Getting to grips with the new fire safety standard

With fire detector technology constantly evolving, standards also change in order to keep up with the latest developments. ESP’s Sales Director, Neil Baldwin, looks at the revised BS 5839-1:2017 standard, to help wholesalers understand the changes.

BS 5839-1:2017 fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings standard provides recommendations for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in and around non-domestic premises.

The BS5839-1 revision adopts the latest industry thinking and new technologies, including added guidance on the use of call points and multi-sensor fire detectors, with the aim of reducing the incidence of false alarms.

The main change relates to manual call points. All manual call points must have some variety of protective cover. This should help prevent accidental activation from impact and also should force users of the fire alarm system to lift the cover before activation, thereby adding an extra action to the process of pressing the alarm.

This should help reduce the number of times the button is pressed accidentally and make anyone who intends to push the manual call point to think about whether the alarm actually should be triggered.

Call point covers

Covers for manual call points are not new, but the new thing to remember is that any new installation work must use a call point cover to meet with the revised standard.

Does this mean retroactively fitting call point covers on all currently existing call points? The simple answer is not necessarily. The standard only applies for any work undertaken since the standard was published on 31st August 2017. But should a client request an upgrade, then this can be provided.

Alternatively, this can be done at the next convenient time, for example, at the next service. The decision about whether to retroactively fit covers on all manual call points in a building should be down to the Responsible Person or Duty Holder.

Another change in the update is point 20.1 – the ‘place of ultimate safety’, where the clause has been expanded to emphasise this. The reason for the change is because not all exits are designed as fire exits and during a fire, people will use any exit (regardless of whether it is a designated fire exit).

For example, some openings in the building envelope (such as a roller shutter door) are not normally a pedestrian exit, but in an emergency are likely to be used as such. Therefore manual call points should be located on escape routes and, in particular, at all storey exits and all exits to open air that lead to an ultimate place of safety (whether or not the exits are designated as fire exits).

Multi-sensor detectors

The standard has also been updated in regards to multi-sensor detectors. Those that have fire sensitivity of BS EN 54-7 are now acknowledged as suitable for fire escape routes but their configuration must include smoke detector mode.

The updated standard also makes clear about the method of inspection and servicing for multi-sensor detectors. Clause 45.4 states recommendations for inspection and test of the system over a 12-month period. In the first instance ‘Multi-sensor detectors should be operated by a method that confirms that products of combustion in the vicinity of the detector can reach the sensors and that a fire signal can be produced as appropriate’.

In addition, ‘the guidance of the manufacturer on the manner in which the detector can be functionally tested effectively should be followed’, and ‘multi-sensor fire detectors should be physically tested by a method that confirms that products of combustion in the vicinity of the detector can reach the sensors and that the appropriate response is confirmed at the CIE’.

Where the detector or system design permits, each sensor on which a fire detection decision depends (e.g. smoke, heat, CO) should be physically tested individually. Alternatively, individual sensors may be physically tested together if the detection system design allows simultaneous stimuli and individual sensor responses to be verified either individually or collectively. On completion of tests the system should be returned to its normal configuration.

It is also worthy to note that in stairways, the update to the standard says that fire detectors should be sited at the top of the stairway and on each main landing.

BS5839:1-2017 supersedes BS 5839-1:2013 which is now withdrawn.

The BS5839-1 revision includes added guidance on the use of call points and multi-sensor fire detectors.