Between 2019 – 2020, Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) attended 153,957 fire-related incidents. This statistic shows it is necessary to secure all commercial properties. One way to go about this would be to adopt fire safety practices that involve risk assessment and management in the form of commercial fire alarm systems.
A commercial fire system is a vital tool for any business. It has the capability of having a lasting impression on the success of your business. The purpose of a fire alarm system is to prevent damage to your employees, goods, and property.
Having a fire alarm system is also a prerequisite under UK law. It places the legal duty on anyone in control of the premises(the responsible person, usually the landlord or anyone in a controlling position) to undertake a fire risk assessment and put in place and maintain general fire precautions.
What Business Needs a Fire Alarm System?
The size of a business does not determine the need for a fire alarm system. Whether small or large, it is in the best interest of a business owner to have a comprehensive and functional fire alarm system in place. It is an understated life-saving measure that could lead to catastrophic results if not properly managed.
Businesses that would benefit from fire alarm systems include:
Commercial Office Buildings
These buildings are generally highly populated workspaces
These are also densely populated properties usually located in the heart of many neighbourhoods. The safety of the residents is paramount in densely populated buildings like this. Hence, having the right commercial fire alarm system would help to protect many lives.
An industrial facility must have the latest fire alarm system technology because it usually houses heavy machinery and sometimes, highly toxic materials which are easily flammable in a fire outbreak.
These are large buildings that house goods to be delivered. A fire outbreak in one of these could have enormous supply chain effects and this makes it vital to have a fire alarm system in place.
Other commercial buildings that need fire alarm systems are hospitals, schools, hotels, stores, farms and garages.
Choosing the right fire alarm system is crucial to a reliable system that would protect your facility from fire. Fire alarm systems can be broadly divided into two main types:
- Conventional fire alarm systems
- Addressable fire alarm systems
Conventional Fire Alarm System
This is a more basic system. It will alert occupants of the building to a fire, without pinpointing the exact location of the fire.
These systems can be set up in zones with each initiating device linked to a control panel on its wire. When the pull station (alarm) is triggered, the system can help identify the general area of the fire by identifying the zone on the system. However, these zones are broad and do not give the exact location of the fire.
This wired system, while cost-effective, is more complex due to the wiring. Another downside to this system is the tendency towards false alarms, which can be annoying and stack up costly fire department fines.
Addressable Fire Alarm Systems
With these types of systems, each device on the system has an address, and each device is monitored from a central location. This allows the exact location of the fire to be pinpointed.
Addressable fire alarm systems allow a high degree of customization and flexibility through these monitoring options. Not only does it alert you to the exact location, but it also has self-monitoring and diagnostic properties that tell you when a component is malfunctioning.
If the fire alarm system becomes damaged or disconnected, the alarm system would still work because all wires are connected on one wire in an isolation module looped to the control panel.
While these systems are less vulnerable to false alarms, they are costlier than conventional fire alarm systems.
Commercial properties can also have the option of a hybrid fire alarm system. This hybrid system combines the conventional wired fire alarm system with features from the addressable fire alarm system, making this a superb alternative for commercial properties.
British Standards categorizes fire alarm systems into three main categories:
- Category M – ‘M’ here stands for ‘Manual’. This category of fire systems requires the alarm to be triggered manually. These systems are not automated but rely on humans to detect fire and sound the alarm.
- Category L – ‘L’ stands for ‘Life protection’. This category has five levels, L1 – L5, with L1 providing the highest level of protection and early fire detection, and L5 providing basic safety requirements.
- Category P – ‘P’ stands for ‘Property’. This category has two levels, P1 and P2. P1 provides complete protection at the earliest possible sign and P2 has detectors defined for certain parts of a building.
Certain factors determine the best alarm system for your commercial property. These are:
Size of the Property
One of the main differences between conventional and addressable fire systems is scale. The size of your commercial property would determine which alarm systems are best suited to your needs.
Whether in an isolated area or a buzzing metropolitan area, the location of your property plays a huge role in determining the system you should get – the type of system and relevant grade.
The type of industry and how it runs is another important factor to consider. For instance, a small logistics hub would require a different type of alarm system for a hospital.
Your individual preference regarding certain features would play a role in choosing the right commercial fire alarm system for your commercial property.
Features like early detection, false alarms and CCTV integration could be the difference when choosing between different fire alarm systems.
Budgeting for a Fire Alarm System
The costs of a fire alarm system play a big part in choosing which alarm system you would install. Factors like the size of the commercial property, the type of fire alarm system and the complexity of the system to be installed vary according to each business. It is important to consider initial installation costs and subsequent monitoring costs, which would vary when you are setting aside a budget for a commercial fire alarm system.
Importance of Choosing the Right Fire Alarm System for Your Business
Fire alarm systems preserve lives – This is the most important reason for choosing fire alarm systems for your property. It not only protects you but also your customers, employees and tenants. The incorporation of smoke detectors, sirens and strobe lights in fire alarm systems in buildings give occupants sufficient time to evacuate the building in an orderly manner.
Fire alarm systems reduce property damage – fire alarm systems detect fire outbreaks early and alert the fire department. This early detection time prevents damage from occurring to more property and parts of the building that would otherwise have happened if the fire is not detected in time.Monitored fire alarm systems automatically notify emergency responders and dispatch the fire service immediately to your location.
Fire alarm systems keep you code-compliant – one way to avoid getting code-compliance issues and paying fines is making sure you have fire alarm systems installed on your property. It also protects you and your business from lawsuits, issues with insurance claims and other litigation issues.
Fire alarm systems allow you to qualify for insurance discounts – a lot of insurance providers offer discounts on business insurance premiums if you have a code-compliant fire alarm system. Some insurance providers require you to have fire alarm systems on your property before you can qualify for insurance cover.
Fire alarm systems reduce business downtime – minimal to low building damage would reduce the time spent on recovery time and restoration costs. This cuts your losses from fire even more, allowing you to be back providing services with minimal time spent on the sidelines.
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