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What Requirements for Fire Alarm Servicing and Maintenance Does Your Business Have?

Fire Alarm Servicing and Maintenance

Fire safety is a big concern for any type of business and a huge one for some higher risk businesses.  That’s why the UK has clear laws and regulations on issues around fire safety as well as Fire alarm servicing and maintenance so that it is easy for your business to ensure it meets these.  Let’s walk through the basics.

The regulations

Fire alarm regulations are a part of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, often referred to as the RRO.  The government also requires that all alarms and detection systems are installed and maintained to British Standard BS 5839.  This tells businesses exactly what they are required to do, although it can be a bit confusing for those not frequently dealing with the legislation.

Big questions under the regulations

Some of the easiest ways to understand the requirements and how they affect your business is to consider some of the big questions under the regulations that experts in fire safety are most often asked.

Does my business need a fire alarm?

In a short answer, yes.  Under the current regulations, any business premises need to have ‘an appropriate fire detection system’ in place.  This should be able to detect the presence of fire and warn people in the building to take action.  Fire alarms are at the heart of this but there can be a small number of cases where businesses don’t need them.  One of those is if you have a small, open plan and single storey building where you can easily see if there is a fire.

In the majority of cases, a fire alarm is required, and a Fire Risk Assessment should be carried out before fitting the alarm to see exactly what type and configuration you need to meet your requirements.

What kind of fire alarm is needed?

As part of a risk assessment, there will be a recommendation about the type of system that will work best.  There are currently three main types:

•           Conventional fire alarm – divides the business into broad zones and the fire panel can identify the general zone but not precise location.  Ideal for smaller or low-risk businesses.
•           Addressable fire alarm – each alarm has a unique address and if one activates, the fire panel can tell you exactly where this is.  Ideal for larger or high-risk environments such as care homes, hospitals and schools
•           Wireless fire alarm – secure wireless link between sensors and the fire panel but otherwise works like an addressable fire alarm.  Ideal for businesses wanting to avoid lots of cables such as historic buildings or churches

The legislation doesn’t tell you which type of alarm you need to have, only that it should be appropriate for your business.  All alarms need to comply with BS 5839.

Fire alarm maintenance

Installing the right fire alarm is the first step in the process but no means completes the requirements for a business under the legislation.  One of the things you need to consider is fire alarm servicing and maintenance.  BS 5839 recommends that fire alarms should be inspected by a competent person every 6 months while it is recommended this should be done once a quarter for larger or high-risk businesses. Fire alarm servicing and maintenance aims to ensure the fire alarm is in good working order and also to prevent false alarms.  The second can be costly, wastes emergency services time and resources and can disturb staff who have to come out to check the premises. Servicing and maintenance can reduce the chances of this problem and mean that an alarm really does mean there is a problem.