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The components of a fire alarm system (ii)

Fire Alarm Systems Buyer's Guide

Visual, audible and speaker alarms
Visual and audible alarms mounted inside and outside a building indicate the presence of smoke and fire. Another option is a speaker alarm that advises people to evacuate.

A sprinkler system is one of the best ways of controlling a fire while you wait for the Fire and Rescue service. Many modern buildings come with a sprinkler system already in place. If you don't have one, the costs are high and you may experience significant disruption to the workplace during installation.

Fire suppressants
A water sprinkler system is inappropriate in a room that contains computer servers or in which you store paper records. An alternative is therefore a fire suppression system using either chemicals or gas, depending on the environment, to manage any outbreak of fire.

Fire alarm system cables must meet the BS5839-1:2002 standard. In summary, the cables have to be:

  • fireproof
  • separate from all the other cables in the building and channelled through minimum risk fire areas
  • clearly marked

It's now possible to buy wireless fire alarm systems with radio signals that phones or electronic equipment cannot disrupt. If youíre going to have difficulty running cables around your premises, you may want to consider a wireless option.

Other equipment
There is a comprehensive range of other fire safety equipment that complements your fire alarm system. The nature of your business; the size and style of your premises; and the results of your fire risk assessment determine what you may need. Most businesses, however, require one or more of the following:

  • Fire extinguishers. These must match the likely type of fire: electrical; flammable liquid; gaseous; wood, paper and textiles; cooking oils and fats.
  • Fire blankets. These are for areas such as kitchens.
  • Emergency lighting. This can help save lives if a fire destroys the main electrical system.
  • Emergency signs. Your fire alarm engineer will explain what you need and where you must put the signs.
  • First aid kit. You are obliged to keep these by law so you may already have some. Your fire risk assessment is a good opportunity to check the contents are intact and have not reached any use-by dates.

You can enter into a contract with a dealer to maintain your fire alarm system. British standard BS5839-1:2002 advises a set of minimum tests and inspections.

  • Every day. Check the FACP for fault indicators.
  • Once a week. Run a test by using a callpoint.
  • Every six months. Check the system log; inspect all the equipment including the FACP and its indicators; test the systemís standby function.
  • Annual. Run a test on all manual callpoints and fire detectors; check the FACP detector levels and its programming function; inspect the accessible cable.

System extensions
If you want to extend an existing system following a fire risk assessment, the dealer's systems engineer will advise you. Ask about the compatibility of the old and new equipment, particularly the FACP.

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