The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Detection & Fire Alarms – Part 205

June 12, 2023 10:58 am

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 204, LWF talked about the proper maintenance and servicing of fire alarm systems, in the light of limiting false alarms. In part 205, we discuss the summoning of the Fire Service by the fire alarm system for property protection purposes.

Generally speaking, a fire alarm system is not designed for property protection purposes, unless it causes the Fire Service to be summoned. Many fire alarm systems when triggered cause an auditory alarm to be transmitted in the premises to warn the building occupants of the presence of fire and to instigate an evacuation of the building (or part thereof in zoned systems).

The system will only work to reduce loss if it is monitored 24/7 at a location that can notify the Fire Service without delay.

For an automatic fire alarm system to be recognised by insurers, it is usually a requirement for it to transmit automatically to an alarm receiving centre (ARC) when triggered. This feature is not required by legislation in England and Wales, as that is only concerned with the preservation of life and not of property. However, certain building types/occupancies do require automatic transmission of fire alarm signals, for example, from systems in residential care homes and hospitals.

It is certainly preferable to ensure a fire alarm system that transmits to an ARC is installed in any building where special evacuation problems may arise. Hospitals and residential care homes are particular examples of a circumstance where it may be very challenging to assist all occupants to evacuate safely in a short period of time. The automatic transmission of the fire alarm signal to the ARC ensures that the Fire Service are summoned and works as a ‘backup’ to the call that should have been made by the building occupants.

The method of automatic transmission of the signal to the ARC can be achieved in one of two ways:

  • Digital communicators which automatically dial the ARC using the public switched telephone network, or transmit a coded signal to a receiver at the ARC.
  • BT’s RedCARE system, in which signals are transmitted via the subscriber’s normal telephone line and are routed automatically to the ARC.

Alarm company ARC’s should be certificated by the Loss Prevention Certification Board to ensure there is a formal arrangement between the ARC and the relevant Fire Service.

In part 206 of this series, LWF will discuss the interface of the fire alarm system with other systems. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 35 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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