Equal Fire Protection for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

deafgardRaising the alarm for deaf people in the event of a fire is not something that those unaffected by the issue would ordinarily consider. However, the specific problem of alerting anyone affected by deafness poses an obvious challenge that is beyond the capabilities of standard smoke alarms.

It is Deafblind Awareness Week, Monday the 22nd to Friday the 26th of June, and we are drawing the attention of businesses to some of the innovative solutions available to combat this specific issue.

Deafness poses a fundamental problem for standard smoke alarm systems because they are designed to raise an audible alarm in the event of a fire. If you have ever been in a large public building when a fire alarm system has been triggered, you may very well have noticed that the alarms were supplemented by strobe beacons. These are an additional feature that can be installed to alert anyone unable to hear the alarms, and are becoming commonplace in fire alarm systems covering public buildings.

Strobes are an effective way of adding a visual alert to a mainly audio driven system, but they rely completely on deaf or hard of hearing individuals noticing the lights. In a hotel or guest house the weakness is obvious as a strobe light is unlikely to wake a sleeping person. Indeed such buildings may only have audible alarms fitted.

That’s where the Deafgard from Fireco and the Ei175 system from Ei Electronics come into their own. Both of these systems feature a vibrating pad that is triggered in the event of a smoke alarm going off. These are designed to be placed under pillows and wake users in the event of a fire.

An Ei175 system is connected to and triggered by a smoke alarm and features a strobe light built in to the hardware. Up to 12 devices can be linked to this unit, allowing coverage to be extended across an entire building. It is also possible to integrate further strobes to give additional visual indicators. A wireless version is also available to reduce the installation costs.

Deafgards work on a different principle, in that they are wire-free and sound activated. When an alarm goes off within audible range of the unit, the Deafgard ‘hears’ the alarm and the vibration pad as well as the small strobe in the Deafgard are engaged. This has the obvious advantage that Deafgards are portable and can be used in multiple locations. This makes them a popular choice for hotels and guest houses looking to provide protection for deaf or hard of hearing guests, as well as deaf individuals that travel extensively.

These inventive solutions exist to ensure everyone is afforded an equal level of protection when a fire is detected. For further information or assistance, please contact our customer service team at support@safelincs.co.uk or ring us on 0800 612 6537.

Smoke Alarms versus Fire Alarms in HMOs

flatsDefined under BS 5839: Pt. 6 a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) is “a house that is occupied by persons who do not form a single household.” These are typically large houses that have been converted into flats or bedsits. Many of our customers ask what type of smoke alarm system is suitable for this type of property. According to the British Standard, the recommendations are as follows:

For one or two storey HMOs where the individual floor area is no more than 200sqm, a Grade D, category LD3 smoke alarm system should be installed.  Grade D refers to mains powered smoke and heat alarms with a built-in back up battery power supply, and the alarms can be interconnected either by wire or by radio signal. That means that fire alarm panels are not required. Ei Electronics and Kidde offer both RF and wired mains powered alarm systems as well as a range of accessories that can help you to test, locate and hush alarms easily.

Category LD3 (level of coverage) is the minimum requirement and defines where alarms should be installed. LD3 requires smoke alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling, i.e. hallways and landings. If justified during a fire risk assessment, the level of cover may be increased to LD2 which requires smoke or heat alarms to be installed in specified high fire risk rooms and areas. Dependent on the specifier, this can include living rooms, kitchens and possibly bedrooms.

For Grade D system it is becoming more and more acceptable (especially if retrofitted) to install radio-interlinked smoke and heat alarms with 10 year sealed batteries rather than mains powered smoke and heat alarms. This saves the cost for the electrician and systems like this can be installed very quickly. We still recommend that you ask for confirmation by building control or the relevant council department before installing these systems.

For HMOs of 3 storeys or higher, there are two options available.  The first is to have Grade A fire alarm system installed throughout the building.  Grade A consists of a conventional or addressable fire alarm panel, and then fire alarm detectors, call points, sounders and beacons are specified according to the layout and requirements of the property.  The second option is to have a mixed system.  This would comprise of  Grade D, category LD3 in the individual dwellings (see above) and a separate Grade A system in the communal areas.  Again, the category of cover in the individual dwellings can be upped to LD2 if needed.  Both of these options have pros and cons depending on the requirements and the owner’s access to each of the dwellings.  A mixed system appears to have become the preference, as it is likely to reduce the impact of nuisance alarms from individual flats on other occupants.

For additional guidance, please visit our Smoke Alarm Help and Information, BS 5839-6 and BS 5839-1 summary pages.

Safelincs fire alarm panel servicing

Fire Alarm PanelSafelincs has for many years carried out fire alarm system installations and servicing. However, whilst we have been able to give online quotes for new wireless fire alarm systems we had not been able to provide simple online quotes for nationwide fire alarm system servicing without prior discussion with the customer and/or site surveys. This challenge has now been mastered and Safelincs can now offer clear pricing for fire alarm system servicing online; the price remains the same wherever our customer is based in the UK and whatever type of system is installed. The price is unaffected by the customer’s location and is calculated from the number of devices connected to the system.

Our service is carried out in accordance with BS5839-1:2013 and covers all tests and certification to comply with the standard. If defects are found, there is a fixed hourly rate to deal with the repairs (should you wish us to carry out the work). Any replacement components are priced at our competitive online sales prices.

We also offer our contract customers an out of hour emergency service to give you advice about silencing a false alarm. Should we be unable to rectify the problem over the phone we will attend the site within 8 hours.

To book our fire alarm system servicing, just fill in our email contact form on our fire alarm servicing page or contact us by telephone. We will then contact you with a service agreement to be signed and returned so that we can arrange the service visit, at the price already stated online.

New BS5839-1:2013 fire alarm system standard explained

fire-alarm-panel-kits

The BS5839 part 1 :2013 standard  ‘Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises‘  is the key standard for commercial fire alarm systems with central control panel/s. It helps customers and installers to specify, design, install and maintain fire alarm systems.

It is a substantial document and to help our customers find their way through the standard we have created a summary of the standard. The summary covers:

  • Why might I need a fire detection/fire alarm system for my premises?
  • What are fire detection and fire alarm systems?
  • What is meant by ‘category of system’?
  • What are the main design considerations for an appropriate fire detection/fire alarm system?
  • What are the main installation issues?
  • What hapens once the installation is complete?
  • Commissioning, Documentation, Certification
  • Maintaining the system: what is involved?
  • User’s responsibilities and premises management: who does what?

Safelincs, the UK’s most progressive and customer friendly fire safety company offers its customers nationwide maintenance of fire alarm systems as well as a range of fire alarm system components:

For quotations for a new fire alarm system, please ring our friendly customer care team on 0800 612 6537

To arrange your fire alarm system maintenance visit, please ring 0800 612 4827

Case Study: Wireless Fire Alarm System for Holy Apostles, Pimlico

Like many church buildings, Holy Apostles finally needed a modern fire alarm system to provide a safe environment for users of, and visitors to, the building. A fire risk assessment had identified the need for a fire alarm system with a central panel to give early warning in case of fire and to help the fire services identify the location of a fire.

This religious building offers a tranquil place of worship, so its uninterrupted use during the necessary work was an important consideration. Installation of a traditional, hard-wired fire alarm system would have caused prolonged disturbance to the users of the building, as this requires drilling into the fabric. There are also issues of obstruction, as operatives require continuous access throughout the installation process. Furthermore, from the point of view of aesthetics, it is not always possible to hide the cables and other effects on infrastructure of a hard-wired system.

To resolve the above issues, technology has advanced significantly to provide an alternative, radio-linked fire alarm system. Manufacturers have seized the opportunity and produced wireless systems to comply with all insurance and industry design standards for a fire alarm system.

Safelincs, the official fire safety supplier to the Catholic Church in the UK, was asked by the Premises Managers of Holy Apostles to price a BS5839 pt 1 L3 system based on a wireless installation, in competition with other, hard-wired alarm systems. A fire alarm survey was duly carried out by Safelincs, on the basis of which the company designed and priced an appropriate fire alarm system manufactured by Fulleon.

The radio frequency (RF) propagation survey provided the engineer with an infrastructure design requirement in terms of signal booster and fire alarm panel positioning. The radio survey also confirmed that all the fire alarm positions were acceptable from a radio performance perspective.

The fire alarm design consideration for wireless systems is the same as for hard-wired alarms. The choice of radio fire alarm devices likewise does not differ from hard-wired types. The RF propagation survey gives customers the assurance that any device position alteration or addition can be carried out without having to reassess the radio propagation.

The quote prepared was significantly cheaper than the hard-wired standard solution. These savings were even more substantial after the ChurchMarketplace discounts were applied by Safelincs. ChurchMarketplace  is the Catholic collaborative purchasing platform in the UK.

The quotation was subsequently authorised by the church and the timescale from order to the commencement of installation included a manufacturer’s lead time of 10 days. Once diaries had been synchronised, the installation was successfully carried out over a period of 3 consecutive days.

From the perspective of cost saving as well as that of minimising disturbance, a wireless alarm system offers a viable and fully compliant alternative to the hard-wired approach. Turnaround time from order to site completion is usually less than three weeks, which can make all the difference to a building with public access being granted permission to remain open after a fire services inspection. Plus, of course, the visual impact of a wireless system is far less than a surface mounted, hard-wired system. This is an important factor, especially in historical or heritage buildings.

All fire alarm systems require a preventative service regime and this system will receive the same attention as any other, which includes a 6 monthly service.  As with any specialist system, due diligence when choosing a service provider is paramount to the continued operation of a wireless system.

Father Jan of Holy Apostles very kindly commented on the professionalism and efficiency provided by all concerned with the procurement and installation of the system.

Nearly £3000 cost savings achieved for guest house

When Kim and Terry of the Ramblers Guesthouse in Trusthorpe on the Lincolnshire East Coast contacted us, they had just received a request by a County Council Fire Protection Officer to upgrade their existing alarm system to standard BS5839 pt 1 2002. This would have meant that they would have had to install a central fire control panel and interlinked fire and heat detectors. The installation of this system would have made it necessary to lay cables throughout the two storey building with its 6 guest rooms during the main holiday season! The thought of all the upheaval and possible loss of revenue coupled with the cost of this system led the owners to seek our help.

Safelincs looked at the option of using a wireless system to BS5839 part 1 but the cost for this was still similar to a wired system with central alarm panel. The MD of Safelincs then rung the fire safety officer in question who, after initial hesitation and after some internal discussions, agreed that the guest house, having only two floors and a relatively small number of bedrooms could be downgraded to a domestic fire alarm system falling in category BS5839 part 6 grade D. It was agreed that the Ei radio-interlinked system with guaranteed 10 year lithium batteries was equivalent to a Grade D system. This system contains radio-interlinked manual break points as well as smoke and heat detectors. The installation was soon after carried out by Safelincs in the space of two hours without any electrical tools being required, as the alarms and break points were all installed with adhesive tape. Apart from the obvious substantial cost savings, the system has numerous other advantages. The maintenance of the system can be carried out by the guest house owners by simply pressing one of the test buttons (of course a different one each time the system is tested) and each smoke detector has an integrated sounder, which improves general sound levels significantly.

This case shows that fire risk assessments allow room for discussions and as long as the safety of the people within a building is not compromised, the fire services and the councils’ fire protection officers are happy to discuss the best and most appropriate solution.