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The first priority for every business is to protect its people and assets. “People” means every person that might attend your business; staff members, visitors and customers. “Assets” means property and information, written and digital. Every business must invest in safety equipment. Risks can differ depending on the type of business, i.e. a laboratory environment will require different safety equipment to a normal office environment.

Fire alarm systems

Fire alarm systems are often the first notification of a fire in a building. The system could be a simple smoke detector or the most advanced network of sensors and relays. The systems are able to sound alarms, initiate smoke evacuation, elevator recall and fire door activation.

Fire alarm systems send regular signals to monitoring equipment that will respond to emergency situations, dispatching first responders. The monitoring equipment also reacts to unexpected problems with the system itself.

Different categories of fire alarm systems are required for buildings that are identified as having particular risks, defined in five levels. Once you have determined the level or category of alarm system is required for your building, your fire safety provider can then advise on an appropriate system for your building.

There are four types of fire alarm systems:

  • Conventional
  • Analogue addressable
  • Addressable
  • Wireless

The Fire Industry Association provide a very useful source of information regarding industry guidelines for alarm systems for alarm systems, their installation and maintenance. Systems should be tested once a week, updating a log book, and serviced every six months.

Fire extinguishers

No occupied building should be without a fire extinguisher.

There are many types of fire extinguishers, but the most common types use foam, dry powder, water, co2 and wet chemical.

Foam extinguishers are particularly suitable for fires caused by the combustion of materials that liquify such as petrol, oils, fats and paints.

Dry powder extinguishers are suitable for mixed risk fire environments and especially suitable for flammable liquids and fires involving flammable gases such as propane, methane, hydrogen and natural gas.

Water extinguishers are suitable for fires caused by the combustion of solid materials, mainly organic, such as wood, paper and textiles.

Co2 extinguishers are suitable for fire risks involving flammable liquids and for electrical hazards. Co2 does no harm to electrical equipment and is ideal for modern offices.

Wet chemical extinguishers are suitable for cooking oil fires.

Emergency lighting

During a fire there is an increased risk of the main power supply cutting out which means emergency lighting is necessary for employees and customers to exit a building safely. People need clear exits and escape routes. Emergency and safety lighting must be included in all non-domestic buildings by law, namely the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Emergency lighting is designed to function during a power outage, usually using batteries.

Understanding what lighting you need and where it should be placed requires more than basic knowledge. There are many different types of lighting, including illuminated emergency exit signs, bulkhead emergency lights and open area lighting.

The penalties for business owners who fail to comply with the regulations can be very serious, implying the obvious danger to life but resulting in severe fines. It is recommended to seek expert advice on installation and maintenance.

Call point alarms

If an alarm is unlikely to be heard throughout the building, a fire alarm system with sounders and manual call points is likely to be required.

A conventional fire alarm is a non-intelligent system, which means it cannot identify which detector or manual call point has been activated. It can only identify an area or in fire alarm terms it is called a zone. The building is divided into fire zones and these zones are represented at the control panel with a light indicator and an area label for each zone, such as “Ground Floor” etc.

On activation of a detector or manual call point, a zone indicator will illuminate on the front of the control panel providing the user with the area of the activated device.

Sometimes using fire call points is your only option to alert others to a potential dangerous situation. Large buildings such as schools and superstores benefit from using call points alarms. There are two main types of call point alarm; one where you break the glass and one activated by a simple finger press – the latter means that you will not need to replace the glass and resetting it is easy. Breaking the glass will not hurt your hand; they are designed to require minimal force to trigger an alert. Call point alarms give everyone in the building the possibility of sounding the alarm.

Fire safety and exit signs

It is the law that everyone inside a non-domestic building, must be provided with relevant fire safety information. Fire safety signs will indicate the location of fire alarms and emergency equipment, the location of fire exits and escape routes. Without proper signage, you are potentially endangering the lives of the occupants of a building. Under health and safety law, all employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their employees whilst at work; fire safety signs are just one of the items you can implement in order to comply with this requirement.

Fire safety equipment and signs should always be clear and unambiguous, escape routes and doors must be clearly labelled. Fire safety signs should always be illuminated.

In the UK, fire exit signs are coloured green and white as this colour combination signifies a safe condition.

In the UK, blue fire safety signs are used to indicate a mandatory action. These blue signs require you to carry out an action in order to contribute towards your safety and must be coloured this way according to BS 5499.

In the UK, red fire safety signs are used to indicate prohibition, the location of fire equipment and supplementary information.

It’s critical for businesses to keep their people and building safe. Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and invest in fire safety equipment to stay safe.


About the Author:

Paul Wilkinson is the founder of Fire & Safety Solutions Ltd, an independent company specialising in the supply and service of fire equipment and support services. Paul is an expert on how Fire & Safety Solutions can help clients, both old and new, with their fire and safety needs.


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