The Safe Installation of Fire and Smoke Alarms
…around 80% of all fire–related deaths and injuries occur in dwellings…
BS 5839–6:2004 Code of Practice
Anyone responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in dwellings must meet the requirements of BS 5839–6:2004.
According to this code of practice, around 80% of all fire–related deaths and injuries occur in dwellings, and this number could be substantially reduced with the correct use of fire and smoke detection.
Therefore this code is the bible for providing fire protection and is based on a risk assessment approach for situations in new and existing single family dwellings and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), comprising single family self–contained units.
These regulations have been compiled for:
- electrical contractors and installers;
- enforcing authorities and architects; and
- any other person whose job it is to provide fire protection.
The guidelines cover:
- Grades of system
These range from Grade A to Grade F, and those in dwellings are usually Grade D, E or F and do not incorporate a control panel. The code defines the minimum grade and category of system by considering factors such as the size, type, age and existing fire precautions of the dwelling.
- Installation and Power Supply
Smoke and heat alarms which are interconnected by wiring should be connected on a single, final circuit, and all cables should be selected according to both BS 7671 and BS 5839–6.
Every kitchen and main living room or area should have a heat detector, and the main living rooms, as long as it isn’t the kitchen, may have a smoke or carbon monoxide fire detector fitted instead. Halls and landings should have smoke detectors.
The installation of fire alarms must adhere to BS 7671, with “as–fitted” drawings supplied, and sounders should be fixed tightly to permanent construction, with wiring between detectors installed to avoid permanent damage.
Once installed the system should be inspected for satisfactory operation and to ensure that automatic fire detectors and manual call points are in full working order. This should include manufacturer’s tests and a certificate should then be issued to the user along with operator instructions. Smoke detectors should be tested with smoke, using simulated smoke so as not to damage the equipment. Similarly, heat detectors should be tested with heat, but not a live flame or anything else likely to cause a fire.
More specifically, insulation tests of all cables according to BS 7671 should be carried out, with further tests on the main supply circuit, including earth continuity, polarity, and earth fault loop impedance.
All systems should be regularly maintained and tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In full, BS 5839–6: 2004 covers:
- normative references;
- terms and definitions;
- fire risk assessment;
- system components;
- monitoring of circuits;
- Grades & categories of systems;
- choice of system;
- types of fire detector and their selection;
- location and siting of fire detectors;
- limitation of false alarms;
- audible fire alarm devices and audibility;
- fire alarm warnings for deaf and hard–of–hearing people;
- power supplies; wiring; control and indicating equipment;
- manual call points;
- zoning and other means for identification of source of alarm conditions;
- remote transmission of alarm signals;
- radio–linked systems;
- electromagnetic compatibility;
- installation, commissioning and certification;
- user instructions; and
- routine testing and maintenance.
Check out the details at the British Standards Institute’s website
- The Fire Safety Order
Fire alarms are also covered by the Fire Safety Order (FSO) 2005, a Government initiative which came into effect on 1st October 2006, which was drawn up to reduce fatalities, injuries and damage caused by fire.
It applies to most premises and places greater emphasis on fire prevention in non–domestic premises, holding the person responsible accountable by law.
Where fire alarm systems are concerned it involves risk assessments regarding the necessity of fire certificates, in terms of risk assessments, and whether fire certificates are required. It also stresses the importance of using high quality, tried and tested products to avoid accidents, for which wholesalers, distributors and contractors could be blamed.
So, anyone responsible for fire protection take note, when it comes to saving lives and reducing fire calls it’s your call — by law.