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Smoke detector requirements for commercial buildings

When considering the smoke detector requirements for a commercial building there are a number of primary considerations.

  1. In a commercial environment the term ‘smoke alarm’ is rarely used. Instead, the words fire detection device is more likely to be used.
  2. It is a legal requirement for the owners of all commercial buildings to ensure a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) has been carried out on their buildings and that the FRA is updated in accordance with any changes in business operations.
  3. The FRA will determine the category of fire alarm you should install and this, in turn, will determine the type and position of fire detection device that should be installed.

In a commercial building, smoke may not be the only indicator of fire as business operations may involve activities that may present other fire indicators such as heat or gases.

This is why it is crucial to ensure a Fire Risk Assessment has been carried out by a competent individual as the FRA will highlight areas where a detection device triggered by smoke would be futile.

Examples include commercial kitchens where a detection device that only senses smoke could trigger a false alarm.  A fire in a facility that stores hazardous materials would have catastrophic consequences. Therefore, the FRA is likely to specify a fire detection device that senses escaping gases. Triggering the fire alarm at this early indicator point is likely to be far more effective in preventing the outbreak of a fire or an explosion!

The manufacturers of fire alarm systems and detection devices are constantly innovating and improving their technology in order to continually advance and improve their systems’ ability to detect and signal warnings based on the earliest signs of a real fire.

Avoiding false alarm triggers is crucial to the integrity of your fire safety policy. Not only do false alarms cause business interruption and lost revenue, but they could also risk life. When false alarm triggers become a regular occurrence, it is all too easy for staff to become tempted to ignore the fire alarm, wrongly thinking it is a false alarm, when it in fact it is a real fire.

The latest fire detection products for commercial buildings are multi-sensory and can be configured to address specific known risks such as steam, dust and air movement caused by insects allowing it to significantly reduce potential false alarms.

It is vital therefore to ensure you adopt a proactive approach by ensuring your fire risk assessment is always up to date, your current fire alarm system reflects your current business operations and that it is regularly maintained by a BAFE approve fire and security alarm specialist.

Mick Brooke

Mick has over 30 years experience working within the Fire and Security industry. Starting as an installation engineer and quickly progressing into both operational and sales management roles.

Posted on: 7 August 2019
Last updated: 26 October 2021
Posted in: Advice, Fire Systems
Author: Mick Brooke