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Offices are a major part of the business world as they are a common meeting place for individuals from different professions to come together and work.
Since they are a place where working individuals spend most of their days, it is very important for offices to be safe and secure.
Fire safety remains a huge concern for businesses, with around 334 office fires in the UK in the years 2020/21. While the numbers are reducing as more people are becoming aware of the best fire safety practices, there is still a long way to go.
Read on to find out what causes office fires, what you can do to minimise the risk, how fire alarm systems can help, the legal requirements regarding fire safety in offices, and much more:
The majority of fires attended by the Fire and Rescue services are in non-residential buildings, many of which are in offices and workplaces.
With so many people present in an office and so many things going on at once, there’s so much that can go wrong and start a fire.
To understand how to mitigate the risk, you need to understand what causes them. Here are some of the most common causes of fires in offices:
Faulty electrical wiring and equipment are the most common causes of office fires. From computers to printers and photocopiers, a single spark can cause a fire to break out at any time.
To prevent a fire from breaking out like this, you need to make sure that all the office machinery and equipment are regularly inspected and replaced upon any signs of electrical damage.
Clutter not only leaves a bad impression but can also be the reason for office fires. Lack of proper cleaning and leaving the office in a mess can have repercussions, especially if it is done in a poorly ventilated area.
Build-up of dirt and grease on office machinery and equipment may cause it to overheat, which could start a fire if left unattended. To prevent this from happening, proper housecleaning is a must in all offices.
Nearly all offices work with combustible materials such as paper and cardboard, which will often accumulate and contribute to fire risk on the property.
To reduce the risk due to incorrect storage of combustibles, you need to make sure that they are either kept in a safe space or safely disposed of on a regular basis.
Human error can also be a common cause of fires in the workplace. From misusing office equipment to not reporting faulty machinery and smoking, accidents can occur, especially if there is a lack of proper safety training.
All the employees and staff members must be given basic fire safety training so that they know what to do and what not to do in order to minimise the risk of fires in the workplace.
While all the above-mentioned causes of fires in offices are accidental, some may be deliberate. Sadly, arson makes up a huge percentage of office fires and can have devastating consequences on the business.
Deterrents such as intruder alarms, CCTV cameras, and motion-sensor lighting must be installed on the premises and fire safety equipment such as fire sprinklers and extinguishers must be installed throughout the office to limit the damage.
When it comes to fire safety in offices, you must understand the legal requirements regarding it so that you know all the necessary steps to take to stay compliant with the law.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the main document governing fire safety in offices and other commercial properties, and puts the responsibility on an individual, or group of individuals, to take steps to reduce the risk as much as possible and have a solid fire safety strategy in case of a fire.
It further states that the “responsible person” must appoint Fire Wardens to assist them in undertaking preventative and protective measures through a fire risk assessment.
Their responsibilities include:
The fire safety regulations are enforced by the authorities and failure to comply can result in huge fines and potential imprisonment.
All workplaces, including offices, are required to carry out a fire safety risk assessment to assess the risk of fire on the property.
It is important that the risk assessment is carried out by a competent individual and is kept up to date and relevant to the current situation.
A fire risk assessment is carried out in 5 steps:
Fire alarm systems in offices are an integral part of fire safety as they help with early fire detection and alert all the occupants of the building of the threat.
The biggest benefits of fire alarm systems in offices include:
In the event of a fire, every second matters. Each passing second gives the fire time to grow and spread, which is something you do not want.
Automatic fire alarm systems are equipped with sensors that detect the earliest possible signs of a fire and alert you to take the necessary action.
If the fire is small, you may try extinguishing it with a fire extinguisher. If it is big and getting out of control, you must not try to tackle it and call the fire brigade as soon as possible.
Safety is one of the most fundamental functions of a fire alarm system as it protects both life and property.
A good fire alarm system is quick to detect even the slightest warning sign and alert the occupants of the impending danger. The faster that people are made aware of the danger, the faster they can move to safety and protect themselves.
Some advanced systems come equipped with one-way or two-way communication where the occupants are guided during an evacuation.
An office has a lot of valuable assets to look after and a fire detection system helps keep them safe from being damaged or burned. It also reduces downtime due to such emergencies.
It speeds up response time, helps control the fire in time, and can also help lower your insurance costs.
Advanced fire alarm systems can be integrated with security systems such as CCTV cameras and access control systems to maximise the safety and security of the occupants and assets.
In the event of a fire, a CCTV camera integrated with a fire alarm could provide a clearer picture of the affected area and give the relevant authorities valuable information on how to deal with the situation.
In addition to that, the access control systems could temporarily disable all exit doors and help everyone escape faster towards safety.
Damages, injuries, and death caused by fires, in addition to causing an incredible amount of mental, emotional, and financial loss, can also tarnish the integrity of the business.
The office and its owners are seen as irresponsible and incompetent, unable to protect its people and assets from something that could have been easily avoided had there been a good fire alarm system in place.
Fire alarm systems for offices are an integral part of fire safety and must be installed in all key areas to minimise the risk and potential damages fires can cause.
A commercial fire alarm system is made up of several components that include:
Some systems may also use sprinklers, two-way communication, fire doors, and integration with other security systems or smart office systems.
There are two main types of fire alarm systems used in offices and each has its pros and cons. Both link initiating devices such as pull stations or smoke detectors to the control panel but differ in how they are connected and the functionality they provide.
Conventional fire alarms link each initiating device (automatic or manual) to the control panel on its own wire and can be set up in zones.
When an initiating device is triggered, the system identifies the zone of the device, which helps narrow down the location of the fire.
For instance, if an office building has 5 floors and each floor is made into a zone, the location of the fire can be determined based on the zone that is triggered. This doesn’t give an exact location but gives a rough idea of where the fire is.
Conventional fire alarm systems are simpler and more cost-effective, making them best suited for smaller office spaces.
Addressable fire alarm systems are similar to conventional fire alarm systems, except that all the devices are connected on one wire that is looped to the control panel.
Each device also has its own address on the system, which means that you can easily identify the exact location of the fire and send the fire brigade directly to the location of the fire.
These systems are more customisable and are generally better suited for larger offices and commercial properties.
A wired fire alarm system uses wires to transmit signals between the system’s devices and the control panel, whereas a wireless system uses radio frequency to make the connection.
Wired systems come with cheaper components, have a reliable power source if coupled with a backup battery, and have no signal interference, whereas wireless systems are quicker and cheaper to install, and are more flexible.
Wireless systems are more suited for larger commercial buildings where the signals need to travel over long distances and where hardwiring is not possible and impractical.
Other than the above-mentioned types, fire alarms can also be categorised based on the type of protection they provide; i.e., life or property.
The two categories of fire alarm systems include:
Category L systems are fire detection systems that aim to protect the lives of people on the premises and are divided into five levels, levels L1 to L5, with each offering a different level of protection.
Category L1 fire alarm systems provide the highest level of protection and the earliest possible warning since they recommend installing both manual call points as well as automatic fire detection systems throughout the premises.
Category P systems are fire alarm systems focused on property protection and they provide the earliest warning of a fire in order to reduce the time it takes to extinguish the fire and minimise loss of property.
They can be divided into two categories: category P1 and P2. A category P1 system requires the detectors and alarms to be placed in all areas of the building and is designed to protect the entire premises.
A category P2 system, on the other hand, provides fire detection in certain parts of the building that are more high-risk and where the contents are particularly valuable.
The best way to stop fires from starting and spreading in offices is to prevent the initial spark from igniting. To do this, there are several tips you can follow to make sure the threat is eliminated:
While these were all tips for preventing fires, the following are tips for helping minimise damages and allowing for a safe and quick evacuation:
Our experts have been working in the industry for over 40 years and can provide you with a comprehensive solution for your office’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.
Commercial 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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