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.

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.

Figures reinforce calls for more smoke alarms

Six out of ten people who died in fires in 2009 had no smoke alarm fitted in their home, according to figures released by London Fire Brigade. 26 people died in fires where there was no working smoke alarm. The statistics also show that over half of the people who were injured by fires in the home in 2009 didn’t have this simple life saving device either.

Smoke alarms cost as little as £5 yet it is estimated that over 300,000 homes in the capital still do not have one. In contrast, Mintel’s British lifestyle survey reveals that people are spending £36 million a day on personal care.

Particularly tragic are instances where deaths have occurred in residences where smoke alarms had been installed but where either the batteries had been removed to power other devices or they had been allowed to go flat.

Safelincs supports the national Fire Kills campaign to encourage people to regularly test the batteries of their smoke alarms. It also provides a free smoke alarm reminder service which will notify you if your smoke alarms will need testing or replacing.

Protecting animals from fire

There is always a dilemma when protecting animals, kept in outside sheds, from fire. The high pitched sound of smoke alarms installed in the sheds causes distress to the animals and can seriously affect the animal’s health. On the other hand you have to detect fires in the sheds as quickly as possible if you are going to evacuate the animals in time to save their lives.

We help animal lovers and farmers overcome this problem by offering an alarm system with sensors placed in the sheds that will radio-interlink to the alarms fitted in the house. The fire detectors have their sounders de-activated but will alert you at your house should a fire break out in the sheds.

For further advice, please do not hesitate to contact a member of staff at Safelincs on 01507 462176

Free Fire Safety Logbook from Safelincs

Safelincs is aware that in the current economical times, the purchasing of fire alarm tests records, emergency lighting test logbooks etc, is not at the top of the list. That is why we have made a FREE downloadable log book.

The Logbook includes fire safety advice in fire prevention, fire escape, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and general fire precautions.

Visit www.safelincs.co.uk/fire-safety-logbook to take advantage now!