Fire alarms.

Learn about different kinds of fire alarm systems, and get a better understanding of what you might need to install in your property. 

What do you need to know?

Fire alarms if you manage a property

If you are responsible for a property, it's likely that you need to take some fire safety precautions to keep the people who use it safe. This includes almost all buildings, places and structures other than individual private homes – that's individual flats in a block or family homes. Property manager's responsibilities include shared areas in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), blocks of flats and maisonettes. 

Getting the right fire alarm system in place is one of your key responsibilities, though you will also need to consider the response to the alarm, along with the escape route, sprinklers and fire doors.

Why do you need to provide fire alarms? 

  • They save lives by giving people time to escape if there's a fire. 
  • It's the law. 
  • In the event of a fire, the right system will keep people safer, and may reduce damage to your building. 

Did you know? 

Property owners are required by law (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) to make sure premises reach required standards of fire safety.


The overview

Wondering 'what kind of fire alarm do I need'? 

It depends on your premises. Different alarm systems are better suited to different buildings. Current UK fire alarm regulations state that all business premises must have ‘an appropriate fire detection system’. That means that if there's a fire, there needs to be a way for that fire to be easily detected and occupants can be warned easily. 

Does everyone need a fire alarm system?

Legally speaking, not always. But we always recommend that everyone has a smoke alarm or heat alarm in every room where a fire could start. 

  1. Your premises are small, simple, single-storey or open-plan.
  2. A shout of ‘fire!’ would be easily heard by all occupants.
  3. You don’t have any vulnerable occupants – that's older people, very young people or people with disabilities.
  4. You don’t store any high-risk substances like as chemicals.
  5. You don’t undertake any high-risk activities, such as cooking.
  6. A fire would be easily spotted if it broke out anywhere in your premises.

Can you say yes to every one of these statements? If so, a simple smoke and heat alarm is likely to be enough for you.

The best way to understand your risks – and be within the law – is to complete your Fire Risk Assessment. If you have said 'no' to one or more statements or identified the need for a fire alarm system in your Fire Risk Assessment, read on...

Who should design my alarm?

Choosing a reputable company to design your fire alarm

Did you know that there are currently NO legal minimum qualification or training requirements for people who want to set up themselves up as 'fire alarm designers'?

That's why it's particularly important to ensure that the consultant or company you appoint is accredited by a professional body.

What is accreditation?

To ensure proven credibility the certification body offering accreditation needs to have been validated by UKAS – the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, such as:

  1. The National Security Inspectorate (NSI
  2. Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).

This accreditation is your assurance that the person you're trusting with peoples' lives really is an expert and that they will ensure the alarm design suits your premises and the activities employed. They will also make sure it meets the technical standards demanded by the British Standards Institution (the UK’s national body on standards) or suitable equivalent

What is Third Party Certification?

There are clear advantages to using a company that has been independently audited and found to meet the required standards, though Third Party Certification (TPC) is a complex subject. Luckily it has been clearly explained by the Fire Industry Association in this link.

A number of TPC schemes cover fire alarms. Key ones are LPCB LPS1014 and BAFE SP203-1. We suggest that you only use a design and installation specialist who operates these schemes.

Professional membership

Another quality hallmark is professional membership – check that they are a member of trade organisations. Here are just a few examples:

  • British Security Industry Association (BSIA)
  • Electrical Contractors Association (ECA)
  • The Fire Industry Association (FIA)
  • Fire Protection Association (FPA)

Different types of fire alarm

Firefighters guide to fire alarm systems

Fire alarm legislation doesn’t specify exactly which each type of fire alarm system should be used where – it comes down to what's right for your particular circumstances. The best way to identify what's most appropriate for you is to use an accredited fire safety specialist.  It's also really important to ensure it meets BS 5839 specifications, the relevant British Standard. 

There are 3 main types of automatic fire alarm system: conventional, wireless and addressable

Conventional Fire Alarm

This type of fire alarm is what most people imagine when they think of a fire alarm. It divides your premises into broad zones, and in the event of an alert, the fire alarm panel identifies the zone, but not the precise area

Who's it for? Usually most suitable for smaller or lower risk environments.

Addressable Fire Alarm

This system is more intelligent because each individual fire detection device has its own unique electronic address. If one activates, the fire alarm panel tells you precisely where the problem is. 

Who's it for? Usually most suitable for larger or higher risk environments such as schools, care homes, hospitals.

Wireless Fire Alarm

This is intelligent system works in a similar way to the Addressable Fire Alarm – just without the wires. Instead, it uses a secure wireless link between the sensors and the fire alarm panel. 

Who's it for? Usually most suitable for premises where lots of cabling isn't appropriate, such as churches and historic buildings.


What about fire alarm system ‘grades’ and ‘categories’?

There is a complex system of 'grades’ and ‘categories’ that define how your fire alarm system should be constructed (grades), and which areas of your building it should cover (categories). The best way to know what's right for the property that you're responsible for is to get advice from a reputable, accredited expert. 

Testing and servicing your fire alarm

Learn more about your responsibilities when it comes to testing and servicing your fire alarm system.

More fire alarm must-knows

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