A fire alarm system is installed to protect employees, customers, visitors and lastly the building. Everyone depends on this system functioning properly in the event of a fire, acting as an early warning system, enabling safe and timely evacuation. There is a legal obligation to ensure that your fire detection and alarm system is in good working order and is compliant with current regulatory standards.
The British Standard splits fire alarm system designs into different classifications of system.
BS5839 Splits fire alarm systems into 3 categories.
All the systems described below are expected to have manual call points on all final exits, entrances to stairwells and corridors where persons are not expected to walk more than 45 metres to operate a call point.
Category P Fire Alarm Systems
BS5839 Category P Fire Alarm Systems are designed specifically for protection of property only and are split into 2 classifications.
The main objective of a Category P1 fire alarm system is to provide the earliest possible warning of a fire to minimise the time between ignition and the arrival of the fire fighters.
A P1 system is designed to protect the whole building, whereas a P2 system is installed in defined parts of the building only. These defined parts of the building may be areas with an extraordinary high fire risk or hazard.
Category L Fire Alarm Systems
Category L Fire Alarm Systems are for life protection and re split into 5 classifications.
An L1 system includes automatic fire detection in all rooms, on all escape routes and in all voids over 800mm in height. Sounders positioned throughout the building to achieve a minimum of 65dB(A) throughout the building and 75dB(A) at bedhead where there is a sleeping risk. In areas of high ambient noise sound levels the fire alarm sound levels should be 5dB(A) above the normal noise level although not exceeding 120dB(A).
An L2 system should include automatic fire detection on all escape routes and rooms leading onto escape routes, and can also include additional areas deemed as a high risk not included in the escape routes and adjoining rooms, such as boiler houses. The sounders in the building should be according to the description in the BS5839 Category L1 description as above.
An L3 system is very similar to a category L2 system in that automatic fire detection should be positioned on escape routes and adjoining rooms, although it does not have to include for additional areas deemed to have a high fire risk. The sounders in the building should be according to the description in the BS5839 Category L1 description as above.
An L4 system includes automatic fire detection on escape routes only, and not in the adjoining rooms as per the L2 and L3 classifications. The sounders in the building should be according to the description in the BS5839 Category L1 description as above.
An L5 system is designed for buildings that have a particular fire risk identified which warrants some special attention. For example if there is an area of high fire risk which is considered worthy of having some automatic detection but a manual system is also needed, then this will be termed as L5/M. The sounders in the building should be according to the description in the BS5839 Category L1 description as above.
An M Fire system is a manual operation only system which has call points on all exits as well as corridors where persons are not expected to walk any more than 45m to operate one.
It is a requirement of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to ensure any person and or organisation contracted to provide fire alarm maintenance services is competent to do so. Ensure that when an engineer is employed to carry out the servicing, proof of competency, such as ISO certificate of registration is provided. If proof of competency cannot be provided, the organisation should not be used.
The fire alarm service must be carried out strictly in accordance with BS5839-1:2013 otherwise you may find your insurance company refusing any payments where a claim is made and the operation of the fire alarm system was deemed to have been affected by non-compliance with the requirements of the standard. To comply with BS5839-1:2013, servicing is required at a minimum every six months, and depending on the environment or the findings of the Fire Risk Assessment, the engineer may recommend more frequent servicing. Remember that fire authorities can prosecute for non-compliance.
Properly maintained systems rarely suffer equipment malfunctions, however it is estimated that false alarms cost the UK in excess of £1 billion a year. Employers can help to reduce false alarms by ensuring the maintenance is carried out in accordance with BS5839.
If you need any help with Fire alarm maintenance, or have any other fire safety related questions, please do not hesitate to give FSS a call on 01246 434 314.