Your fire alarm in your commercial premises is a life safety system.
It’s there to protect you by detecting signs of a fire and triggering the alarm as an early warning system to help you act swiftly.
So, naturally, you don’t just want anyone installing and servicing your building’s fire alarm.
Read on to find out what third-party accreditation means and why it’s important when choosing your fire alarm provider.
1. Competency Assurance
Third-party accreditations and certifications are universally used for products and services.
When it comes to your fire alarm, it means that you are purchasing quality products, which are delivered, installed, commissioned and maintained by competent technicians who have not only proven their competency, but continue to do so with annual audits and independent reviews.
Accreditations are not life-long, companies can lose them if they do not demonstrate that they continue to work at a suitable and above-board standard.
This provides you with the peace of mind that you are using a fire alarm specialist that is approved and certified regularly, assuring they will take pride in installing and maintaining your system.
There are presently no legal minimum qualifications in the fire industry for fire alarm designers, installers and maintainers, so ensuring the company you use is accredited is your best bet for quality assurance.
2. Your Consumer Protection – Reduce Risk
Not only will you have peace of mind, but a third-part certification is effectively a consumer protection scheme, holding that company to account for the work they have done for you and also demonstrating that you’ve undertaken due diligence by ensuring your life safety system has been taken care of by a specialist.
For example, if you insurance company investigates a claim of a fire in your building and you cannot prove that you used a competent service and/or product provider for your fire alarm, you may find it difficult to get the full insurance pay-out, and it could also bring into question whether you went to adequate lengths to secure your building and the people within it. (Read more about the duties of the ‘Responsible Person’ in businesses and commercial premises.)
Hiring a third-party accredited company will inevitably be the more expensive route compared to hiring a non-certified company or a one-man-band, but only in the first instance as it could eventually cost you more down the road in terms of repairs and upkeep due to poor installation or the non-compliant design of a system. Too often companies opt to spend less money to have their system installed by a company which is not accredited, only to find the system needs to be ripped out and re-installed afterwards, or are left to manage a poor system, often doubling or tripling the initial cost, if not more.
Always remember, as a business or commercial premises, you have a duty to your staff/inhabitants and visitors to ensure all precautions are undertaken with regards to both fire safety, as well as general health and safety.
3. Recommended by the Government, and Fire & Rescue Services
Fire safety guidance stipulated by the Government (GOV.UK) specifies using third-party certificated providers for fire safety and protection services. They say this is an “effective means of providing the fullest possibly assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products (and services) may lack.”
Contact your local fire brigade and ask them what they think about using a third-party accredited provider; you’re likely to find that they will say the same thing.
What Kind of Accreditations Should You Look For?
There are many accreditations and certifications within both the fire protection and security industries covering a range of products from fire alarms and extinguishers to sprinklers and fire doors.
Depending on what you are having installed and maintained, you should ensure that the company you are using has the accreditation for that service, or uses a partner company for that service.
Most of the bodies providing accreditations are third-party certification bodies (or CBs) but some are also registration bodies, such as the British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) – the key is that they’re third-party accredited, meaning they are independently audited.
BAFE is the primary body for fire safety in the UK and offer a range of schemes in which to be accredited under, for example BAFE SP203-1 is the scheme dedicated to fire detection and alarm systems, so if a company is accredited under this then you can trust they are independently audited for their standards in designing, installing, commissioning and maintaining alarm systems. You can search for a third-party certificated/BAFE registered company here on the BAFE website.
A popular certifications body, particularly within the security industry, is SSAIB, which stands for ‘Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board’. You can search for an SSAIB accredited provider here on the SSAIB website.
Also, Look out for Memberships to Professional Bodies
Not to be confused with an accreditation body, a professional body offers membership to companies and individuals granting them access to events, training and industry insights, as well as the opportunity to promote themselves as a member of a reputable professional body.
Some companies, for example, may sign up to a professional body but neglect to have any third-party accreditations. To someone just looking to install a fire alarm, they’ll be impressed by the badge of the professional body, assuming that reflects the company’s capability and reliability, when it does not – they’ve simply signed up and paid for a professional membership and have not undergone any independent audits.
Albeit, if you spot that a company has both accreditations and membership to a professional body, then you can be pretty sure that you’ve got a company that knows what they’re doing, and makes an effort to keep up with industry news and training standards.
Top Tip: If you see a badge on a website, email or business card, be sure to ask what it is and if it is an accreditation before simply assuming the badge means they are competent and reliable.
There are many professional membership bodies out there. The Fire Industry Association (FIA) is the UK’s largest fire protection trade body, but others also include the Fire Protection Association (FPA), The UK Fire Association and the Association for Specialist Fire Protection.
Don’t Forget to Do This…
Using an accredited provider does give you the assurance that you’re using a certified provider who is regularly audited, but it doesn’t necessarily always prove that they are a trusted company.
What do I mean by this? Your fire alarm system (and all of your fire safety and security systems) will need regular, periodic servicing, so the company you choose won’t be providing you with a one-off service. Even with an installation, you will continue to have to live with that system. So, the company you choose will have to be competent, reliable and responsive.
Accreditations ensure competence but if you’re looking for excellent customer service and a provider who always has your back, then it’s also important to look at reviews and get recommendations.
An excellent provider will give you honest advice and put your safety first. They won’t leave you waiting or make you feel like you’re bottom of their list of priorities. You’ll have a bespoke service and first-rate customer care, so if your fire alarm starts sounding and you’re in a panic, you know you can pick up the phone and receive support then and there without hesitation.
The best way to check this is looking at their reviews on Google and Trustpilot, ask around or approach the company directly for the name and number/email address of a customer you can contact.
WFP Fire & Security is BAFE and SSAIB accredited, is a member of the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and is rated 5 stars by customers on Google and Trustpilot.
Get in touch for expert fire and security solutions, from system designs to reliable installations and ongoing maintenance.
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Post by Verity Stone
Hi, I’m Verity! WFP’s Head of Communications. As well as ensuring our customers are happy with their service, I’m a huge fan of spreading the word about fire safety and security to help keep businesses safe and legal.More posts by Verity Stone