As the owner of a business, the most important thing to you must probably be growth and success. And to achieve that, you need to ensure the safety and security of your business from all kinds of threats such as commercial burglaries, intrusions, vandalism, internal theft, and fires.
Fire safety forms an integral part of commercial buildings and its importance cannot be stressed enough. The right safety measures may not just prevent fires from spreading and wreaking havoc, but they can eliminate the threat entirely.
The causes of fires in commercial buildings are more or less the same such as cooking equipment, heating equipment, faulty electrics, smoking materials, arson, and human error in general.
The good news is that commercial fires are preventable and fire detection systems such as fire alarms are one of your best defences against them.
To ensure that all commercial buildings have the right safety measures in place and that the occupants are safe from the hazard, there are certain regulations that they must follow.
Read on to find out all about UK Fire Alarm Regulations for commercial buildings and what they entail:
REGULATORY REFORM (FIRE SAFETY) ORDER 2005
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005 provides a safety standard for all commercial buildings including offices, retail shops, factories, warehouses, and shopping centres.
You are not required by the law to have a fire alarm system on your premises, however, current UK fire alarm regulations state that all commercial buildings must have an appropriate fire detection system in place.
What this implies is that, in the event of a fire, the commercial building must be equipped to detect the threat at the earliest and warn the occupants to evacuate immediately.
According to the regulations, anyone who holds a controlling position is considered responsible for implementing fire safety and meeting the standards set out in the RRO.
This may include the owner, employer, manager, occupier, or anyone who has a certain level of control over a part of the commercial building.
In the event of non-compliance, and if the issue is non-serious, the fire authority will send a formal notice and provide practical advice on improving the situation.
If a genuine risk to human lives is discovered, the authorities might issue a notice banning the commercial building from being used.
In serious offences where there is a complete disregard for human life, the people responsible may be fined or imprisoned. Minor penalties include a fine of up to £5,000 and major penalties range from unlimited fines to 2-year imprisonment.
FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT
A fire risk assessment forms the basis of fire security and is a requirement under the UK fire alarm regulations to be fulfilled by the person responsible for a commercial building.
It gives an in-depth understanding of the underlying risks and the best practices to adopt to mitigate them. The process is divided into five steps that include:
Step 1: Identifying the potential hazards
You need to assess all areas of the building and identify the potential hazards that may cause fires, such as any sources of ignition, fuel, or gasses, including heaters, air conditioners, and waste build-up.
Step 2: Identifying the people at risk
Some people might be more at risk than others such as ones working in close proximity to flammable materials, working alone or in isolated areas, elderly people, or those with physical disabilities.
Step 3: Evaluating the extent of the risk and removing it
After identifying the potential hazards and those at risk, you need to evaluate the level of associated risk and find ways to manage it. It may include enforcing a safe smoking policy, keeping flammable materials away from sources of ignition, and installing fire alarms and detection systems.
Step 4: Recording the findings and preparing an action plan
This step includes recording all your findings, the steps taken to rectify or reduce the risk, and a fool-proof emergency plan to be followed in the event of a fire. Everyone must be trained and given fire safety instructions to ensure safe evacuation from the premises.
Step 5: Reviewing and updating the findings
The level of fire risk in a commercial building may increase or decrease over time due to several reasons such as a change in the number of occupants or new flammable materials being used. Therefore, to make sure that your fire risk assessment is up-to-date, you must re-examine your findings and update them accordingly.
TYPES OF FIRE ALARMS IN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
There are different types of fire alarms and the type most suitable for your commercial building depends on the size of the building and the level of associated fire risk.
The three types of fire alarm systems are:
Conventional fire alarms
Conventional fire alarms are basic systems that work by dividing the property into broad zones. In the event of a fire, the system identifies the zone where the alarm was triggered, but not the exact area.
Due to their inability to pinpoint to the exact location, conventional systems are more suitable for smaller buildings and lower risk environments.
Addressable fire alarms
Addressable fire alarms are made up of a series of detectors and alarms that are all connected to a central control panel. They have an address or location for each device on the system which makes them more precise than conventional systems and allows them to pinpoint to the exact location of the fire.
Due to their accuracy, addressable fire alarm systems are more suitable for larger commercial buildings and higher risk environments.
Wireless fire alarm
A wireless fire alarm system works exactly like an addressable system, just without the wires linking the sensors and fire alarm panel.
They are portable, easy to install, extremely flexible, and most suitable for commercial buildings where the aesthetics play an important role and the designers wish to go for a more seamless finish.
GRADES AND CATEGORIES
Fire alarms run through different grades and categories that detail the kind of equipment used in the system as laid out by the British Standard BS 5839-6:2019.
There are six grades of fire alarms that include:
- 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 a 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.
Higher-grade systems (Grade A to D2) are wired into a central control panel and have a back-up power supply to rely on. They are most suitable for commercial buildings and those at a higher risk of fires.
The two main categories of fire alarms are Category ‘P’ which stands for protecting property and Category “L’ which stands for protecting life.
Category P systems are mostly installed on the request of insurers and are divided into:
- P1: Detectors are installed in all areas of the commercial building including voids in the construction.
- P2: Detectors are installed in only certain areas of the building to control a particular fire risk.
Category L systems are divided into five types with L1 providing the highest level of cover and L5 providing the least.
The type, grade, and category that you choose for your commercial building all depends on the size and type of the building, the nature of the business, and the level of risk, all of which can be assessed through a fire risk assessment.
TESTING AND MAINTENANCE
A fully functional fire alarm system is a regulatory requirement for all commercial buildings according to the British Standard BS 5839, making regular testing an integral part of fire safety to check if the systems are working correctly or not.
The amount of damage and the number of casualties each year due to fires, and the inability to control them in time due to either a faulty fire alarm or the absence of one altogether, shows how important a fully functioning fire alarm system is to safety.
The main reasons why it is necessary to keep your fire alarm in good working condition is to prevent loss of life and property, and also to prevent false alarms.
A reliable fire alarm guarantees early detection and quick response time to combat the threat and is invaluable when it comes to helping save lives and protecting property.
In addition to being compliant with the law, regularly tested and maintained fire alarms help prevent false alarms which can be a serious nuisance for the occupants of the building.
They also waste valuable fire department resources if the Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) are called to the scene.
To deal with the issue, the authorities have imposed a fine on being called out due to repeated false alarms making it all the more important to have the systems regularly tested and serviced.
Fire alarm testing is a quick way to identify any issues that may cause the system to falter and is done every week, whereas fire alarm servicing includes a more thorough investigation and is usually performed by a professional every six months, or earlier, depending on the size and type of system installed.
During fire alarm testing in commercial buildings, a different call-point must be tested each week by activating it and checking whether the alarm is triggered and the signal is sent to the panel.
In case of professional monitoring services, the equipment must be checked to see whether it is sending the signals to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) or not and if the one-way or two-way communication feature is working properly.
All the tests must be recorded in a fire alarm log book, including the location of the tested call-point(s). In case of an issue with any of the components, the fire alarm provider must be contacted immediately so that it can be rectified immediately.
CONTACT CALDER SECURITY
Commercial buildings are required by the law to have a fire risk assessment and an appropriate fire detection system in place.
At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for all your fire safety needs and guarantee the best service in all of Yorkshire and beyond. Our services include:
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 that every commercial 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 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.
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 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.
Fast response to an activated fire alarm can make all the difference in minimising risk to life and property, and fire alarm monitoring does that by adding an extra layer of safety to the 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.
Fire alarm monitoring does not only significantly minimise the seriousness of the situation through fast action, but also reduces your insurance premiums.
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, 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 right away!