According to the Fire Industry Association (FIA), more than 25% of universities in the UK have received complaints about inadequate fire safety measures.
The main concern is that these universities are abiding by the minimum safety standards and not evolving and upgrading to more advanced systems to improve safety.
Universities are diverse places housing a large number of people, with the UK boasting some of the biggest campuses in the world.
It is safe to assume that it is not easy to manage these sprawling campuses and provide a good quality of education along with offering a safe space for all those within the boundary walls.
Add to that the very real and imminent threat of fires on the university campus and you have yourself a massive challenge to tackle.
Fires in universities may erupt for a number of reasons with most of them occurring in student halls. Some of the top causes include cooking, candles, smoking, faulty electrical installations, and arson.
How can fires be prevented and stopped from spreading further? By implementing good fire safety policies and installing state-of-the-art fire alarm systems for universities. Read on to find out more:
FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS FOR UNIVERSITIES
Fire alarm systems are made up of several devices that all work together to detect the earliest signs of a fire and alert the people nearby of the emergency using audible and visual signals.
How can they be useful? In fire-related incidents, a single second might be the difference between life and death which is why quick action and response is required.
Fire alarm systems pick up on the threat as soon as it presents itself and give the occupants of a building enough time to safely evacuate and do what it takes to stop the fire from spreading.
They consist of several sensors and detectors that pick up the slightest discrepancies, ones that could be easily overlooked by humans, and help protect both life and property from harm’s way.
Fire alarms can be especially beneficial for university campuses due to their size and the sheer amount of people present on campus. Not having an effective fire detection system puts all those present at risk and tarnishes the university’s image tagging them as irresponsible and careless.
Here are all the reasons why it is so important to have an effective fire alarm system in universities:
A fire alarm system can be used to carry out regular fire drills and practice evacuation procedures to prepare the students for what might come and to react appropriately.
These drills are not just for students but also for the teachers and staff members to familiarise them with the safety protocols and educate them about where the pull stations and extinguishers are located.
This preparatory practise can help identify any flaws with the evacuation plan and address all related queries and concerns. It can also help assess the health and overall condition of the alarm system and to ensure that all components are working properly.
Quick response time
After it is clear through regular maintenance and inspections that the system is functional and reliable, you can rest assured that it will work in the case of a real fire and help you in significantly reducing the response time.
A quick response to the threat may result in a lot less damage, or even none, if the fire is controlled and stopped from spreading.
Fire alarm systems also offer immediate and automatic communication with the Fire and Rescue Services, not relying on a person to pick up a phone and call them.
Compliance with the law
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the key legislation covering fire safety in universities and it requires them to have effective fire detection and alarm systems to minimise damage to property and loss of life.
The inability to do so may result in huge fines and expensive lawsuits if anyone on campus gets injured or dies due to the university’s carelessness and neglect.
Peace of mind
Safety and security are two of the most basic human needs and having adequate fire safety measures in place provide an added sense of security for all those linked with the university.
Being well prepared for emergencies and being able to respond to them on time gives all those on campus ample time to evacuate and makes them more in control of the situation.
TYPES OF FIRE ALARMS FOR UNIVERSITIES
There are two main types of fire alarm systems: conventional and addressable fire alarm systems. Let’s look at them in detail:
Conventional fire alarms have a number of detectors and call point all wired to the control panel in zones. These zones give a rough idea as to where the fire has occurred and are more suited to smaller properties that comprise of a few rooms and a handful of people.
Addressable fire alarms systems are much more complex and best suited to universities spanning across a large area. They can pinpoint the exact activated device during a trigger instead of just identifying the zone, making them more precise and reliable to lowering response times.
Each device on the system has an address or location and is monitored from a central location. This makes them the perfect choice for universities that are bigger and at a higher risk of fires.
As defined by the British Standard for fire alarm installation BS 5839, fire alarm systems are divided into eight individual categories that fall under three main types: manual, life protection, and property protection.
Manual fire alarm systems are the most basic forms of the system which rely on a person to detect the fire and warn others of the danger.
When a fire is detected, the individual must manually activate the alarm, through a break glass unit for instance, and raise an alarm to alert others in the area.
Fire alarm systems falling into the life protection category are used to protect people from injuries and loss of life. Depending on their level of effectiveness, they are divided into five sub-categories with L1 being the most comprehensive system offering the maximum life protection.
Property protection fire alarm systems are used to protect property from the risk of fire and are divided into two sub-categories, P1 and P2.
FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT
Universities are versatile establishments that incorporate various types of facilities such as laboratories, kitchens, and workshops, all of which create a high-risk environment and a greater exposure to fire hazards.
A fire risk assessment is a necessary part of a university’s fire safety policy and is the best way to decide on the best fire alarm system for your needs.
It is carried out by a “responsible person” or a fire safety officer who is appointed to take lead on the matter and come up with and implement an effective fire safety policy on the university campus.
A fire risk assessment includes:
- Identifying all the potential hazards and checking all areas of the university where a potential fire could start.
- Identifying the people at risk including all the students, teachers, staff members, and visitors.
- Evaluating the extent of the risk and taking preventive measures to reduce it.
- Recording all the major findings and coming up with an action plan that must include fire drills and emergency evacuation plans.
- Reviewing the findings and updating them as necessary.
As part of a university’s fire risk assessment, the fire safety officer or the fire risk assessor must:
- Check all the electrical installations and make sure they have been regularly tested at least every five years.
- Enforce a “no smoking” policy to mitigate the risk of fire or make sure that there are designated smoking areas with non-combustible ashtrays.
- Reduce the likelihood of arson attacks by controlling access into the campus, CCTV surveillance, and installing motion-activated lights around the campus.
- Check the heating and ventilation systems and whether they require maintenance.
- Check whether adequate arrangements are in place in the cooking facilities to reduce the likelihood of any fire-related incident.
- Practice general housekeeping and make sure that the fire escape routes are kept clear of obstructions, trip hazards, and combustible materials.
In addition to an effective fire detection and alarm system, a university campus must have other necessary fire safety equipment such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, fire exit signs, and a clear and safe evacuation route.
All staff members must be provided general training on what to do in the event of a fire and one or more fire wardens must be assigned to assist the fire safety officer in the safe evacuation of everyone on campus. Students must also be made aware of the basic protocols and how to safely evacuate the premises.
FIRE ALARM MAINTENANCE
The main objective of a fire alarm system is to detect the earliest signs of a fire and alert the occupants of a building of the danger.
This objective can only be fulfilled if the fire alarm in question is fault-free and reliable. A malfunctioning fire alarm may cause false alarms or, in a worst-case scenario, not trigger at all despite a fire.
The efficiency of a fire alarm system isn’t just a legal requirement but could also be a matter of life and death, which is why it is very important to take the appropriate safety measures that include not just installing a state-of-the-art fire alarm system but also having it regularly maintained.
Fire alarm maintenance is carried out by both the user and a competent person to make sure the system is working as it should and can be relied upon in times of need.
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.
The weekly tests carried out by fire safety officers, fire wardens, or anyone in charge, ensure that:
- All the devices and components of the fire alarm system are working effectively,
- There is no issue with the signals being received by the control panel, and
- Every person in the university can hear the alarm.
During this test, one manual call point (MCP) and one smoke detector is tested every week on a rotating basis until all the MCPs and detectors have been tested.
The monthly tests by the user are done to check the backup power systems such as the batteries and generators every month to ensure uninterrupted power supply.
The professional testing and maintenance are done every six months, or every four months for bigger and high-risk universities, by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire alarm systems and smoke detectors.
During the testing, the skilled engineer carries out a visual inspection of the building and the system for any obvious signs of damage and deterioration and conducts a thorough inspection of all the devices and components.
INTEGRATIONS WITH OTHER SECURITY SYSTEMS
Fire alarm systems are extremely powerful safety tools that are an essential part of every university’s safety policy.
However, you can make your fire alarm even more effective and helpful by integrating it with other security systems such as CCTV cameras and access control systems.
CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) cameras are a must-have security tool for every university that not just help keep an eye on every inch of the campus, and that too remotely, but also keep criminals and mischief-mongers at bay.
Integrating CCTV cameras and fire alarm systems will allow you to visually investigate an alert and assess whether there is a genuine fire or it is a false alarm.
False fire alarms can be a nuisance and may disrupt the students and teachers, in addition to wasting time and resources of the Fire and Safety services.
CCTV cameras can also be used to check if someone is trapped or left behind during an actual fire and if the evacuation route has been compromised.
The live footage may help assist the students and teachers safely out of the building using the audio feature for instructions.
When it comes to integrating fire alarms with access control systems, the integration allows the fire alarm system to send an alert to the access control system to unlock all the doors for a safe and quick evacuation.
The tracking feature in access control systems can also be used by fire safety officers to print a roll call and know if everyone safely left the building or not.
CONTACT CALDER SECURITY
At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for all your fire safety needs that includes professional fire alarm installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repair.
We install only high-quality equipment from our trusted suppliers and provide after-sales care and ongoing maintenance beyond the initial installation.
We understand that every university campus is different and the specification of the system depends on several factors including the size of the campus, the number of students, the nature of activities, and the level of risk involved.
We can assess the university and recommend the best fire alarm system for your needs that complies with British Standards, HSE, Building Regulations, and Fire Officer Guidelines.
We 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 also offer maintenance contracts that ensure the system will be looked after and all its servicing needs will be taken care of.
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.
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 fire safety experts right away!