It’s a Tough Choice…or is it?

As a fire safety expert, I’ve seen many businesses fall short when protecting their building and the lives within it.

It’s like Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares most days for me. Like Gordon (without the swearing!), I don’t believe in quick fixes, but long-term solutions that are safe and legally compliant.

For many of our customers, once they know where they’ve gone wrong, they’re eager to put it right. However, there are many other businesses and commercial premises faced between a choice of what’s right and what’s cheap.

Most schools are restricted with tight budgets, which often means that most decisions come down to cost. Buying a fire alarm isn’t like buying a handbag, whereby if you buy designer or high-street, they still have the same function. One just happens to look a little swisher.

Also, handbags don’t help save lives.

Installing a fire alarm cheaply only paves the way for unnecessary costs later. Not to mention being a nightmare to maintain!

You can start by saving pennies, sacrificing safety on the way, only to part with many pounds down the line.

Who am I to Judge?

A very good question. I’ve been in the fire alarm industry for 25+ years and have seen money wasted on fire safety left, right and centre.

I’ve supported schools that have previously thrown away money on their fire alarms. Part of how I make money is by correcting the bad decisions and unprofessional workmanship carried out on fire alarms.

For that reason alone, you might be thinking ‘Hey, why moan about that?’ I’m glad you asked. It’s because I’m also a tax payer and it’s painful to see public bodies wasting money. Especially when I know what the costs could be.

How One School Drew the Short Straw

I was asked to tender (submit a cost proposal) for a fire alarm installation to a consultant working on behalf of a school on a no-win, no-fee basis.

The cost of the fire alarm would be covered by governmental funding, whereby the consultant would also extract their fee. However, for every £1 of funding available there are multiple schools bidding for it. The chance of the school winning that bid can be less than one in ten, depending on how many bids have been submitted, how much they are for and how much is in the funding pot.

The consultant would need approximately three quotes from three different fire alarm companies for comparison. Of those three, the cheapest would typically be favoured.

So, if we were to supply a tender, we’d only win if:

  1. The school won the bid, put forward by the consultant to the funding body
  2. Once won, we were the consultant’s cheapest choice to carry out the work

Doing it this way seemingly saves schools time (because they’re not doing the leg-work of getting prices and comparing companies themselves) and money (as if they win the bid, they won’t have to pay for the cost of the new alarm).

On the surface, it looks as though it’ll be a good deal all-round.

Where Have They Gone Wrong?

What this school doesn’t realise is that through this lengthy, filtered process, they’ll be left with a system that could be faulty. Plus it’ll likely be difficult to maintain due to poor installation practices.

By engaging a no-win, no-fee consultancy, they are offloading the responsibility, and the school’s entire fire safety strategy, to someone whose only interest is winning the bid so that they can claim their fee.

Another scenario would be that for the lifetime of the system, the school could be tied into using a maintenance company out of their control. Some fire alarm companies do not allow you to use anyone other than themselves once you’ve installed their system.

We’ve seen it before where a school wanted us as their maintenance provider, but were locked in with another provider. This resulted in them paying up to £20k per year for maintenance instead of what should have been approximately £5k. That’s £15k extra per year wasted because the right questions didn’t get asked by the people who were responsible.

When a job’s won solely on price, the profit margin for the winning contractor is slim. That often means the temptation to cut corners will be high. If the school has no one fighting their corner, they will be the ones left paying the price.

Schools don’t buy fire alarms often, nor should they if they’ve got a reliable system and a trusted maintenance provider. But when they do install a new system, great care should be taken when deciding who’s right for the job.

Have you taken into consideration the overall quality of the service, the thoroughness of the design, and the compatibility with the level of cover required from the fire risk assessment?

Questions Schools Need to Ask:

  • What is the reputation of the fire alarm installation company, and are they BAFE accredited?
  • Will I be able to find parts for this over the next 10 years or is supply limited?
  • Can any fire alarm company maintain this alarm once installed?
  • What will I have to do if there are any building extensions?
  • Where is the product in its lifecycle*?
  • Is there a warranty on the alarm?

If all of these factors were considered, not only cost, schools would be more likely to get a quality product installed by a trusted provider. This may mean more of up-front capital, but it will pay for itself time-and-time-again by being reliable and commercially available. Plus, they could have the system maintained by a contractor of the school’s choice instead of one they’re stuck with.

All the best,

Paul Field
Chief School Fire Safety Supporter

If you work for a school and you’re in need of a new fire alarm, or an analysis of your current fire safety strategy, please feel free to reach out and give us a call on 01277 724 653 – we’d be happy to talk you through your options.

*Lifecycles refers to a product model, which due to the accreditations required, tends to be lengthy for fire safety products. When you compare it to CCTV equipment, the quality of cameras, for example, is often modified every six months. Fire alarm control panels have an average lifecycle of 8-10 years. This is further extended when the manufacturer releases a replacement in parallel, whilst slowing phasing out the older product. Some manufacturers, however, don’t do this, so both supply and support abruptly comes to a halt. The older the equipment, the more likely the latter is to occur.

N.B. ‘Lifecycles’ is not the same as ‘lifespan’, which means how long the system should last before you’ll need a new one. For example, you may have an older alarm fitted (i.e. it’s been on the market for some time) but its lifespan will be approximately 15 years as it was newly installed. Fire alarm systems last anywhere between 10 and 20 years depending on if it’s wired or wireless (radio), how well it was initially installed and how it has been maintained over the years.

Schools Saving Pennies Sacrificing Fire Safety

It’s a Tough Choice…or is it? As a fire safety expert, I’ve seen many businesses fall short when protecting their building and the lives within it.It’s like

What is an EMS 5000 System?

The EMS 5000 System Fire Point is a commercial radio fire alarm that has been on the market for 15 years. It has had to be withdrawn because it no longer complies with European CPR (Construction Products Regulation). These changes came into force in 2013.

This has, therefore, lead to the EMS 5000 Fire Point becoming OBSOLETE!

EMS 5000 System is no longer available

DON’T PANIC – You are still safe… for now

This means that the EMS 5000 system cannot be ordered from a supplier. This leaves the sites that have an EMS 5000 system Fire Point installed with the dilemma…

…What to do now?

I have an EMS 5000! – What should I do now?

If you currently have an EMS 5000 Fire Point in use on your premises, don’t fret, your system is still legal. The standards are not retrospective unless you are making changes to your site and therefore system.

This means you cannot extend the current system and when the device goes faulty, it is not possible to replace parts.

It is highly recommended that you replace this system as soon as possible to avoid having to replace it at an unplanned time.


Planning is Everything!

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

As the quote above states, it is absolutely essential to make sure you plan thoroughly when making the next decision on your EMS 5000 System. Whether you are thinking of just replacing for a similar system, keeping the old until it completely dies (this is not recommended) or upgrading to a better system. It is essential to make sure a comprehensive survey is carried out at your premises by more than one organisation.

Worth Your Time?

Here’s what Farrida had to say about our customer service.

“I really appreciated the call back from Mr Field. He was very helpful and clear about the services provided even though I was unable to take out a new contract. He advised me on the different types of systems and options that I had. And he reassured me that I wasn’t in as bad a predicament as I initially thought. Very professional. Thank you.” – Farrida

Read More Customer Reviews Here

Making changes to your EMS 5000?

It is important to change your EMS 5000 System as soon as possible.

This means you’ll avoid having to replace the whole system completely at an unexpected time.

If you are making changes to your premises, there are a few options for you to think about regarding your EMS system:

What are your options?

Option 1
Repair the system until it can no longer be repaired, by leaving your EMS 5000 system in place as is. This is not recommended and even though this may look like the cheaper option now, in the long-run costs will pile up for repairing the same system until the day comes when it is no longer repairable.

Option 2
Keep your EMS 5000 system in place and extend it by adding a Fire Cell add-on to the system using the EMS interface. This can be cost-effective if you do not want to replace the whole system right now. It will prolong the life of the system but will still need to be replaced at some point.

Option 3
Completely replace your EMS 5000 System with a brand new system. The sooner you replace your EMS 5000 for a new one, the safer and more relaxed you will feel and be. Not only that, but you will also have peace of mind knowing that your premises are all in a good state. Replacing your EMS 5000 system may initially seem like the more expensive option. However, you will save a lot more time and money in the long-run from fewer call-outs, parts and labour costs.

Let’s have a chat about it all…

01277 724 653


Find out more about your Fire Alarm Replacement and Upgrade options.

EMS 5000 System

What is an EMS 5000 System? The EMS 5000 System Fire Point is a commercial radio fire alarm that has been on the market for 15 years. It has had to be withdrawn because it no longer complies

All commercial properties require a Fire Detection & Alarm System. Once in place, to comply with UK Fire Safety Law, this must be maintained at least once every 6 months, then it’s up to you to carry out your Weekly Fire Alarm Test.

This Life Safety System must then be tested every week.

This entails picking a different call point to test each week, recording this test and repeating the test weekly.

This is something that the responsible person must carry out, not the maintenance provider. So if this is you, ensure you know and understand everything you are required to do.

However, if you’re unsure about what a weekly fire alarm test is, or if you are not confident with your system, then this important test can be easily overlooked, putting lives at risk and leaving the responsible person liable if anything were to go wrong.

In a commercial building, you are required to test your fire system each week.

In order to carry out your weekly fire alarm test, you must:

  1. Contact your monitoring company (only necessary if your fire alarm is monitored). – TOP TIP: Once you’ve completed the test, ask them if they received the signal.
  2. Put your panel into test mode.
  3. Pick a call point to test
    NOTE: You must pick a different call point each week, once all have been tested, retest them again.
  4. Operate the call point.
  5. At this point, the alarm should have sounded.
  6. Return to your panel and press the ‘Silence’ button.
  7. Then once you are happy that the call point has been reset, you may then reset the panel.

A short video of James showing how to test your call point. It is something that should be carried out weekly and as shown in the video, it takes less than 2 minutes.

This test must be:

  • carried out each week.
  • recorded after each test in a logbook
  • carried out on a different call point each week

You’ll get to know your panel better too!

Want to know more about staying compliant? Here’s a link to our page on Fire Alarm Maintenance for further reading on the subject.

Weekly Fire Alarm Test

All commercial properties require a Fire Detection

I wanted to share my findings with you from a meeting yesterday in a new(ish) building.

It wasn’t something in the meeting that’d caught my eye…

…It was something hiding in the corner on our way out.

The building must’ve had a refurbishment carried out, and it looks like 1 large room wasn’t as useful as 2 smaller rooms, so they stuck a wall down the middle of it, to make two rooms.

Sounds reasonable…

…But, by the looks of things, they didn’t take into account the Fire Alarm System with this refurbishment – See Image Below


Bad Smoke Detector Design

The wall just about skims the edge of a detector, effectively pinning it down.

Now there are a number of problems with this, but I’ve decided to share with you the top three reasons this detector is utterly useless.

  1. It won’t fit its sole purpose; to detect smoke – Detectors should never be put in corners, the reason for this is because smoke bounces off walls and the last place it’ll reach once it hits the ceiling is the corner.
  2. It’s not possible to test it – With the detector being that close to a wall, it will not be possible to use the testing equipment as it requires space around the device to fully function.
  3. It cannot be replaced – If the detector develops a fault, the way to disconnect and replace the device requires twisting and pulling away from the ceiling – This detector has been blocked in with the wall and the wall will have to be shaved away around the detector to work on it.

The list goes on, but I’ll limit it to these 3.

The point I am trying to get across here is that if you are making changes to your building, make sure you consider your fire alarm system in the designs.

And, Fire Alarms aren’t there to be a pain…

…But you already knew that.

Design your fire alarm to suit your building, don’t design your building to suit your fire alarm.

Stay Safe & Compliant!

Tom Patel
Dodgy Design Finder
WFP Fire & Security
01277 622 932

If you have any queries or questions about the design of a certain fire alarm or the positioning of a certain device, please feel free to get in touch. Or find out more about Fire Detection & Alarm systems at the link below.

What Were They Thinking?

I wanted to share my findings with you from a meeting yesterday in a new(ish) building.It wasn't something in the meeting that'd caught my eye......It was something hiding in the corner on our

Staying legal

Fire detection systems are designed to protect life, property or both, BS5839 Part 1 2017 details the levels of coverage, read on to find out how this affects you.

I am often asked “what do I need to be legal” and the answer is simple, well not really. The good news is that you are reading this and I know that at the very least I can help you get through the various stages of choosing a cost-effective long-term fire detection system.

Call today on 01277 724653 or email

To be legal you are going to need;

1. A fire risk assessment to detail what type of fire detection systems you need
2. A BAFE SP203 approved fire detection systems company (such as WFP)
3. You will benefit greatly from accurate drawings to design your fire detection systems
4. You will need a design to be created, otherwise, any tender will differ in quantity and make it difficult to compare costs
5. You must consider the manufacturer of equipment as this will cost you a great deal of money if you choose unwisely, the golden rule is to make sure that any BAFE SP203 company or your choosing can fully maintain the fire detection system you choose.

fire detection systems

Help is at hand for your fire detection systems

You will probably only buy a fire detection system once every ten years so please feel free to call us, I or my colleagues are ready to advise you.

Call today on 01277 724653 or email

Paul Field
Head of Fire Detection Systems
WFP Fire & Security

PS. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve written a book on this, which details how to buy a commercial fire detection system, give us a call and I might be able to find a copy especially for you (since you’re the only person to read the PS)

Also, if you want to know more about Fire Detection and Alarm Systems, we have a page on this. Click the link above to find out more.

Fire Detection Systems

Staying legal Fire detection systems are designed to protect life, property or both, BS5839 Part 1 2017 details the levels of coverage, read on to find out how this affects you.I am ofte

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