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The Guide to Commercial Fire Alarm Systems

fire alarm system is an integral part of any commercial building. It allows for the protection and safety of employees, customers, and property in case a fire breaks out or there are other emergencies that pose a threat to them. There are many different types of systems available on the market today, such as conventional fire alarms, addressable alarms, and analogue fire alarms, but all have one thing in common; they need someone who knows what they’re doing to install them correctly.

Commercial fire alarm systems are designed for two main purposes: to detect and control fires, and to protect people. Some of the key components that make up a commercial fire alarm system include smoke detectors, heat sensors, sprinklers or extinguishing equipment, manual call points, water flow alarms (where applicable), and voice evacuation systems (which can be integrated into fire life safety announcements).

The Importance of a Compliant Fire Alarm System

It’s always a good idea to have a compliant fire alarm system in place, regardless of how large or small your company is. A fire can cause severe damage and overcoming the considerable losses may be difficult.

It’s vital to have safety and security measures in place to prevent such events from occurring. Here are all the reasons why having a fire alarm is crucial for your company:

Early Detection

The ability of fire alarm systems to identify dangers early is perhaps the most important feature they have to offer. Early detection of hazards, such as fires, may significantly influence the outcome. It can help you avoid significant property damage; therefore, it’s critical. An early signal allows you to protect your property and move its occupants to safety. A monitored fire alarm also sends an alert to the fire department so that the flames may be contained as soon as possible.

Quick Response Time

Early detection and monitoring services ensure that a solution is provided quickly and that the whole environment is kept safe. This includes both life and property protection. The fire department may be reached as soon as possible, and firefighters can be sent to your business as soon as a fire is detected by the system with fire alarm monitoring.

Avoid Inhaling Smoke

Smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in fires. Smoke inhalation can occur when individuals are unable to detect that there is a fire and flee in time. In situations like this, having a fire alarm system is essential.

Minimising Cost

Fire alarm systems may be pricey at first, but when you consider the advantages they provide, it’s easy to see why an effective one might save you money. In the event of a fire, a functioning fire alarm system and monitoring service can assist with response time while also protecting your important assets from fire. A properly maintained fire alarm security system can also help you save money on insurance premiums by lowering your insurance rate.

Fire Risk Assessment

UK Fire Regulations place the responsibility of fire safety on the employer. The employer has a legal duty to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment that assesses ways to reduce and remove the danger of fire. This should be recorded if you employ more than five individuals.

Assessments of fire risk are subject to some specific regulations. The Fire Risk Assessment must be re-examined regularly. It is suggested that the following items be included in the review:

  • Every 12 months after the original assessment is done.
  • Every 5 years a new assessment should be conducted.
  • If the building’s purpose has substantially changed.
  • If the building structure, such as the layout, has changed.
  • If there has been a considerable change in the occupants.

Fire Alarm Systems

There are many types of systems, however all commercial fire alarm systems work on the same principle. If a detector senses smoke, heat or someone pushes a manual call point button, the alarm sirens warn others in the building about a possible fire and to evacuate. It’s also probable that property protection would require remote signalling equipment that will alert the fire service via a central station.

Conventional Fire Alarm Systems

In a typical fire alarm system, a number of call points or a number of call points and detectors are connected to the fire alarm control panel in zones. A zone is a circuit that is typically linked to one floor or fire compartment at a time. The fire alarm control panel would feature a number of zonal LEDs. The option of having zones allows for an estimate as to where a fire has occurred. The accuracy of understanding where a fire started is defined by the amount of zones on the control panel, and as such, the quantity of circuits that have been connected within the structure.


The control panel would be attached to two sounder circuits, which might include bells, electronic sounders, or other audible gadgets. Sounder circuits and detection zones are connected in a star pattern. An end-of-line device would be installed on each circuit for monitoring purposes.

Addressable Systems

The detection technique of an addressable system is comparable to that of a conventional system, except that the control panel knows which detector or call point triggered the alarm.


The detection circuit is a loop, and up to 99 devices can be linked to each loop. The detectors are conventional detectors with an address built in, although there are some slight modifications. Dil switches regulate the addresses in each detector, which are shown on the control panel when that particular detector is activated. Additional field devices may be purchased that only connect to the loop for detection purposes, such as a sprinkler flow switch that closes when water from a sprinkler hits it.


A sounder system consists of a minimum of two sounder circuits, like a conventional system. For the detection loop/loops to be sectioned, loop isolation modules are available for use in order to ensure that a short circuit or one fault will only result in the loss of a minor part of the system.

Analogue Fire Alarm Systems



Analogue fire alarm systems are sometimes referred to as intelligent fire alarm systems. There are various kinds of analogue systems available, depending on the type of communication protocol they use. The majority of analogue detectors on the market are not very smart because their outputs only represent the value of detected circumstances.



It is up to the control unit to determine whether there is a fire, a fault, or a pre-alarm. Each detector has its own computer that examines the surrounding environment and communicates with the control panel on whether there is a fire, a fault, or the detector head needs cleaning.



Essentially, analogue systems are much more complex and offer a lot more features than conventional or addressable systems. Their primary goal is to minimise false alarms.


Fire Alarm System Services


Fire Alarm Design



Fire alarm systems in the United Kingdom are generally built to BS 5839 standards. A competent individual who is in charge of completing the fire alarm system design and signing off with a ‘Design certificate’ is required by BS 5839-1. There are a number of categories, all BS5839-1 compliant, that a system can be installed to, usually this is dependent on the requirements of an Insurance Company.



It’s critical to make sure the proper fire alarm detection and warning system is chosen in order to safeguard the structure and satisfy safety standards. A planned design method will produce a bespoke, cost-effective solution for the client that can be approved before the commencement of site construction. This will help minimise potential delays by ensuring that any installations are completed correctly the first time.



BS5839-1: 2017 is the code of practice for building fire detection and alarm systems, which is the standard for system design, installation, and maintenance. It’s critical that any electrical contractor or installation engineer working on this sort of project be fluent with BS 5839, which covers everything from simple manual systems to fully automatic fire alarm and detection systems.


Commercial Fire Alarm Installation



A well-installed fire alarm system is just as essential as the quality of the system itself. The commercial fire alarm system installation should be done with care and accuracy. Fire alarms must be installed in every area or on each floor of a building, depending on the type of premises and category of system required. When determining the number and type of fire alarms to be installed, a few things must be kept in mind, including:



  • The size of the property – Depending on the size of the business, an appropriate fire alarm system should be installed. The necessities for single-office premises differ from those for a larger multi-storey structure.


  • The system’s complexity – The sort of business you run is important in determining the complexity of the fire alarm system required. Businesses that are at a higher risk of fires, such as restaurants, chemical factories, beauty salons, and paint shops necessitate more complex systems than others.


Commercial Fire Alarm Maintenance



Commercial fire alarm maintenance is extremely important as 42% of callouts to UK fire brigades last year were because of false alarms and 38% of battery-operated fire alarms did not sound when they were supposed to due to missing, flat, or disconnected batteries in 2018. These occurrences were entirely avoidable if the properties had properly maintained their fire alarms.



If a fire alarm is found to be inoperable, the consequences can be severe and even deadly. There are several serious repercussions that can result from failing to maintain your fire alarms to the required safety measures on a regular basis such as:



  • Invalidated insurance – If your fire alarms are found to be in bad working order, your insurance could be invalidated due to a failure to maintain safety.


  • Potential closure – If your fire alarms do not function as intended, the expense of repairs might leave you out of pocket and force you to close your business.


  • Tarnished reputation – When your fire alarms are unable to fulfil the role in the case of a fire, carelessness may ruin your company’s reputation, which is tough to repair.


  • Long-term respiratory illness – The longer employees are exposed to smoke, the more likely they are to get long-term respiratory problems and lung damage.


  • Unnecessary callouts to fire brigades – Every two minutes in the United Kingdom, there is a false alarm that costs the economy £1 billion per year. It’s vital to keep in mind that delaying fire and rescue services’ time can cost the lives of people who may actually need help.



Fire alarm testing is a legal requirement. You are not only required to protect your workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), but you’re also duty-bound to maintain your fire safety procedures in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005. If you don’t check to see whether your fire alarms are in line with the British Standard BS 5839, you might face fines, penalties, or even a jail sentence depending on the severity of the situation.



Your fire alarm system must be maintained according to British Standard BS 5839 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which states that your business must have a maintenance schedule for fire alarms every six months. Regular fire alarm maintenance not only ensures that your alarms are effective fire safety measures, but also helps to prevent false alarms and keeps your company compliant with legislation.


Commercial Fire Alarm Monitoring



On average, around 2000 arson attacks occur in the United Kingdom each week, and many of them occur when a business facility is unoccupied. One of the most effective ways to guarantee that emergency services are alerted to a fire is to have fire alarm monitoring on your commercial building.



Who will be alerted if your fire alarm system activates outside of regular business hours? If you want to go above and beyond to safeguard your property, you’ll need 24/7 monitoring. Many businesses expect individuals to sound the alarm, however, it’s possible that attempting to prevent a dangerous fire could be too late by this time.



There are three steps to how a fire alarm monitoring system works:



  1. The signal is picked up by a monitoring station from your location.
  2. If a warning is detected during business trading hours, you will be notified by the monitoring centre to determine whether it was genuine.
  3. If the signal is sent out of working hours, the monitoring centre will contact the fire department immediately to ensure a quick response.



Having an effective fire alarm monitoring system has many benefits including:



  • Every hour of every day, your facility will be monitored by a team of professionals.
  • Workers are less likely to be harmed by not having to respond to alarms when they do not have to.
  • If a fire is detected, minimise potential business interruption.
  • Alarm activations are responded to rapidly.
  • Professional, trustworthy and transparent service.



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