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The banking sector is an integral part of any economy and is committed to taking care of and looking after other people’s financial assets.
There are several different types of buildings in the banking and finance sector. Most of them have large offices and several employees to run the day-to-day transactions.
It is very important for these organisations to keep running smoothly as many other businesses are dependent on them. Sadly, due to the nature of the work, they are often a target of safety and security threats.
Other than the high risk of burglaries and intrusions, banks are also susceptible to fires that can have a devastating effect on safety, well-being, business continuity, and customer relationships.
A fire can not only result in damage to the building’s structure and equipment but also put human lives at risk. Businesses open to the public, such as banks, also have a legal obligation to protect their visitors from such threats.
Keeping that in mind, it is extremely important that a suitable fire alarm system is in place to provide early warning and allow the evacuation to be carried out safely and as quickly as possible.
Read on to find out more about the fire risks and challenges in banking and finance, the best fire alarm systems, and what preventative measures to take to stop fires from erupting in the first place:
There are several fire risks and challenges associated with the banking sector due to how the buildings are constructed and the nature of operations.
Banks and other financial institutions are very different from other buildings in the way that they are built. They usually consist of maze-like corridors with secure rooms and office spaces that may become very difficult to protect from fire.
Vaults are a huge part of banks as they keep valuable items safe and protected. The contents of these vaults can be flammable and the area may be difficult to protect as access is limited.
Electrical fires are a very common occurrence and electrical faults are one of the biggest reasons for fires. Similar to any other office setting, ill-maintained and damaged electrical equipment such as computers can create sparks or excess heat and cause fires to break out.
When it comes to fire safety in banks, there are two ways to go about it: preventative and responsive strategies. The former refers to taking the necessary steps and measures to prevent fires from erupting in the first place, while the latter refers to the responsive action taken in the event of a fire to stop it from spreading, protecting valuables and property, and safely evacuating everyone on the premises.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the law that governs fire safety in the UK. It covers commercial buildings in the banking and finance sector as well and provides guidelines to practice fire safety for maximum protection.
As the owners or employers of a bank or financial institution, you are responsible for the safety of everyone on the premises.
As the ‘responsible person’, it is your job to:
Fire risk assessments are an integral part of fire safety that can either be carried out as a separate exercise or as part of an overall health and safety risk assessment.
Based on the findings of the fire risk assessment, you must make sure that adequate fire safety measures are in place in order to minimise loss of life and property in the event of a fire.
A bank’s fire risk assessment must identify the fire hazards, identify the people at risk, evaluate, remove, or reduce the risks, record the findings, prepare an emergency plan, and review and update the findings regularly.
Fire alarm systems are an important part of the responsive strategy of fire safety. There are a wide range of fire detection systems available in the market, each providing a suitable solution for a number of different applications.
The purpose of installing a fire alarm system is to detect a fire and provide an early warning to the occupants of a building using audible and visible alarms.
These systems are made up of a few basic components and can be categorised into two basic types based on their initiating devices: manual fire alarms and automatic fire alarms.
Manual fire alarms, also called manual pull stations, are activated by a person witnessing a fire emergency, which then set off an audible/visual alarm to notify all those on the premises of the safety hazard.
These must be installed in all the high-risk areas of the building determined by the fire risk assessment and also near all the exits.
Automatic fire alarms, as the name suggests, are automated systems that do not require any human intervention. They come equipped with different types of sensors that detect heat, smoke, and carbon monoxide in the air and trigger the system to sound an alert.
Some of the most commonly used fire alarm systems in the banking and finance sector include:
Conventional fire alarms are the most common fire alarm systems used in the commercial sector. From offices to banks, they provide a good level of protection against fires.
They can be set up in zones and link each initiating device to the control panel on its own wire. The main purpose of these systems is to give a general idea about the location of the fire.
When an initiating device is triggered, the zone of the device is identified helping narrow down the location of the fire.
Conventional systems are simpler and more cost-effective, and since they don’t give an exact location but a rough idea of where the fire is, they are best suited for smaller buildings in the banking and finance sector.
Addressable fire alarms work in a similar way as conventional systems except that all the initiating devices are connected on one wire that is looped to the control panel.
Instead of dividing the areas into broad zones, each device has its own address on the system allowing you to identify the exact location of the fire without wasting any time at all trying to locate the fire.
They are more customisable and since they provide the exact location of the threat, they are better suited for large buildings in banking and finance, particularly those with a complicated layout or several floors.
Aspirating smoke detectors (ASDs) are highly advanced fire detection systems that continuously draw in air from high-risk areas through a network of pipes and test it for the presence of smoke.
They are one of the quickest and most reliable fire detection systems in the market today and are particularly useful in challenging environments such as banks and financial institutions.
They are available in different types and variants and can be strategically placed around the building to cover all the high-risk areas. Place high-powered fans near the detectors to ensure regular intake of air.
Fire alarm systems can either be wired or wireless, meaning they can either use wires to transmit signals between the system’s devices and the control panel or use radio frequency to make the connection.
Both systems have their pros and cons and are suitable for different types of applications. Wired fire alarm systems have no signal interference, come with cheaper components, and have a reliable power source with a backup battery.
Wireless fire alarm systems, on the other hand, are more flexible and easier and cheaper to install. They are more suited for commercial buildings where the signals need to travel over long distances and hardwiring is impractical.
Fire alarm systems can be classified based on many factors, one of which includes the type and level of protection they provide. The three main categories of fire alarms are category M (manual), category L (life protection), and category P (property protection).
We’ve already discussed manual fire alarms where the alarm needs to be manually activated by someone using a break glass unit. These are pretty basic systems and rely on people to discover the fire and take the necessary action.
Category L systems are all made for life protection and are further divided into 5 types; L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5, with L1 being the most advanced and L5 offering only localised protection.
While category L systems are designed to protect life, category P systems are focused on protecting property. These are divided into 2 types; P1 and P2, with P1 offering complete protection for the earliest possible warning and P2 for only specific parts of a building.
Fire alarm systems are a great safety measure as they provide alerts in the event of a fire and allow the necessary action to be taken.
The only issue is that someone has to be in or near the premises to be able to hear and respond to the alarm. This is a serious issue when the property is uninhabited such as during the night.
For such instances, it is best that you invest in monitored fire alarm systems that provide all the benefits of an effective fire alarm system with the added benefit of the system being monitored by trained professionals.
Every second counts since fires have the potential to spread in an instant. Fire alarm monitoring makes sure that no alarm goes unnoticed and that the relevant people are notified without wasting a single minute.
When the alarm is triggered, an alert is sent to an alarm receiving centre manned by security professionals who first check the alarm’s legitimacy and tackle it urgently.
Other than installing well-maintained fire alarm systems in your financial building, there are several other measures you can take to minimise the risk of fire and make safe evacuation a smooth process in case a fire does break out. Here are a few fire safety tips for you to follow:
All electrical systems and installations, including all portable electrical equipment, must undergo regular testing and inspections to make sure they are in good condition and suitable for use. They also help identify potential issues so that you can resolve them before they cause any serious damage.
Training your employees is a very important part of fire safety as they are who run the organisation. Therefore, it is crucial that they know how to implement the best fire safety practices to minimise risk to themselves, the people around them, and the business.
Along with training all those on the premises, a good fire safety plan must have a proper evacuation plan that details the steps to take in case of a fire, and regular fire drills so that everyone knows what course of action to take.
These are photoluminescent signs that help highlight dangers and provide instructions and directions regarding fire safety. These can also be safety tips and reminders for the workers to follow.
Fire extinguishers are an integral part of any fire safety plan as they help put out small fires before they get a chance to spread. It is always a good idea to train your staff so that they are comfortable using them when tackling small fires. You may also use fire sprinklers.
Emergency lighting is basically lighting that kicks in during an emergency, such as a fire, when the building is compromised. It helps illuminate safe exit routes, making evacuation much smoother and safer.
Our experts have been working in the industry for over 40 years and can provide you with a comprehensive solution for your bank’s fire safety needs which includes:
The proper installation of a fire alarm system is just as important as the quality of the system itself and is a complex task requiring expertise in the field.
We can survey your property and determine the best kind of system suitable for your needs and one that complies with the current standards and regulations.
We can then plan and install your system to high standards using only the best quality equipment from our trusted suppliers.
We also offer after-sales care and an ongoing maintenance package after the installation to ensure your fire alarm works in optimal condition providing you with a system you can depend and rely on.
Fire alarms must follow strict regulations and guidelines to keep them in good working order and the best way to stay compliant is to have them serviced regularly.
We have a vast understanding of the regulations in force and can provide you with a high level of service to keep your system healthy and working all the time.
According to the law, a fire alarm system must be maintained properly and depending on certain factors, it can be up to three times per year.
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