Fire alarm systems: making the right choice
If you're responsible for a property, it's likely that you will need to take fire safety precautions to keep the people who use it safe. In many buildings, that will include ensuring the right fire alarm system is in place.
If you are looking to fit a fire alarm, choose your designer and installer carefully. The London Fire Brigade warns: "There are currently no legal minimum qualification or training requirements for people who want to set themselves up as ‘fire alarm designers'". That's why it is important that the consultant or contractor that you appoint is accredited by an appropriate professional body.
It’s also important to remember that fire alarm legislation doesn't specify exactly what type of fire alarm system should be used and where in a property. Those decisions are down to the designer and the installer, because it must be based on what is right for a particular set of circumstances.
In addition to ensuring the system and its design are appropriate, it’s equally important to ensure that the system is assembled using the best, most durable and resilient components. This is particularly the case when it comes to fire alarm cables, where faults can be notoriously difficult to locate, within a cable network and where faults can result in false alarms.
The London Fire Brigade alone attended 38,000 false fire alarms in 2017. On average that's over 100 a day, every day of the year, in London alone. Nationally the government say that in the year 2017/18 there were 225,625 fire false alarms attended, of which over two thirds (67%) were "due to apparatus."
The London Fire Brigade is certainly not happy about wasting its crew's time attending such events, describing it as "really bad news" when firefighters "should be out attending real emergencies and saving lives."
The brigade also point out that in attending false alarms "people are put at unnecessary risk from avoidable blue light journeys."
What's more, the brigade says that false alarms are also dangerous for the occupants of a building because "people become complacent and don't react to the alarm when there is a real fire."
To avoid the fire alarm cable increasing the cost and risk due to false alarms, a sensible approach is to choose cable with robust construction, that gives you confidence it will resist accidental and third-party damage.
It is worth bearing in mind that some fire resistant cables use soft, silicone insulation, which can be susceptible to damage during and after insulation, potentially causing cables to be vulnerable to faults throughout their service life. However, Prysmian has developed Insudite: a robust composite insulation which provides a tough, highly durable and damage resistant insulation that is unique to Prysmian's FP 200 Gold and FP PLUS fire resistant cables. Insudite insulation helps to preserve the longevity of the cable, by giving it added resistance to damage from blunt impacts, accidental tearing or cutting, which can be the cause of system faults.