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The benefits of complying with BS 5839-1:2017 - The updated standard for fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings


BS 5839-1:2017 - A Guide to Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems for Buildings




Fire detection and fire alarm systems are essential for the protection of life and property in buildings. They provide early warning of fire, alert occupants to evacuate, notify the fire and rescue service, and activate other fire safety measures. However, designing, installing, commissioning and maintaining these systems can be complex and challenging, especially for non-domestic premises.




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That is why there is a need for a comprehensive and up-to-date standard that covers all aspects of fire detection and fire alarm systems. This standard is BS 5839-1:2017, which was revised by BSI, the business standards company, in 2017. It is referred to in both volumes of the governments statutory guidance for fire safety, Approved Document B, which concerns building regulations covering fire safety matters within and around buildings.


In this article, we will explain what BS 5839-1:2017 is and why it is important, how to design a fire detection and fire alarm system according to the standard, how to install, commission and maintain the system, and how to comply with fire safety regulations in the UK.


What is BS 5839-1:2017 and why is it important?




The scope and purpose of the standard




BS 5839-1:2017 is the code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises. It applies to all workplaces and the common parts of residential buildings, such as flats, apartments, hotels, hostels, care homes, student accommodation, etc. It does not apply to domestic premises or individual dwellings within residential buildings.


The standard provides recommendations for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems. It also includes guidance on system components, wiring, power supplies, testing, inspection, servicing, false alarms, documentation, training and management.


The purpose of the standard is to ensure that fire detection and fire alarm systems are fit for purpose, reliable, effective and compliant with relevant regulations. It also aims to promote good practice and consistency among system designers, installers, commissioners, maintainers and users.


The benefits and challenges of complying with the standard




Complying with BS 5839-1:2017 can bring many benefits for building owners or managers (responsible persons), such as:



  • Enhancing the safety of occupants and visitors



  • Reducing the risk of property damage and business interruption



  • Meeting legal obligations under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) or equivalent legislation in Scotland or Northern Ireland



  • Avoiding fines or prosecution for non-compliance or negligence



  • Improving the reputation and credibility of the business or organisation



  • Lowering insurance premiums or claims



However, complying with BS 5839-1:2017 can also pose some challenges for responsible persons, such as:


  • Understanding and applying the complex and technical requirements of the standard



  • Finding qualified and competent system designers, installers, commissioners and maintainers



  • Allocating sufficient time, budget and resources for the system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance



  • Managing the system performance, functionality and integrity throughout its lifecycle



  • Dealing with false alarms, faults and malfunctions



  • Keeping up to date with changes and updates to the standard or regulations



To overcome these challenges, responsible persons should seek professional advice and support from reputable fire safety consultants, contractors and suppliers. They should also ensure that they have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities under the FSO or equivalent legislation, and that they follow the recommendations of BS 5839-1:2017 as closely as possible.


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How to design a fire detection and fire alarm system according to BS 5839-1:2017




The steps and stages of the design process




The design of a fire detection and fire alarm system is a critical and complex process that requires careful planning, analysis, evaluation and documentation. According to BS 5839-1:2017, the design process consists of the following steps and stages:



  • Establishing the objectives and scope of the system



  • Conducting a fire risk assessment of the premises



  • Determining the category of system required (L for life protection or P for property protection)



  • Selecting the type of system (conventional, addressable or wireless)



  • Choosing the appropriate fire detectors and sounders for each area or zone



  • Calculating the coverage and spacing of detectors and sounders



  • Designing the layout and wiring of the system components



  • Specifying the power supply and battery backup for the system



  • Incorporating any special features or functions (such as voice alarms, manual call points, interfaces with other systems, etc.)



  • Preparing the design drawings, specifications and calculations



  • Obtaining approval from relevant authorities or stakeholders (such as building control, fire authority, insurance company, etc.)



The design process should be carried out by a competent person who has adequate knowledge, skills and experience in fire detection and fire alarm systems. The person should also be familiar with BS 5839-1:2017 and other relevant standards or codes of practice. The person should consult with the responsible person and other parties involved in the project, such as architects, engineers, contractors, etc., to ensure that the system meets the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.


The key factors and considerations for the design




The design of a fire detection and fire alarm system should take into account various factors and considerations that may affect the performance, functionality and suitability of the system. Some of these factors and considerations are:



  • The nature and use of the premises (such as occupancy level, activities, hazards, etc.)



  • The characteristics and layout of the building (such as size, shape, height, structure, compartments, etc.)



  • The environmental conditions and influences (such as temperature, humidity, dust, smoke, etc.)



  • The potential sources of ignition and fuel (such as electrical equipment, flammable materials, etc.)



  • The likely fire scenarios and spread patterns (such as origin, location, direction, speed, etc.)



  • The fire detection strategy and objectives (such as early warning, evacuation, suppression, etc.)



  • The fire alarm signal transmission and audibility (such as wired or wireless communication, sound level, tone, etc.)



  • The compatibility and integration of system components (such as detectors, sounders, control panels, etc.)



  • The reliability and resilience of the system (such as redundancy, fault tolerance, self-testing, etc.)



  • The ease of installation, commissioning and maintenance of the system (such as accessibility, modularity, scalability, etc.)



  • The cost-effectiveness and value for money of the system (such as initial cost, running cost, life cycle cost, etc.)



The design should aim to achieve a balance between these factors and considerations to ensure that the system is f


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