Commercial buildings are usually pretty vast and often full of people coming and going. Due to their size and the daily foot traffic that they receive, it is very important to implement strict safety and security measures.
Protection from fire is one of the main pillars of safety and is considered a serious matter in commercial buildings such as offices, warehouses, and shopping centres.
Fires are a common occurrence in the UK with the Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) attending 156,128 fires in the year ending June 2020.
The most common causes of commercial fires include faulty equipment, cooking, clutter, combustible material, negligence, and arson.
As the building owner, employer, manager, landlord, or anyone in a controlling position, you need to comply with the Fire Safety laws and take the necessary steps to prevent fires.
You must carry out fire risk assessments regularly and put in place safety measures to protect the building and its occupants from fires.
Fire safety equipment such as fire alarms and smoke detectors are one of the best ways to prevent fires from erupting and spreading, all the while alerting the occupants of the potential threat so that they can evacuate in time and call for help.
Let’s look at what smoke detectors are, where they should be installed in commercial buildings, and how they can be useful:
SMOKE DETECTORS IN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
Simply put, smoke detectors are devices used to pick up on smoke, which is usually an indicator of fire. They are linked to the fire alarm system in the building and automatically sound the alarm when smoke is detected.
Smoke detectors are extremely useful in commercial buildings because they are used to alert everyone to the potentially dangerous situation, allowing them to quickly evacuate the premises.
There are three main types of smoke detectors used in commercial buildings: ionisation smoke detectors, optical smoke detectors, and dual-sensor smoke detectors.
Ionisation smoke detectors are the cheapest and are extremely sensitive to small particles of smoke caused by fast flaming fires. They are slightly less sensitive to slow burning flames that give off larger quantities of smoke before turning into a full-fledged fire.
Optical smoke detectors, also called photoelectric smoke detectors, have a relatively quick response time to smouldering fires due to the detector’s high sensitivity to large particles in the air.
Dual-sensor smoke detectors, as the name suggests, are a combination of ionisation and optical smoke detectors, and are used for maximum protection from fires.
There are also other combinations of detectors available in the market which include combined smoke and heat alarms, and combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Heat alarms are more suitable for commercial kitchens because instead of detecting smoke, they are sensitive to an unexpected rise in temperature. They are also suitable for garages where vehicles and machinery produce fumes and might cause smoke detectors to get triggered unnecessarily.
Alongside smoke detectors, commercial building owners and landlords must also install carbon monoxide detectors in any area where appliances are running on solid fuel.
All the above-mentioned detectors come in both wired and wireless variants known as mains alarms and battery alarms, respectively.
Mains alarms are connected to the property’s electricity supply, whereas battery alarms are fitted with replaceable or fixed batteries with a certain lifespan, after which you either need to replace the battery or the detector altogether.
WHERE TO INSTALL SMOKE DETECTORS?
Smoke detectors and fire alarms are an integral part of fire safety in commercial buildings and, regardless of the type of building it is, their importance can’t be stressed over enough.
Commercial buildings in the UK are required by the law, as stated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to have an effective fire safety system in place.
There are different types of commercial buildings, all varying in terms of size and use, and some might be more prone to fires than others. You, as the owner, employer, manager, or landlord of the building, are responsible for employing adequate safety measures.
As is obvious, there is a no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to installing smoke detectors in commercial buildings. Individual buildings have specific needs and require careful planning, design, and risk assessment to choose the best type of smoke detectors suitable for them and the ideal places to install them.
Ideally, smoke 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 smoke 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.
In commercial properties, fire alarms and their components must be linked to a central control panel and monitored for quick response times.
In addition to automatic smoke detectors and fire alarms, commercial buildings must also make use of manual call points that can be triggered by the occupants themselves.
As discussed above, the level of fire risk may vary substantially between different types of commercial buildings, and to understand each property’s specific needs and requirements, along with the ideal places to install smoke detectors, a fire risk assessment must be carried out to identify the level of protection required and the most suitable type of smoke detector and fire alarm.
FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT IN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement for all commercial premises in the UK and must be carried out regularly by whoever is responsible for the building to reduce the risk of fires and keep people safe.
The inability to do so may result in heavy penalties in the form of fines of up to £5,000 and up to 2 years in prison.
If your commercial building is too big and complex, and you feel like you may require expert guidance, you may hire a professional fire risk assessor to help you with the task.
The fire risk assessment is carried out in five steps, at the end of which you will have a clear idea about the level of threat you face and the best safety measures to adopt.
- The first step involves identifying all the potential hazards and checking all areas of the building where a potential fire could start. This includes checking the sources of fuel and ignition, and the building’s heating and electrical installations.
- Next, you need to identify the people at risk, which includes all your employees, staff members, customers, and visitors. Some may be more susceptible to fires than others due to the nature of their work, such as those working in commercial kitchens or with flammable materials.
- After identifying the potential hazards and those most at risk, the extent of the risk must be evaluated and preventive measures must be taken to reduce them.
- All the major findings must be recorded and an action plan must be put into place which includes fire drills and emergency evacuation plans.
- Lastly, since risks do not stay constant and may change over time, it is important to review the findings and update them as necessary.
SMOKE DETECTOR TESTING AND MAINTENANCE
Just having smoke detectors in all the key areas of your commercial building is not enough to ensure fire safety. It is critical to test them regularly and have them serviced by a professional.
To ensure that your smoke detector stays in good working order, you must test it once a month by pressing the test button on the detector until the alarm sounds. It is a good way to make sure the alarm will always be triggered, even at the earliest sign of a fire.
Also, if the detector is a battery-operated one, make sure to replace the battery every year, unless it is a ten-year alarm, in which case you must replace the whole unit after ten years.
Insects and excess dust and dirt can cause the smoke detectors to malfunction and not pick up on the smokes and fires. To avoid that from happening, make sure you regularly clean the devices with a soft brush or vacuum cleaner to rid them of any obstructions.
FIRE ALARM TYPES. GRADES, AND CATEGORIES
In addition to the different types of smoke detectors installed in commercial buildings, there are different types, grades, and categories of fire alarms best suited for them.
The two main types of fire alarms are conventional and addressable fire alarms. While both link initiating devices such as sensors, detectors, and pull-stations to the control panel, they differ in the way they are linked and work.
Conventional fire alarms are set up in zones with each initiating device linked to the control panel. When the alarm is triggered, the system can help identify the location of the fire by identifying the zone on the system.
However, these zones are broad and do not give the exact location of the fire, making them ideal for small commercial properties such as individual offices and retail shops instead of large commercial buildings.
Addressable fire alarms have an address or location for each device on the system which is monitored from a central location. This enables identification of the exact place where the fire erupted, making the systems a perfect choice for large commercial buildings such as multi-storey offices and huge complexes.
In addition to the different types, fire alarms are also divided into grades and categories. Grades define how the systems are constructed and categories define which area of the building they must cover.
Fire alarms run from grades A to F, with A being the highest and F being the lowest grade. According to the British Standard BS 5839-6:2019, there are six grades of fire alarms that include Grade A, C, D1, D2, F1, and F2.
Higher-grade systems are wired into a central control panel and have a back-up power supply to rely on. They are used by commercial properties, and those at a higher risk of fire, to comply with the UK fire alarm regulations.
Residential buildings, on the other hand, may install a lower-grade system that is not wired into a central control panel and does not have a back-up power supply.
The three categories include Category M which stands for Manual, Category L which stands for Life protection, and Category P which stands for Property.
Category L comprises of 5 levels of protection, L1 to L5 for buildings, with L1 providing the maximum life protection featuring sensors in all areas of the building where a fire could potentially start. The sensors are linked to a centralised system that alerts the entire building if a fire breaks out.
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!