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Fire Alarm System Installation: FAQs and Answers

Fire safety is a very important part of any building security, whether residential or commercial. You need to be sure that you not only have evacuation routes planned, but the appropriate fire security in place. This will include a variety of factors, including smoke and fire alarms, as well as safety devices such as fire extinguishers. You’ll need to know how to use the systems that are added to your space.

What Is the Difference Between a Smoke Alarm and a Fire Alarm?

A smoke alarm detects smoke only, based on particles in the air and sounds the alarm. The alarm is usually an auditory one, but may also include flashing lights for the hearing impaired.

A fire alarm detects fire, either by using a smoke detector or a heat detector. These are usually connected to a fire alarm system that will pinpoint where the fire is based depending on which sensor has gone off. This is all controlled with a fire alarm panel where the entire building can be seen in a glance.

What Types of Fire Alarms Exist?

The three main types of fire alarm systems are:

Conventional: This divides your spaces into zones and the fire alarm panel will alert you to a zone that is in danger, though not a specific area. It’s best suited to small areas or low risk premises.

Addressable: This type of alarm gives each device its own electronic address so you can see precisely where the fire is when an alarm goes off. This is best suited to areas that have higher risk, more people, and are larger, such as a group home, senior centre, or hospital.

Wireless: This alarm has a wireless network that connects sensors with the fire alarm panel. It’s essentially like the Addressable system and will give you precise locations. It’s best for historical buildings or spaces that cannot use much cable.

Your best option is to have a professional fire safety company handle the design of your system to ensure it suits your space and needs best.

How Long Do Fire Alarms Last?

The lifespan of a fire alarm will depend on a number of factors, including how dusty the area is, how humid the environment is, and whether or not it is exposed to external wear and tear. On average, an optical detector will last a decade.

How Often Should I Change My Fire Alarm’s Batteries?

You should be alerted to a low battery by the alarm. It may chirp or make another noise to indicate the batteries need to be replaced. Otherwise, you can plan to replace the batteries twice a year. However, there are also smoke and fire alarms with built in batteries that will last much longer and hardwired alarms that are connected right to the power supply with a backup battery. Check which type you have before you purchase batteries.

How Often Should I Test My Fire Alarm System?

Your fire alarm should be tested at least once a month, if not once a week. Be sure to alert both those inside the building and the Alarm Receiving Centre that you are conducting a test, so they won’t respond to the test. Then test your alarm to be sure it is functional.

How Many Fire Alarms Do I Need?

Ideally, you should have an alarm in every main area. In a home, you need one on each level of the property. This includes basements and attics, since they can have a fire grow out of control long before anyone notices.

You should place one inside each bedroom and in the hallway outside of the sleeping area. It’s also helpful to put an alarm at the top of the stairs to the second floor and at the bottom of the basement stairs. Having alarms in all these areas will help ensure you’re never surprised by a fire that was able to get out of control before the smoke reached an alarm.

What Steps Should Be Taken to Maintain a Fire Alarm?

Fire alarms require very little in the way of maintenance, apart from changing the batteries every six months and testing the alarm every month. However, you should also make a point of keeping the alarm clean by wiping them down with a dry cloth or using compressed air to eliminate any excess dirt or dust. A vacuum can be used to remove dust if there is a build up on the alarm. You want it to sense the smoke or fire, so it’s important that the sensor is clean.

How Often Should I Do Fire Drills?

Businesses must have one fire drill each year, according to the law. You must also record your drill results so you can improve your fire safety plan and determine how to improve your evacuation methods. While it is only required once a year, we suggest running drills every six to eight weeks.

Use your drill results to brief the people in your building and help them improve their time. A drill may just be practice, but if you have a real emergency, it’s essential that everyone gets out in a timely fashion. Be sure to map out evacuation routes and have everyone memorise these.

When Should My Alarms Be Replaced?

It’s recommended that you replace your fire alarms after 10 years, but some won’t manage to last that long. New technology is constantly improving the design and in 10 years, you can expect some serious changes to the performance.

After a decade, the alarm is too old to be reliable. It’s best to use a brand new one to avoid failure at a critical point.

Who Should Install My Fire Alarm System?

Having a fire safety professional install the alarm system is the best way to ensure it is all set up correctly and connected to the fire alarm panel. If you want to keep your building and people safe, it’s best to go with a pro from the very start.

What is the Regulatory Reform Order 2005?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order indicates that anyone with a level of control over the premises has to take reasonable steps to protect the building and people in the building from fire, as well as ensure that anyone on the premises during a fire, is able to safely escape.

What is BS-5839 Part 1?

The British Standards Institution has laid out a guide in BS-5839 Part 1 for how to design, install, use and maintain fire alarm and fire detection systems. It’s specifically for non-domestic areas.

What Fire Alarm Regulations Must I Follow?

You need to follow the BS-5839 Part 1 regulations for your fire alarm system.

Does My Business Need Fire Alarms?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that every business is responsible for reducing the risk of fire in their section of the building. This means taking care to install fire alarms and smoke alarms to ensure you have early warning and can safely evacuate everyone from the building. It may not be required by law, depending on the situation, but it’s always a good idea to install an alarm anyway.

What Do Fire Alarm Engineers Do?

A fire alarm engineer is responsible for inspecting your space and then designing the best fire alarm system for your needs. This will take into account whether you have a high or low risk space, how many people will be there, and the size of the premises.

Fire alarm engineers have the required training to comply with the law as they design and create your alarm system. They should be BAFE accredited, which will give you peace of mind as you know they’ve been properly trained and are up to date on all the latest rules for fire safety.

Do I Need a Fire Alarm System If I Have a Sprinkler System?

A sprinkler system can help put out a fire if one starts, but this type of system is only functional after the fire has really started. At this point, it may not be possible to evacuate. For the best possible chance at getting out of the building, you need to ensure you know the moment there is a fire, even before the flames begin. This is why a fire alarm system is so important.

Do you have a fire alarm system set up in your building? If not, it’s time to get that done before anything happens. EK Fire Protection can help. Contact us today for more information.

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