Having a fire alarm installed is a legal requirement for premises that require them, but many employers are not certain whether they should have one installed or not.
The fact is that you probably do not need a fire alarm if all of the following statements are true:
- Your premises are small, simple, and single-storey or open-plan
- You don’t store any high-risk substances, such as chemicals
- You don’t undertake any high-risk activities, such as cooking
- You don’t have any vulnerable occupants, such as the very young, elderly or disabled.
- A fire would be easily spotted if it broke out anywhere in the premises
- A shout of ‘fire!’ would be easily heard by all occupants
The fact is that if any one of the above statements is not true, then you probably do need a fire alarm installation. The way to be certain is to ask us at Hawkesworth Appliance Testing to carry out a fire risk assessment. We are known as one of the foremost PAT testing companies in the UK, but we also undertake fire risk assessments, and you should have a fire risk assessment carried out regularly in any case. The law is rather vague about this: it simply uses the word “regularly”, but most people take that to mean once a year.
The problem is that fire risks can change. You might start using flammable substances, for example. You might move all the machinery on your factory floor around so that your procedures will be better, but in doing so you could perhaps block what was formerly an escape route. We can undertake your fire risk assessment and will be able to advise whether or not you need a fire alarm installation or whether the one you already have is sufficient to comply with the law.
If you do need a fire alarm system, there is also the matter of how often it should be checked and/or serviced. Once again, the law is somewhat vague, stating only that the system should be “adequately maintained”. However, BS 5839 recommends that a fire alarm system should be inspected by a “competent person” every six months, and the government recommends that you should follow this standard. In fact, if you have large premises, we recommend inspecting every quarter, because there are more parts to the system, and therefore more to go wrong.
You should also test the system once a week. You should activate at least one fire alarm call point, checking that the alarm sounds and the panel receives the signal. Test a different call point each week. You can then re-set your fire alarm panel and note the test in your fire alarm logbook. Of course, if you find any issues you must contact your fire safety company immediately.