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.