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Fire alarm system regulations

Fire Alarm Systems Buyer's Guide

Fire alarms are often a component of a general security system. When it comes to other parts of this system, CCTV and monitored alarms for instance, what you decide to buy is up to you. With fire alarms, however, the situation is different because the law plays a large role in determining what you must install.

The legislation
For England and Wales, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 became law on 1 October 2006. Fire safety law in Scotland also follows the principles this Order, including the need to have a responsible officer.

The Order refers to all non-domestic properties and replaces all previous legislation. Key features include:

  • the abolition of fire certificates
  • a new emphasis on preventing and containing small fires
  • the obligation for all businesses to have a "responsible person" who carries out fire risk assessments

The responsible person
The responsible person must manage all fire safety issues within the business and take full corporate liability. The responsible person is likely to be one or more of the following:

  • the employer
  • the building manager
  • the occupier or owner of the business premises
  • the landlord of a multi occupied building

The risk assessment
Among the responsible person's duties is the obligation to conduct a fire risk assessment no matter how negligible the risk may seem. This assessment must account for the safety of

  • a building's occupants including staff, contractors, visitors and passers-by
  • firefighters
  • the immediate environment around the business

The responsible person must work out how to resolve the identified risks and how to stop a fire happening.

If the business has five or more staff, or is a licensed premises, the responsible person must document the fire risk assessment.

Relevance to fire alarm systems
The risk assessment must highlight:

  • suitable methods of detecting a fire and raising the alarm
  • emergency exits
  • access to fire extinguishers and fire blankets
  • appropriate fire signs
  • suitable maintenance procedures for the fire alarm system
  • protection for firefighters engaged in tackling any fire
  • fire training for all occupants of a premises

The responsible person and fire alarm system suppliers
When it comes to installing a fire alarm system, the responsible person must use a "competent" supplier who can demonstrate "appropriate experience and skills". An approved fire enforcement officer can ask to see proof of the supplier'ís competence at any time.

Certificated alarm system
The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) introduced a policy on certificated fire detection and alarm systems from 1 April 2005.

  • All remotely monitored fire alarm systems (RMFAs) connected to an ARC must have a unique reference number (URN)
  • All fire alarm system suppliers and ARCs must be Third Party Certificated by an independent body

What this all means

  • The "responsible person" for your business must conduct a fire risk assessment. Fire alarm systems can give further advice about this or you can contact the Fire and Rescue Service. There are also companies who can provide the guidance, training and documentation.
  • Once you have your fire risk assessment, you can contact a range of fire alarm system dealers and ask for quotes based on the results of your assessment.
  • You choose the fire alarm dealer you wish to work with and arrange the installation of your system.

Other security systems
You can integrate your fire alarm system with a monitored burglar alarm and CCTV. Most fire alarm system dealers will, in fact, ask you about this. Similarly, government and not-for-profit advisory bodies will assume you want your fire alarm system to be part of an overall security set-up, and can give you guidance on this basis.

What you'll find with such guidance is that the fire alarm system takes priority and overrides other security features in the event of an emergency. In other words, if your fire alarm system detects smoke and your burglar alarm detects an intruder at the same time, the fire alarm system will disable the burglar alarm and give precedence to the fire.

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