The LWF Blog

Facilities Management – Fire Alarm Systems – Part 20

October 20, 2016 9:29 am

In our recent blog series for those people who work in Facilities Management, we have been looking at your responsibilities for fire safety and most recently, how fire alarm systems work (and sometimes malfunction). Today, we begin by discussing the challenges faced when implementing an effective system in a residential care home or other specialist premises, such as hospitals.


Where specialist evacuation is required, such as in care homes, it is important that the Fire Service is alerted to the fire as soon as possible. In most cases, this will involve the alert being sent to the Fire Service by the alarm system, which should work as a back up if the call made by the person alerted within the premises is not able to be made.


An ARC is an Alarm Receiving Centre; commonly you subscribe to one and they receive notifications from your alarm equipment, alerting them to a fire in the premises. They are then able to quickly notify the emergency services of the need to attend.


A standard alarm system is not set up to link with an ARC, but additional equipment can be installed which makes this possible. Commonly, this comprises either a digital communicator which dials up using the normal telephone system and transmits a coded signal to the ARC, or BT’s Redcare system which transmits signals over the telephone line, routed to the alarm’s ARC.


It is, of course, important to know that the ARC you use is efficient and has a failproof system in place for passing on alerts to the Fire Service. The Loss Prevention Board has a certification scheme which includes a published listing of each ARC and shows the geographical placement of the arrangements between that ARC and the Fire Service.


The days of a fire alarm system simply making a loud sound when a fire is detected are numbered, it seems, because not only are they now capable of alerting the Fire Service, they are also able to interface with other systems and equipment so that necessary processes can take place in case of fire.


Some examples might be that in a nightclub, the sound system is automatically turned off if the alarm is triggered, or that lifts return to ground level. Heating and Air conditioning ducts may be closed to avoid the passage of fire and smoke from one area to another. Gas valves may be closed, fire doors which separate sections will close, fire exit doors can unlock – you get the idea I’m sure. Almost any process which can be automated and assists in protecting those people inside the premises can be linked into the fire alarm system, so they take place automatically.


Next week’s blog will spend a little more time on those processes which can be linked to your fire alarm system. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.


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