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Regardless of how big or small your business or commercial property is, every single building needs to be protected against fires. From single retail units to giant warehouses, every property needs a fire alarm system to protect it against the threat of fires.
Fire alarm systems are an integral part of commercial safety and security and can be what stands between you and disastrous fires engulfing your business. They are essential for not only protecting property but also helping protect invaluable lives.
Read on to find out all about protecting your commercial property against fires and the top fire alarm systems for warehouses and retail units:
Fire safety and protection is an essential component of commercial safety as it puts importance on protecting people, assets, and property from fires in the workplace.
You may be surprised to find out the number of fire-related incidents and accidents in commercial buildings and how they have affected both businesses and the people in them.
According to statistics, In the year ending March 2023, there were more than 622,173 incidents attended by the Fire and Rescue Services in the UK in properties including buildings used for commercial and industrial purposes.
These fires were mainly caused by faulty equipment, improper storage of waste, and human error. One thing in common with most of these fire-related incidents was the absence of fire safety practices, which is why the UK government has passed laws pertaining specifically to fire safety and protection in non-domestic properties including warehouses and retail units.
The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 is an important piece of legislation designed to ensure that all the necessary precautions are taken to reduce the likelihood of a fire starting and spreading. It applies to all business premises and commercial structures and replaces the previous fire safety legislation in the UK.
In order to comply with the fire safety regulations, a responsible person who has authority in the workplace must perform a fire risk assessment to identify any fire risks and hazards. They are also responsible for identifying the people at risk in case a fire breaks out and eliminating or reducing the hazards as much as possible.
In addition to the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order, there is also BS (British Standards) 5839 which covers the planning, design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems in commercial properties.
The British Standard is recognised as the ‘best practice’ for fire alarm systems in the UK and helps commercial properties comply with the legal obligations set by the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order.
Fire safety in commercial properties is important not only because it is a legal obligation, but also because it provides great benefits to business owners, employees, and all those involved.
It gives an increased sense of safety to employees and customers, reduces the risk of property damage, reduces insurance rates, and gives general peace of mind to the property owners.
Commercial properties such as warehouses and retail units have their unique set of challenges when it comes to fire safety due to the way they are constructed and the type of inventory they store.
These challenges include the presence of hazardous materials, high ceilings, large open spaces, complex machinery, electrical installations, hot work operations, and storage configurations.
Recognising and understanding the common causes of warehouse and retail unit fires will help focus fire prevention efforts towards addressing these issues and implementing the necessary safety precautions.
These fires can have severe consequences including injuries to employees, loss of lives, damage to infrastructure, loss of valuable inventory, and disruption of operations which can lead to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and legal action.
Some safety precautions to take in order to minimise the risk include:
A fire alarm system is a collection of different components used to detect the earliest possible signs of a fire and alert the occupants of the building of the threat. These systems are a comprehensive lifesaving solution and an indispensable tool when it comes to fire safety in commercial properties.
A commercial fire alarm system includes a variety of components such as:
Commercial fire alarm systems used in warehouses and retail units can be broken down into two broad categories: manual fire alarms and automatic fire alarm systems.
Manual initiating devices, also referred to as manual call points, are manually activated by a person witnessing a fire emergency. When activated, the control panel initiates the system and sets off an audible/visual alarm to notify all those on the premises of the hazard.
Manual call points are an important tool in minimising the detection and response time during a fire emergency and can be used in instances where an individual detects a fire before the automatic fire detection system gets a chance to.
They can also be incredibly useful for times when the occupants of the building need to be alerted of the danger and the automatic fire alarms fail to work due to a fault or lack of maintenance.
Manual call points need to be strategically placed throughout the building so that they can be triggered as soon as an emergency is detected. They are usually located along the escape routes near fire exits so that they can be triggered without the need for slowing down.
According to BS 5839, manual call points must be situated on each floor of a building (in the case of a multi-storey building), shouldn’t be more than 30 metres from any point in the building, shouldn’t be higher than 1.4 metres above the floor, should be in a visible and easily accessible location, and must be present in areas that are identified as high-risk.
Automatic fire alarm systems, as the name suggests, are those systems that get triggered automatically by certain conditions including heat, smoke, and carbon monoxide levels in the air.
These systems come paired with different types of sensors and sound an audible and visual alarm when they pick up on changes in the environment that might be caused by a fire.
Now that you know the difference between manual call points and automatic fire alarm systems, here are the best types of fire alarm systems for warehouses and retail units for you to choose from:
Conventional fire alarm systems are one of the most common types of fire alarm systems used in commercial properties. These systems use analogue technology and the components are individually hardwired into the control panel.
The circuits are wired in parallel and are made up of one or more zones, each one having either manual call points, automatic detection systems, or a combination of both connected to the control panel.
The system divides the building into smaller zones, each one connected to multiple detectors. When a fire is detected, the control panel indicates the general area of the trigger zone.
The accuracy of knowing the exact location of the fire depends on the number of zones a control panel has and the number of circuits being wired into the building.
However, since multiple detectors are located in each zone, the system is unable to give a precise location of the fire, unlike other more advanced systems.
Conventional fire alarm systems are reliable, affordable, simple to use, and ideal for smaller commercial properties such as retail units and smaller warehouses.
Key takeaway: If you need a cost-effective solution for protecting your small warehouse or retail unit, a conventional fire alarm system is your top choice.
Addressable fire alarm systems are different than conventional systems as they are more advanced and use sophisticated technology to pinpoint the exact location of a fire.
These systems use digital technology to communicate important information between the components and are a step up from conventional systems in terms of features and functionality.
Each component has an electronic address assigned to it that allows the system to know the precise location of the fire within the building. This not only reduces response time but is also very useful when the system malfunctions and the fault needs to be fixed quickly and precisely.
Addressable fire alarm systems are scalable, more customisable, typically more expensive than conventional systems due to their complexity, and are better suited for larger buildings and warehouses.
Key takeaway: If you need a scalable solution for protecting your large warehouse or retail unit and need to know the exact location of a fire (in case one breaks out), an addressable fire alarm system is your top choice.
Wireless fire alarm systems, also known as radio fire alarms, are a modern, wireless alternative to traditional wired fire alarm systems. They make use of radio frequencies to connect the various components of the system to the control panel and provide all the benefits of a good and effective fire alarm system without the need for unnecessary cables.
Since there are no cables used during installation, they are a good choice for retail units and warehouses where wiring can be challenging due to the layout of the building or simply due to aesthetics.
Key takeaway: If you need a flexible and easy-to-install fire alarm solution for protecting your retail unit or warehouse, especially for those that have a challenging layout, a wireless fire alarm system is your top choice.
Monitored fire alarm systems provide all the benefits of an effective fire alarm system with the added feature of the system being monitored by trained professionals. They are the most comprehensive and reliable fire safety equipment there is since they make sure the alarm never goes unnoticed.
This can be particularly beneficial when the warehouse or retail unit is empty and unoccupied, such as after work hours.
When the system detects a threat, the alarm is triggered and the alert is sent to a professional monitoring centre where it is first checked and verified and then acted upon on an urgent basis such as by calling the fire and rescue services.
Key takeaway: If you need a reliable fire alarm system that protects your retail unit and warehouse at all times, regardless of whether it is occupied or empty, a monitored fire alarm system is your top choice.
Choosing the right fire alarm system for your commercial property is a crucial decision and one that will have a direct impact on the level of fire safety in your warehouse and retail unit.
With so many great types and options to choose from, you need to make an informed decision based on the findings of your fire risk assessment and the unique requirements of your property.
The size and layout of the warehouse or retail unit is one of the first factors to consider as it will determine whether you need manual call points or an automatic fire alarm system. It will also determine whether a conventional fire alarm system would be better suited or an addressable system based on the number of zones the building can be divided into.
The type of stock and inventory you keep in your storage facility will also play a crucial role in determining the best fire alarm system. A warehouse or retail unit with flammable materials will be at a higher risk of fires and will require automatic fire detection devices and professional monitoring at all times.
If you are unsure about which fire alarm solution is best for you, you can always consult with a professional security company such as Calder Electrical who will take the time to understand your requirements and recommend the best solution for them.
In the end, it is extremely important to have your fire alarm systems installed by professionals and also have them regularly serviced and inspected so that they can be relied upon to provide you and everyone in the building with maximum protection against fires.
Our experts have been working in the industry for over 40 years and can provide you with a comprehensive solution for your commercial property’s fire safety needs which include:
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 on 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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