Fire alarm systems: how can fire alarms, detectors and other safety devices protect a building in an emergency?

Most of us will be very familiar with fire alarm systems, as they’re standard devices in both public and private buildings. We frequently see the control panels or activation points for these devices, usually situated in strategic locations around a given building. They’re accompanied by instructions regarding what to do in the event of a fire or other emergency, giving individuals the opportunity to manage the safety of those on the premises. In most systems, these control panels/activation points allow users to sound the alarm, working in tandem with smoke detection devices to detect and manage fire emergencies.

Fire alarm systems, smoke detectors and control panels: how are these systems triggered?

Safety at home and in the workplace is of paramount importance. To reduce the risk of injury in a fire, emergency equipment is constantly being developed in order to better manage the safety of individuals within private, commercial and corporate spaces, no matter the type of premises concerned. It’s important to have systems in place to prevent – and deal with – emergency situations that are a risk to safety. In terms of potential fires, smoke detectors, alarm systems and control panels placed in strategic locations around the building in question from an integral part of this prevention. Providing systems to deal with these potential emergencies improves general safety standards. So, how do these alarm systems, detectors and other devices work in the event of an emergency?

In order to ensure the safety of the individuals living or working in a given building, they need to be made aware if there’s a fire anywhere on the premises. In automated systems, the presence of smoke will be picked up on by a designated detector. Then, these smoke detectors will, in turn, trigger the fire alarms situated throughout the premises. When the alarm system sounds, the people living and working there will know that there is a risk to them and they need to evacuate for their own safety. Many fire alarm systems will also offer control panels/activation points that enable individuals to manually trigger the alarm. So, if an employee or resident becomes aware of an emergency situation, they will be able to activate the alarm system from these control panels/activation points. This could potentially happen even before the automatic smoke detection systems spring into action. This manual activation is also vital for organising safety drills to train employees in the correct procedure in the event of an emergency. A safety officer will manually trigger the alarm system from the control panel/activation point at a designated emergency drill time. That way, individuals will be well versed in the protocol, so that they know what to do to stay safe if and when the alarm systems sound for real.

Conventional emergency plans for commercial and corporate premises will involve the strategic placement of “in the event of emergency” instructions around the building. These will often designate an outside assembly point for emergencies that is close to the building in question. Employees will be made aware of these safety plans, often including training on how to operate the relevant emergency equipment and devices, as well as manual control panels/activation points. This enables employees and individuals to take more control of their own safety, as well as relying on automatic alarm systems and other safety devices.

There are legal requirements for installing alarm systems in the UK. Whether it’s a private residential, corporate or commercial building in question, you’ll need to make sure that your fire alarm systems comply with the legislation in force. This is vital for ensuring safety and preventing emergencies, both in fire situations and for detecting dangerous fumes within the building. Smoke detectors are capable of picking up on toxic fumes, such as carbon monoxide, and non-toxic fumes, such as water vapour.

Fire alarm systems: protection levels you should get to know

If you’re browsing fire alarm systems, smoke detectors or other safety devices, there are a couple of protection categories that you’ll need to be familiar with.

L1 Fire Alarm System

This offers the most complete protection for a building, so this category of alarm system is usually used for large commercial or corporate premises, as well as large residential blocks housing a lot of people. All rooms and areas within the building will be comprehensively covered by the alarm system.

L2 Fire Alarm System

These alarm systems aim to forewarn the people inside a building that there is an emergency situation. The smoke detectors aim to pick up on dangerous fumes, to ensure that the alarm system is triggered early enough to allow effective evacuation and ensure personal safety. These alarm systems are focused on high-risk areas, such as the boiler room, or areas housing major electrical control panels, for example.

L3 Fire Alarm System

Similar to L2, these alarm systems aim to forewarn occupants in a potential emergency situation. This facilitates improved personal safety and effective evacuation strategies.

L4 Fire Alarm System

These fire alarm systems only detect fires that occur within the escape routes of a building. Fires in these areas would impede effective evacuation, compromising personal safety.

L5 Fire Alarm System

This lowest level of alarm system is usually implemented due to the specific outcome of a fire risk assessment for the building in question.

Wrongly triggered alarm systems: what should you do if it’s just a false alarm?

Better to wrongly trigger the alarm that not to trigger it at all! Many of the latest alarm systems will allow you to remotely turn off the alarm sound, to give you easy control over the fire alarm system and smoke detectors within the building.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your smoke detectors are fully functional at all times, so do make sure that the batteries are frequently replaced. If you do manually turn off your smoke detectors, many models will automatically re-trigger your alarm system if they continue to detect fumes.