Fire Alarms and Detection

Most people will think about fire alarms being more prevalent in a home because that is where we store what is most valuable to us; our belongings and our lives, especially when we are sleeping.

Whilst you should certainly have a fire alarm fitted at home, a fire can be just as damaging to a business; it still has the ability to end lives and livelihoods. Should you have all of your assets in one building, and nothing is backed up, your business could literally be wiped from existence which means an end to people’s ability to earn a living.

A fire alarm can help prevent that.

Fire alarm regulations state that all business premises must have ‘an appropriate fire detection system’. Essentially, you need a detection system in place that allows everyone to be warned so they can quickly and safely exit the building.

Do I need a Fire Alarm?

You are unlikely to need a fire alarm system if all of the following statements are true:

  • Your premises are small, single-storey
  • You don’t store any high-risk substances
  • 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

If one or more of these statements does not apply to your business, then you probably need a fire alarm system.

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What type of Fire Alarm do I need?

UK Fire Alarm regulations don’t specify the exact type of fire alarm you should have, it should just be ‘appropriate’ for your business.

With that in mind, there are three main types of fire alarms that are used in businesses:

Conventional Fire Alarms

Conventional Fire Alarms works on zones, so it divides your business area into different areas. When a fire happens, the fire alarm panel will show you the zone but not the exact location.

Conventional Fire Alarms are entry-level fire alarms and tend to be the cheapest system available.

Ideal for: Small businesses, nurseries, restaurants, shops.

Addressable Fire Alarm

The Addressable Fire Alarm tells you exactly where the fire is, whether there is smoke, heat or even if there is a fault. Each device has its own unique electronic address which then displays on the fire alarm panel.

These Fire Alarms can be integrated to activate a selection of fire safety features such as shutting down equipment or deactivating elevators.

They are more complex fire alarm systems so are therefore, on the more expensive side of fire alarm systems.

Ideal for: Large businesses such as hotels, office blocks, factories or a business with high-risk areas.

Wireless Fire Alarms

Wireless Fire Alarms operates like the addressable fire alarm system, just without the wires. It uses a wireless link between the fire alarm control panel and its sensors.

Wireless Fire Alarms are the more expensive option however they are quicker to install and provide just as much protection as wired fire alarm systems.

Ideal for: Businesses that don’t want a lot of cabling used because of the historic nature of the building. E.g. Churches and multi-site businesses such as science park, schools, universities and colleges.

Factors to consider when choosing a Fire Alarm System

  • Size of your business – larger businesses require at least one fire detector per floor.
  • Layout of your business - you may have to have a fire detector per room.
  • Multi-site business – consider connecting fire alarms so that people are notified in other buildings when there is a fire on site.
  • High-risk areas – do you have products which will produce a lot of smoke when they burn? Ensure there is appropriate detection in those areas.
  • Noise – it is important to ensure that the fire alarm is heard in every area of the business.
  • Notifications - if you have a large business, you may want a public address system, built-in to notify all areas of the business to gives specific instructions.
  • Monitoring – do you need your fire alarm to be monitored out-of-hours? You can have a fire alarm set to notify a list of people if it is triggered.


The deciding factor should be how effectively the alarm alerts people on your premises to danger and protects their safety.


+ - How often should a Fire Alarm be serviced

UK fire alarm regulations state that your fire alarm system must be ‘adequately maintained’ but fails to mention a specific time frame to service your fire alarm.

BS 5839 has been more specific and recommends that your fire alarms system should be inspected at least every 6 months.

+ - Why is Fire Alarm servicing important?

The main reason for keeping your fire alarm operating efficiently is to ensure that it will be able to notify all of the occupants in the case of a fire to prevent any loss of life.

Another reason is to prevent false alarm; this is due to the expense of the fire service attending a false-alarm as well as it will stop them attending a real emergency.

In fact, the fire service now charges call-outs if there are a high number of false alarms so to stop this from happening and encourage businesses to keep the fire alarms well-maintained.

+ - Do I have to test my Fire Alarm?

Simply put, yes. This is different from the aforementioned fire alarm servicing. You need to test the fire alarm, weekly to check that the fire alarm is in working order. Each week you should check at least one fire alarm contact point to check that the fire alarm panel receives the signal.

We also recommend that you keep a record of all of your weekly fire alarm tests so that you have the appropriate documentation to show to any fire officials.

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