The following Guide is based on BS5839 Part 1 on the design and installation of Fire Alarm Systems for general applications.  It is intended as a reference only, and not a replacement for BS5839 part 1.


When is a Fire Alarm System Required ?
There are various statutory documents covering the need for fire protection in various types of premises.  The principle documents are:
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Fire Certificates (Special Premises) regulations 1976
Factories Act 1971
Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963
Private Places of Entertainment Act 1967
Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997

The Fire Precautions Act 1971
Under this Act, all shops irrespective of staff numbers and contents must have:
Adequate means of escape while an employee is in the premises (unlocked doors and unobstructed access to them)
Appropriate means for fighting fire provided and maintained
A Fire Certificate must be obtained from the Fire Authority for premises in which:
More than 20 persons are employed at any one time
More than 10 persons are employed at any one time other than on the ground floor
The shop employees are working in the same building as others and the total in all the premises exceeds 20 or 10 elsewhere other than on the ground floor
Highly flammable or explosive materials are stored or used
Sleeping Accommodation is provided

A Hotel or Boarding House contains sleeping accommodation for 6 or more people, which includes staff and guests, or a Hotel or Boarding House that sleeps a member of staff or any guests above the first floor or below the ground floor.


The majority of Industrial and Commercial premises therefore require a Fire Alarm System with legislation both nationally and locally covering a large proportion of the various types of buildings and their requirements.
Automatic Fire Detection will normally be required in premises with:
Flammable or Explosive materials are used or stored
Where people are sleeping as part of the premises business activity eg: Hotels, Nursing Homes, Hospitals etc
When the premises has special evacuation problems eg: disabled and elderly persons, cellars and high buildings
All of the above will probably need some degree of Automatic Fire Detection to obtain a Fire Certificate, however with the new Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 it is not always necessary to apply for a certificate.  CAUTION - You almost certainly must have a Fire certificate OR must comply to the regulations.

The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997

These new regulations came into force on 1st December 1997 and have an important message for those responsible for ownership/management of a property where persons are employed.
Unfortunately there are numerous interpretations placed on the regulations and some places are exempted because they are already covered by other legislation or already hold a Fire Certificate. [1]
To understand the detailed application to your own requirements please contact the following:
1) For advice on Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Requirements,
contact Photain Controls plc
2) For copies of the regulations contact: The Stationary Office
  Tel: 0171 873 9090 - Fax: 0171 873 8200

The important points to note are as follows:
1 It is now the LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY of EMPLOYERS, PERSONALLY, TO COMPLY WITH THE LEGISLATION, and it will no longer be the responsibility of others, eg: the Fire Service to proscribe to employers the measures to be taken to minimise risk.  The Fire Service will, however, continue to provide advice and guidance relating to Fire Precautions.
2 The risk assessment requirements of the 1992 Health and Safety Regulations are extended to include fire risk.  Fire precautions are to be based upon the risk assessment.
2a Employers must inform their employees of the results of the risk assessment
3 Employers must provide appropriate means for detecting a fire, raising a fire alarm and for fire fighting.  What is considered appropriate will depend upon the size and the nature of the premises, the number of people present and activities undertaken.  Current British Standards such as BS5839 Part 1 1988 provide guidance to system design requirements.
4 Employers must provide emergency routes and exits for use in case of fire.  These must be kept clear, be available in an emergency and be provided with emergency lighting if requiring illumination.
5 Equipment provided to warn of fire, fight fire and to aid escape from fire must be suitably maintained in good working order.
6 Where fire fighting measures are necessary, employees must be adequately trained and equipped.
7 If employers fail to meet their obligations, the Fire Service has the responsibility for enforcement by means of a series of procedures dependant upon the seriousness of the situation.

It is always advisable to consult the Local Fire Prevention Officer at an early stage, regarding the legislation covering a particular premises.  The Fire Officer will interpret the Fire Precautions Act or any other act covering a particular premises and advise on the particular type of Fire Alarm System that may be required.
It must be remembered that the Fire Prevention Officer is concerned with LIFE, his concern for property is secondary.
We would advise that you only consult with a Fire Prevention Officer  with the clients consent.
When designing a Fire Alarm System, it is important to consult with all other interested parties, for example:

The Local Fire Authority

The System Installer

The Health and Safety Officer

Any Consultant or Architect

The Insurance Company

During early discussions it is important to establish the purpose of the Fire Alarm System, ie:

A) To enhance the safety of the occupants

B) To minimise damage to the property xx

Whilst Insurance Companies give good discounts to clients who fit sprinkler systems the fitting of complex Fire Detection Systems seldom lead to a reduction in premiums sufficient to encourage a client to fit a Fire Alarm System for property protection.  The vast bulk of Fire Alarm Systems fitted are normally for the protection of Life.

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