What fire alarm do I need?

It’s a common question that I and my colleagues hear quite often;

[Customer]“I have been told that I need to have a fire alarm, what do I have to do to comply with the law

[WFP] “that depends upon your Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)

[Customer] “They said we need some automatic fire detection”

[WFP] “Did your fire risk assessor say what level of coverage and what standard you require for your risk?

I could go on as it tends to revolve around the fact-finding mission which really dances around some basic points, I would strongly advise that you get the specification clear, the reason that I recommend this is;

Every building is different and there are a lot of different fire alarm technologies on the market. If used correctly they can really save you money on time and installation including potential disruptions. If your surveyor focusses on the design type then they might put less time and effort into choosing the right ‘system’. I know that this approach can save significant amounts of your money.

What you need to know – What Fire Alarm Do I Need?

  1. You have a need; what fire alarm do I need?
  2. You normally aren’t really sure how much ‘Protection’ or ‘Detection’ you need.
  3. You don’t really want to spend the money on it as it doesn’t earn money the business any money.
  4. But you do want to make sure that they are compliant with the ‘Law’ in the event that the fire officer comes calling.

So here lies the rub, often you, the potential customer, will get a few ‘Fire Alarm Companies’ in that will provide quotations for ‘the loosely or unspecified work’.

Normally, the surveyor that turns up last gets the most information, because by this point you will have answered several questions and will be beginning to learn what they should be specifying.

Here is what you need to do (in order) – What Fire Alarm Do I Need?

Fire Risk Assessment

  1. Get a competent fire risk assessor that you can trust* to carry out a fire risk assessment. If the fire risk assessor recommends you to fit a fire alarm and/or emergency lighting system, make sure that you request the standard that you need to install the fire alarm system to.

i.e. BS5839 Part 1 2017 (which is the design recommendations for commercial-grade systems), but the more important detail is what type of system? Here are the Fire Alarm Levels/Types.

(i) Type M – Manual system made up of call points (Break-glasses) and sounders

(ii) Type L4 – As above with detectors in the corridors (escape routes)

(iii) Type L3 – As above with detectors in the rooms opening on to the corridor

(iv) Type L2 – As above with a separately listed area where you need detection

(v) Type L1 – Detection throughout the building including rooms greater than 1M squared

If you have a mixed-use building, then the fire risk assessor may designate a sub-section of BS5839 which is called Part 6 – this relates generally to domestic premises and it’s not unusual for a block of flats to have the part 1 system in the lobby and common areas and part 6 system in the flats, part 6 also has ‘types’ and to make things a little more specific (meaning hard) it also has ‘grades’.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions about Fire Alarm levels or types.

Fire Alarm System

  1. If I’ve not already lost you with the world of information above then the next thing that you need to do is make sure that when you ask for quotes, you ‘specify’ the level of coverage your Fire Risk Assessment says you need to get. You then stand a chance of getting a comparable if not ‘innovative’ quotation.
  2. I would also advise that you choose a BAFE SP203 registered company, this is a fire alarm industry equivalent of the ‘Gas Safe’ scheme and gives you a certain expectations, i.e. that the company is competent and has standards and is inspected by BAFE, although that does not negate the need to carry out other checks, such as insurance, references, credit worthiness etc. Considering that you may be spending thousands of pounds on a life safety system when you think about it carrying out a few checks is only reasonable.
  3. You must ensure that you get the certification you require in line with BS5839 for Fire Alarm Systems
  4. Design Certificate
  5. Installation Certificate
  6. Commissioning Certificate (which is the one that is making sure it works properly)
  7. Certificate of Verification and Handover – This is the final certificate that makes sure that the job has been completed to the designer’s requirements and that the client is accepting the work that has been carried out.
  8. BAFE SP203 certification – this is the certificate that carries the third party accreditation and is lodged with BAFE for reference

Emergency Lighting

If you have had emergency lighting installed as part of the works in your building, the standard for this is BS5266 part 1, this has only one design type and in summary, (generally) requires;

Two fittings in one compartment and generally for the 3-hour duration


Above critical processes, fire alarm call points, the fire alarm panel, fire extinguishers, escape routes and fire exits (signage), externally of fire exits and routes to assembly points


Of course the above only scratches the surface of specifying a fire alarm, therefore, if anything, it poses more questions. Which is why we’re here for you if you need advice or guidance with anything related. Call us and you will have the benefit of our experience. You can browse our blogs for more information.

* Trust is important, however, you should get proof, this will show that you have carried out due diligence. You should ask for recommendations from other organisations that the risk assessor has worked for, but ideally in your sector.  Remember that the liability lies with you, therefore you must ensure that you have checked the credentials of whoever you use the works they’ve done for you.

If you feel better equipped to answer the question ‘What Fire Alarm Do I Need’ then we’d love to know. Feel free to get in touch, so you can find our details below.

01277 622 932

Fire Detection and Alarm systems often require more work than just putting them in place and leaving them there. So once you have yours in place, ensure that you get your fire alarm maintained and serviced.