• FIRE

    What do I do if I have a power cut?

    This applies to both fire and intruder alarms. In the event of a power cut, the batteries should kick in and allow the system to continue working. This should last for 24 hours for a fire alarm and anywhere between 8 and 24 for a burglar alarm. Once the power comes back on, a fault may flag up but this does typically restore itself and disappear. Call your fire alarm maintenance provider (us!) if you continue to encounter any further issues.

    What is the first step to installing a fire alarm in my building?

    The first step to installing your fire alarm is to have a fire risk assessment to determine the fire hazards within your premises and whether the fire safety strategies you have in place are equipped to keep you safe and legal. For more information, have a read of our guide on the 8 steps to undertake before installing a fire alarm

    How often must I have a fire risk assessment carried out?

    WFP recommends that you have a fire risk assessment carried out annually. Albeit, if you have had a fire risk assessment carried out six months ago but your premises has just undergone a renovation or extension, then you will be required to do a fire risk assessment again to establish you’ve still got the adequate level of fire protection. If you are opening a new premises, you will need to have a fire risk assessment prior to opening. If your building’s physical structure and occupancy has remained unchanged for some time since your last fire risk assessment, you may be able to get away without doing another one for a couple of years; although you will have to accept full responsibility that you’ve made all the necessary precautions in the event a fire does break out. For more information, read our guide on Fire Risk Assessments

    What is the difference between addressable and non-addressable alarms?

    Not the same as linked or networked (which applies to how the panels are wired and therefore how information is passed along the wires), addressable versus non-addressable alarm systems refers to what you want your alarm system to do.

    Do you want it to tell you the fire is in Zone X (which could apply to any number of rooms, or even an entire floor) or Room X (which applies to the precise room or location)? Addressable means you’ll know the precise location, whereas non-addressable (or conventional) fire alarm systems only tell you the zone. With a non-addressable system, you’ll need to physically go to the area to inspect what set off the alarm, whereas addressable will tell you exactly where it’s gone off. What you’ll need will depend on the size of your building – the bigger it is, the more likely you’ll need an addressable system.

    Will the Fire and Rescue Service inspect my premises?

    The Fire and Rescue Service does not inspect all buildings routinely, but does carry out random spot-checks. If you are found to have an inadequate level of fire protection within your building then penalties can range from a basic recommendation to have a fire risk assessment and implement the fire safety equipment needed thereafter, through to fines and/or prosecution, depending on the severity of the fire safety negligence.

    Who is responsible for fire safety?

    According to the Regulator Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, fire safety in businesses (and non-domestic premises) is the responsibility of the owner, employer or manager. Each business or premises must have at least one ‘responsible person’, whilst other fire marshals/wardens who have received fire safety training will also be required.

    Where can I find legislative literature which spells out my responsibility for fire safety as a HMO owner/landlord or business owner?

    The Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACoRS) outlines fire safety provisions required in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) in this free online guide.

    Other fire safety legislation includes the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which stipulates fire safety procedures in non-domestic premises. You can read the document here.

    British Standards stipulate what specification of fire safety equipment must be installed; BS 5839:1 2017 relates to commercial fire alarms, BS 5839:6 2013 refers to domestic fire alarms and BS 5266:1 2016 discusses emergency lighting requirements. These guides are available to purchase online.

    How many fire marshals/wardens does my business need?

    It is recommended that you have at least one fire marshal for each floor of your building, but two is preferred to account for holidays or sickness. Overall, the number of fire marshals you’ll need will depend on whether your premises is classed as low, medium or high risk, which will be outlined in your fire risk assessment report. As expected, the higher the risk, the higher the number of fire marshals will be required. Low risk requires 1 marshal per 50 people, medium risk requires 1 per 20 people, and high risk requires 1 per 15 people.

    How often should fire drills be carried out?

    Businesses must have a fire drill at least once per year, however schools are required to carry out a fire drill once a term (once every three months).

    If we changed the layout of the building, can the type of detection (e.g. heat or smoke detector) be changed to accommodate the type of hazard in that area?

    Yes, however this should preferably be considered prior to any renovation or extension instead of afterwards. Your WFP specialist will factor this in during the design stage of your installation, replacement or upgrade, as the spacing for heat and smoke detectors differs greatly. For instance, smoke detectors can cover 100m² but heat detectors only cover 50m².

    What is the difference between ‘linked’ and ‘networked’ fire alarm panels?

    In short, it’s about control and information; linked is basic and networked is full control.

    With a linked fire alarm panel you will have no other information other than the other building has a fire. To find out where this was you would have to go to physically go to the building in question and look at the control panel. However, a networked alarm panel effectively makes the three panels one system and allows you to view any fire activation. E.g. If you were in Building 67 and a smoke detector activated in Building 70 then the display panel you were standing by would read something like: ‘Fire Node 3 – SD 011 – ZN02 – GRD FLOR DESIGN OFFICE LHS.’ (Node 3 means panel 3; SD stands for ‘smoke detector’; 011 is the number of the detector; ZN02 refers to ‘Zone 2’; and Ground Floor Design Office LHS will have been the text inserted upon installation.)

    If I have a networked system, can I monitor all of my buildings with one monitoring device?

    Yes, practically, you only need one monitoring device. Although there may be considerations to the network wiring grade depending on the critical nature of the signalling. There are two grades of fire alarm cable: ‘standard’ and ‘enhanced’; the latter is only installed if the system is distributed and there is a critical signal path. However, whether the signalling needs to be critical or not will be determined during your fire risk assessment. There are other options here as well, such as installing three monitoring devices, which may not cost much more than installing Redcare. (Redcare is a BT product and is fairly expensive compared to other alternatives.)

    What is the cost and process involved to remove existing wiring from my building?

    When we do this for sites, they often don’t want all of the wiring removed as this can create a lot of redecoration or be impacted by restrictions caused by access issues, or asbestos if it is found within the area. We often just remove the old devices (such as smoke detectors and manual call points, etc.) and install a blanking plate to cover the hole that is left, leaving the wiring in place. This is something that is agreed on site between the client and our engineers on a practical basis following the installation.

    What type of batteries do radio (wireless) fire alarm devices require and how often must they be changed?

    Radio fire alarm devices are powered by alkaline batteries and must be checked regularly, and changed promptly if needed, as failure to do so will result in battery leakage. This will ultimately damage the devices, creating the need for costly part replacements rather than minor battery changes. To put this in perspective batteries cost approximately £2-3 per smoke detector, but a replacement radio smoke detector costs approximately £250. Batteries typically last between four and five years, although this depends on if they were correctly installed, as well as the age and type of the device.

    How will I know that the batteries are empty in a radio (wireless) fire alarm device?

    The system will go into fault and you will have 30 days to rectify. We generally recommend that you change all of the batteries to keep the changes in sync.

    Does WFP Fire & Security work on an open or closed protocol basis, i.e. can anyone maintain my fire alarm?

    Systems WFP install are fitted on an open protocol basis and therefore any fire alarm company can maintain it for you, not just us. It is entirely your choice who you use to look after your fire alarm system and you’re not tied in to using us (or any other company) if you’re unhappy with the quality of their service. We would definitely recommend that you use a competent, accredited company with reputable reviews to feel confident you’re trusting professionals with your building’s fire detection strategy.

    If you have an ADT (closed protocol system), we would be able to test it and carry out basic fault finding but we will be unable to make any changes to it. So, if you wanted another detector fitted, or even just a simple programming change, you would need ADT to do this for you.

    Why does it take 3 hours to test emergency lights?

    The British Standards states that the lights have to last for 3 hours, so during your maintenance visit we carry out dummy runs to make sure they last for as long as they’re supposed to.

    What do I do when my fire alarm sounds - how do I stop it?

    This depends on the type of panel you have as each model will have its own display wording. Search for the zone of activation by looking at your zone chart, or if you have an addressable panel, it will tell you the exact area where it’s been activated. Once you’re confident there is no fire, press reset. However, it is very important that you never stop a fire alarm and evacuation in progress, as this can result in a big fine or possibly worse!

  • SECURITY

    Do I need my intruder/burglar alarm monitored?

    The answer to this also applies to your fire alarm, and it’s answered with a question: do you want the fire brigade or police to be called if your alarm system is activated? For most businesses, the answer is ‘yes’. However, this depends on the nature of your business and its occupancy. For example, if you operate a jewellery shop, having intruder alarm and fire alarm monitoring will be a no-brainer, but this is your choice. On the other hand, if you run a residential care home, you are legally required to have monitoring in place.  

    Do intruder alarms help prevent burglaries?

    Intruder alarms cannot prevent a burglary, however having one can be a deterrent and it will certainly help catch anyone who does attempt a break-in. If you have monitoring set up with your system this will automatically call the police. So, in short, it can’t stop someone trying but it’ll most likely stop them trying again!

    Should I have a radio (wireless) or wired intruder alarm?

    This also relates to fire alarm systems and the answer is: it depends. It depends on various factors including upkeep, upfront cost and whether you’d like to redecorate or not! If it’s a radio (wireless) system, the upfront cost is likely to be more and it’ll need more attention regarding upkeep during its lifetime, such as regular battery changes to prevent leakage and system dysfunction. However, installation of wireless systems are usually quick and easy as they simply slot in, without the need for any hard wiring! It’s also important to note that wireless systems do not rely on a phone line for monitoring purposes, but instead use cellular transmission.

    What are passive infrared (PIR) sensors and how do they work?

    Passive infrared sensors are a type of electronic motion detector which measures infrared light radiating from objects within its field of view. When something or someone moves in front of it, it detects the change in temperature, which will trigger the alarm should this be detected at a time when there should not be someone moving in front of it. PIR sensors are the most common type of area motion sensor and unlike active infrared (AIR), they do not emit a beam of radiation before measuring its disruption, but instead read the infrared rays within its view.

    Will the Police response be affected by multiple false alarms?

    Simply put, yes. After two false alarms you will receive a warning and after the third false alarm, the Police will most likely withdraw their response. This will then have to be reinstated by applying for a new Unique Reference Number (URN) after six months of no false activations. However, you’ll probably want to have your intruder alarm looked at professionally if it keeps sending off false alarms.

  • CCTV

    What does ‘CCTV’ stand for and do I need it?

    CCTV stands for ‘closed-circuit television’ whereby recording cameras are directly linked within a closed network for surveillance purposes. Most businesses prefer to install CCTV as a deterrent for security purposes, as well as way to monitor their employees’ movements. CCTV is often required by law in many public places, but whether or not your business or commercial premises needs it will depend on the nature, size and perceived vulnerability of your premises.

    Do I need to let people know that they’re being recorded?

    Data Protection legislation dictates that if your business uses CCTV then you must inform people they are being recorded with the use of appropriate signage around your site which is clearly visible. You will also have to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about your intentions for utilising CCTV.

    Can I view my cameras’ footage remotely?

    CCTV is a constantly evolving technology, which is becoming increasingly sophisticated. You can download an app onto your phone which allows you to view your CCTV cameras in action remotely.

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    WFP Fire & Security is based in Stock, Essex, and provides professional fire and security system services for commercial properties and professional businesses.

    WFP serves Essex, London and the Home Counties, covering the majority of South East England. For the right project, WFP will cover further afield. Get in touch today to find out if we cover your location.

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