you install a good fire alarm system in your office, you don’t just save money by preventing damage and destruction, but also reduce the overall risk that helps cut the cost of your insurance.

By installing a fire alarm system, you are reducing the risk of a fire destroying your office and valuable assets, showing that you are responsible and did all that you could to avert the situation.

TYPES OF FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS FOR OFFICES

All fire alarm systems work on the same principles and use the same basic components. When a detector detects smoke or heat, the system sounds an alarm to warn others on the premises that there may be a fire and to immediately and safely evacuate.

Depending on the system, it may also automatically activate a sprinkler system or alert the fire and rescue services via a monitoring centre.

Fire alarm systems come in three main types: conventional, addressable, and wireless fire alarm systems.

Conventional fire alarm systems

Conventional fire alarm systems are one of the more basic systems for fire detection that give a general idea as to where the fire is located.

They have alarm points, smoke alarms, and a control panel to detect a fire, however, since each of the alarm points and detectors is wired individually, they don’t tell the exact location of the fire.

This makes them better suited to smaller offices with a basic floor plan. Also, since they are a cheaper system as compared to others, they are a good option for businesses on a budget.

Addressable fire alarm systems

Addressable fire alarms work in a similar manner to conventional systems, except for the fact that they tell you exactly where the fire is and which detector has been triggered.

This makes these systems extremely useful for large offices where the authorities don’t have to waste time figuring out where the fire is. Instead, they can begin tackling the fire straight away and evacuate everyone safely.

Also, there is less risk of a false alarm since each connection is part of a single loop and, even if one end of the connection fails, it causes the loss of a minimal part of the system and the signal can still run the other way.

Wireless fire alarm systems

Wireless systems work in the same manner as addressable fire alarm systems. The difference is that they are without wires and the components are instead connected via radio.

Their uniqueness lies in the absence of visible wires and are particularly suitable for workplaces that might give importance to aesthetics and might not want visible wires on their premises.

Wireless fire alarms are more flexible as compared to their counterparts, can easily be configured to different devices, and can also be easily expanded. They are, however, a bit more expensive and are not the best option for businesses on a budget.

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).

Category M

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

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.

Category P

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 RISK ASSESSMENT

While the type of fire alarm system that is perfect for your office will be determined by what is the most appropriate for your workplace, the category will be specified through a fire risk assessment.

What is a fire risk assessment? In the simplest terms, a fire risk assessment is a review taken of a property to assess its fire risk and to provide recommendations to make it safer.

By law, every business premises must undertake a fire risk assessment that includes:

  • Identifying the fire hazards.
  • Identifying people at risk.
  • Evaluating, removing, or reducing the risks.
  • Recording your findings, preparing the best course of action, and providing adequate training.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating the findings so that they stay up-to-date.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FIRE ALARM SYSTEM FOR YOUR OFFICE?

When choosing the best fire alarm system for your office, you need to keep a few things in mind such as:

  • Making sure you consider the location of the fire alarm and pick the right system for the purpose.
  • Considering any additional and accessible features that might help you and offer value to the occupants of the office, such as sensors that also flash for people with hearing impairments.
  • Keeping in mind the system’s ability to integrate with other aspects of business security, such as intruder alarms and CCTV cameras.
  • Ensuring that the system meets the necessary British Standards and that the system providers and installers are all approved by the relevant bodies, such as the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).
  • Consulting the experts to gather as much information as possible.

OFFICE 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, which is why it is best done by professionals.

A fire alarm system for an office will most likely be a larger and more complex one, best determined by the size of the workplace and the level of risk to mitigate.

The cost of professional fire alarm system installation depends on several factors such as the material, the labour, the duration of the job, and the size of the system.

As a rough estimate, you can expect to pay between £2,000 to £5,000+ for a commercial fire alarm installation. The exact cost naturally depends on the size and complexity of the system, in addition to the type of office space you have.

The location of the detectors and the alarms play a crucial part in the system’s installation and must be chosen very wisely since the incorrect placement could render the entire system ineffective.

Ideally, detectors must be installed on the ceilings all across the building to provide full coverage and, depending on the size of each area, more than one detector may be required.

They must be placed on each storey and in every room, taking into account the architectural design and layout of the building to provide maximum protection and ensure that all the occupants can be warned of the fire ASAP, saving both precious lives and property in the process.

While there are no specific laws on who can and who cannot install a fire alarm system, the UK fire alarm regulations do state that it must be someone competent.

Therefore, when choosing the right installer for your office fire alarm system, make sure that they:

  • Are familiar with the main makes and models of different fire alarm systems,
  • Can assess your requirements and suggest the right grade and category of the fire alarm system for your needs,
  • Can design a fire alarm system to meet the grade and category requirements,
  • Have a proper understanding of the British Standard BS 5839,
  • Can design a system that meets the BS 5839 requirements, and
  • Are well-informed and experienced, and have sound technical knowledge.

FIRE ALARM MONITORING

Fire alarm monitoring is a great add-on feature that links your fire alarm system to a professional Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) that monitors your system 24/7.

This can be extremely useful in offices and other commercial settings, especially when the property is empty and uninhabited since the ARC is guaranteed to take instant action in case of a fire by reaching out to the fire department and relevant authorities.

It can also be very useful for when a fire breaks out during office hours and the occupants are unaware of the proper protocol to follow.

In addition to dispatching the fire and rescue services right away, professionals at the ARC can also guide the office occupants via one-way or two-way communication.

Fire alarm monitoring 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.

Monthly charges for a fire alarm monitoring system fall anywhere between £15 to £45, which is nothing compared to the damages fire can cause to both life and property.

CONTACT CALDER SECURITY

At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for your office fire safety needs that include professional installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repair.

We understand that every office is different and the specification of the system depends on several factors including the type and size of the 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 the best fire detection system for your building 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!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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