If you’re in control of a workplace or building, you’ve got a legal obligation for it to be safe. As well as completing a fire risk assessment to determine whether the means of detecting and warning of a fire are adequate, there may be other interested parties who specify requirements for fire detection and alarm systems. These could be local authorities checking the premises conform to Building Regulations, the fire service, licensing bodies and insurance providers.

Key actions to maintain fire detection and alarm systems

  • Clarify what interested parties require for fire alarm systems within the building, and check that any system installed or planned satisfy these requirements, as well as others identified in your fire risk assessment.
  • Ensure systems are planned, designed, installed, commissioned and maintained to comply with BS 5839-1 - Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings.
    • The category of system defined under BS 5839-1 determines the level of detection provided. Systems can be designed for purposes of life safety and / or property protection. It’s essential the correct category is chosen, to make sure requirements are met.
  • Choose a competent contractor to design and install the fire alarm system. They should be approved by a third party certification body like the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) to LPS 1014, or by the British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) within the modular scheme SP203-1.
  • Make sure your contractor is aware of all requirements relating to the proposed system, including any unusual environmental conditions present within the building which may influence the type of detector used.
  • Check system components are tested and certificated to comply with the relevant part of BS EN 54. Such products are listed on the LPCB’s website, RedBook Live.
  • Make sure system reliability and minimizing false alarms is the key factor when selecting detection options. There are various methods to limit false alarms/unwanted fire signals, so suitable consultation with the designer on such decisions is essential.
  • Decide what control and indicating equipment would work with the designer.
    • Some simple fire alarm systems only give an indication of the general area where an event occurred. Addressable systems give the location of the individual detector, which may save valuable investigation time.
  • Establish if the building is listed or constructed in a way which may restrict the type of fire alarm system that can be used. Most systems are hard-wired, but radio-linked devices are available.
  • Be aware some systems are ‘closed protocol’ (where devices are only compatible with other devices from the same manufacturer). This may restrict equipment and maintenance options in the future.
  • Consider whether there is any benefit from or requirement relating to automatic remote signalling.to a permanently manned Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). This means there is a response to the alarm system, even when the premises are empty.
    • Note: Fire and rescue service policies on responding to automatic fire alarm signals vary by area. You’ll need to check what the response will be in the area where the premises are located to ensure that it meets expectations.
  • Check your fire risk assessment so vulnerable persons are taken into account by the proposed/ installed fire alarm design.
    • The fire alarm system must complement proposed evacuation procedures, as determined by the fire risk assessment. Specialist advice may be needed.
    • Special warning devices might be needed for hearing impaired occupants, and in some situations, staged or staff alarms may be required to ensure safe evacuation.
  • Once the system is in place, it will need regular maintenance and testing. Make sure any faults are fixed urgently.

Templates for maintaining fire protection measures

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about preventing and controlling fires and related issues.