Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Guidance

Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Guidance

All commercial and non-domestic premises must install and maintain a suitable fire detection and fire alarm system under the appropriate fire safety legislation across the UK.

The four stages of establishing and maintaining a suitable fire detection and fire alarm system (i.e. design, installation, commissioning and maintenance) are outlined below:

Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Design

There are different system categories for fire detection and alarm systems which an appropriately Third Party Certificated provider will be able to determine following a site visit. With this information, a suitable system design can then be established. British Standard 5839-1 (BS 5839-1 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings Part 1: Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises) documents:

[Regarding the protection of occupants it needs to be determined] “whether there is a need for automatic fire detection and, if so, the extent to which it needs to be provided is often determined by a fire risk assessment carried out on behalf of the user; such a fire risk assessment might be required by legislation.” - BS 5839-1, Section 2: Design considerations, 8.1.2 Protection of life

Fire detection and fire alarm system providers can be overlooked in this department, but with the design process of these systems, a thorough assessment of the building is included in this. The designer must be confident they are proving a quality specification of what is required. This is to detect any outbreak of fire and alert people of this outbreak as quickly as possible to enable safe evacuation, whilst also reducing the possibility of any false alarms.

When it comes to the protection of property, BS 5839-1 states “if the objective of the system is property protection, there needs to be sufficient provision of automatic fire detectors to ensure that fire is detected at an early stage, that an effective warning is given in time for firefighters to take action before unacceptable damage to property occurs and that an indication of the location of the fire is given to those responding to the alarm signal. The value of the system depends on a combination of the speed of detection, the delay before firefighters are summoned, the attendance time of trained firefighters, and the probable rate of fire spread.” - BS 5839-1, Section 2: Design considerations, 8.1.3 Protection of property

The BAFE SP203-1 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems Scheme stipulates that providers Third Party Certificated to the Design module must be competent to provide this service with an understanding of products, relevant installation requirements and other life safety systems (e.g. emergency lighting systems). The attributed Guidance Document (SG1) for the BAFE SP203-1 Scheme stipulates that “the audit [of the Named Designer] should include both an office based assessment and an on-site assessment of sample completed installations” amongst other requirements to determine competency.

Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Installation

The installation of any fire detection and fire alarm system should follow the thorough design plan to confirm the system is appropriate for the building. In any instance where the design cannot be followed, the installer should consult the designer to ensure any required changes continue to protect life and the property as best as possible.

“The nature and quality of the installation work needs to be such as to maintain the integrity of the fire detection and fire alarm system and minimize the duration and extent of disablement of the system during maintenance or modifications. Installation practices and workmanship need to conform to BS 7671 [for the electrical safety of the installation].” - BS 5839-1, Section 4: Installation practices and workmanship, 37.1 Commentary

The BAFE SP203-1 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems Scheme stipulates that providers Third Party Certificated to the Installation module must provide “evidence that the Organization has the ability to successfully interpret system design requirements provided by the System Design” and “there should be evidence that the organization has a comprehensive understanding of the installation Requirements  as they are specified in relevant Standards and Codes of Practice” alongside other requirements to determine competency to complete installation services.

Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Commissioning

BS 5839-1 states that “the process of commissioning involves thorough testing of the installed system to ensure that it operates correctly in accordance with the recommendations of this standard and with the purchasing specification. At completion of commissioning, it also needs to be confirmed that all relevant documentation has been handed over to the user.” - BS 5839-1, Section 5: Commissioning and handover, 39.1 Commentary

The recommendations from BS 5839-1 notes that “the system should be commissioned by a competent person, who has access to the requirements of the designer (i.e. the system specification) and any other relevant documentation or drawings.” It continues that “any person responsible for commissioning a fire detection and fire alarm system in accordance with the recommendations of this standard should possess, at least, a basic knowledge and understanding of Section 2 [design], Section 3 [limitation of false alarms] and Section 4 [installation] of this standard.” - BS 5839-1, Section 5: Commissioning and handover, 39.2 Recommendations

The BAFE SP203-1 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems Scheme stipulates that providers Third Party Certificated to the Commissioning module must be able to demonstrate multiple disciplines of the whole system process to determine competency to complete the commissioning process. This is vital as this is the final sign off to determine the system is ready to use and is handed over to the appropriate person appointed responsible for the premises.

Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Maintenance

Weekly and monthly maintenance of the fire detection and fire alarm system falls onto the responsibility of the user (i.e. the appropriate person appointed responsible for the premises). These routine tests will “ensure that fault indications at the panel are identified for appropriate action. It is also vital for a regular test to be carried out to ensure that there has not been any major failure of the entire system, or a significant part of the system.” - BS 5839-1, Section 6: Maintenance, 44.1 Routine testing (Commentary)

British Standard 5839-1, Section 6 outlines the weekly and monthly recommended routine testing of the system. These include (but is not definitive to):

  • A weekly test (carried out at approximately the same time each week)
  • Operation of a manual call point every week (tested in rotation)
  • Monthly test to simulate loss of power (if an emergency generator is used)
  • Recording information in a logbook

Your chosen Third Party Certificated fire detection and fire alarm system provider will be able to advise further on all recommended responsibilities. This will demonstrate ongoing due diligence to fire safety legislation for the system in place.

The standard adds however that “periodic inspection and servicing needs to be carried out by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire detection and fire alarm systems, including knowledge of the causes of false alarms, sufficient information regarding the system, and adequate access to spares.” - BS 5839-1, Section 6: Maintenance, 45.1 Inspection and servicing (commentary)

It continues to note that “competence of a fire alarm servicing organization can be assured by the use of organizations that are third-party certificated, by a UKAS-accredited certification body, to carry out inspection and servicing of fire alarm systems.”

The BAFE SP203-1 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems Scheme stipulates that providers Third Party Certificated to the Maintenance module must use engineers who are “fully conversant with the recommendations of BS 5839-1 section 6” in addition to further requirements. The organization must also “have sufficient resource with adequate competence to effectively undertake the maintenance work to which it is committed, and to investigate and subsequently rectify system related problems, which result in false fire alarms.”

*Results include providers who are BAFE Registered to the BAFE SP201 Scheme. The BAFE SP201 Scheme acknowledges providers who hold LPS 1014 Fire Detection and Alarm Systems Third Party Certification (this covers all four modules).

Every effort is made to ensure that the information provided is accurate and up to date.

No legal responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions.