Fire Detection Systems: What Does Your Business Need?



Fire is an incident nobody ever expects to experience but its effects can be devastating.

For example in 2021, fire services attended over 500,000 incidents in England alone. While many of these were false alarms, there were still over 150,000 confirmed fires.

In the UK, employers need to adequately protect employees safety at all times and work to mitigate the risk of fire. This may mean providing the correct protective equipment, designing workspaces in a safe manner, or integrating sprinkler systems and other safety measures.

In this guide we will detail everything business owners need to know about fire detection systems, making it as easy as possible for you to keep your employees and customers safe.

Let’s start with the obvious:

Fire Alarm Legality & Regulations

The UK fire safety regulations are laid out here.

While it is quite in depth and some of the details can be confusing, the most important takeaway is that all business premises must have an “appropriate fire detection system”. In layman's terms, the bare minimum that can be considered “appropriate” is the ability to detect a fire outbreak and make people aware of it immediately.

There are multiple other important steps that must be taken including the effective management of potentially flammable substances, fire doors and more.

Setting Up Fire Detection Systems - Best Practices

When setting up and installing a fire detection system, much attention should be given to the location of the system’s individual parts such as sensors and alarms.

If a fire isn’t detected immediately, it has a higher chance of spreading, of causing damage or injury, and of closing off the route to a safe exit.

Ensuring the areas of the premises that are most at risk also receive the most coverage will reduce the chance of this happening and increase safety for all inside the building.

Things to keep in mind include:

High Risk Areas

Some areas may be known to be a fire risk - for example kitchens in a restaurant, areas of a factory in which molten materials are used, or even a computer lab or server room.

These areas must of course be comprehensively covered by fire detection systems, but other strategies can be used to improve safety too - including fire extinguishers and fire mats in a kitchen environment, or cooling systems in a server room.

Such areas should also be designed with the fire risk in mind, including a lot of open space, multiple easily accessible exits, and other techniques for improving safety.

Different Floors

Multi-storey buildings are some of the premises most at risk from fire. This is because a fire on one floor or even in a staircase can make escape from higher floors difficult or impossible. It is important to carry out a full risk assessment in such a situation and ensure that each floor is individually protected and staircases and elevators also have fire detection and suppression systems in place.

Flammable Material Storage

Companies that store flammable materials such as building materials, chemicals and certain fabrics must have appropriate protection in place - including fire detection systems, fireproof storage, suppression systems and anything else that can decrease the probability of a catastrophic fire spreading to other parts of the organization.

Tips for Fire Safety in the Workplace

Here are phs Compliance’s top tips to fire safety in your workplace:

  • Clean up: There are three elements which combine to create fire; ignition, fuel and oxygen. But you don’t even need a spark to start a fire; flammable materials can spontaneously combust if they get hot enough. Don’t allow waste to mount up, particularly combustible materials such as paper and cardboard. Waste should be stored in an appropriate place, away from any sources of ignition including heaters, fans, appliances and machinery, and disposed of regularly. Work stations should be kept as clear as possible; not a place where papers are allowed to accumulate. And cleaning protocols should ensure that dust doesn’t build up.
  • Fire exits: Fire doors are designed to provide fire breaks, stopping fires from spreading. Brief staff so they know not to leave or prop fire doors open. Make sure they are clearly marked and the entire fire exit unobstructed. Fire doors should be free from any clutter or storage to allow an unhindered exit.
  • Fire extinguishers: Source fire extinguishers and position these as readily available throughout your workplace. Educate staff so they not only know where to find fire extinguishers but how to use them too – and in what circumstances. Fire extinguishers can be easily tampered so regular checks can ensure they are fully functioning and well maintained. Fire extinguisher testing is a legal requirement. They should be inspected visually every month which needs to be recorded with annual safety services and associated fire extinguisher certification by an accredited specialist.
  • Fire alarms: While we have already discussed fire detection systems in this post, it remains arguably the most important factor and therefore cannot be overstated. Alarms must be kept in good working order with UK fire safety regulations stating systems must be adequately maintained. It is recommended fire alarm systems should be inspected at least every six months.
  • Fire safety risk assessments: A risk assessment for fires is not a tick-box exercise. They are so important that workplaces must conduct a fire safety risk assessment and review it regularly; informing staff about identified risks, implementing safety measures, planning for an emergency and providing staff with information, fire safety instruction and training. An accredited fire safety assessment company such as phs Compliance offers the expertise to conduct assessments to ensure workplaces remain compliant and safe.
  • Electrical equipment: Poorly maintained or faulty electrical equipment is a fire risk. PAT testing is a simple, low-cost way to identify risks and keep your workplace safe. Common portable electrical equipment includes computers, chargers, kettles, microwaves, drills, heaters, fans, lamps, printers and extension leads as well as larger appliances such as fridges, photocopiers and vending machines. Ensure staff are aware of the need for PAT testing before they bring in and plug in their own appliances. Unplug electrical appliances when they’re not in use, including overnight, and make sure sockets and adaptors are not tangled up and overloaded.
  • Hidden electrical systems: Test the health of your electrical systems with a thermographic survey. Equivalent to an X-Ray for your building, this identifies hidden potential faults early so they can be rectified before they cause damage. This includes loose connections, overloaded circuits, faults, induced currents and poor performance. They are so effective that 75% of thermographic surveys reveal defects posing an electrical fire risk, with a quarter of these requiring urgent action.

phs Compliance has been delivering compliance and building engineering services for more than 30 years. With more than 500 staff, phs Compliance delivers over 14 million compliance inspections for 35,000 customer sites each year. As a fully-accredited fire safety assessment company assessed by all leading third party fire safety registration bodies, phs Compliance is ready to support you with your fire safety needs.

How Can phs Compliance Help?

Keeping up to date with all of your legal requirements around fire safety and detection can be a difficult task in itself. There are a wide variety of differing circumstances that require different solutions. For example - cold storage rooms require a unique type of sprinkler as running water and below freezing temperatures don’t play well together for obvious reasons.

We offer a fully supported fire alarm testing services solution from design, through project management, installation, commissioning, service and fire alarm maintenance, ensuring that your business is as safe as it can possibly be, in compliance with all regulations, and that you can spend your time and attention on growing your business!

All of our fire alarm testing services, maintenance or installation works are delivered to the latest UK fire safety standards and in accordance with BS 5839-1. phs Compliance is inspected annually by third-party accreditation bodies who verify that we maintain the highest level of competency and can provide fully compliant fire alarm test certificates.

To learn more about our what Compliance offers, to get a quote, or simply to ask a query, please feel free to contact us now!

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