A Pocket Guide to Lighting and Alarm Systems

This article is a short insight in to the two new pocket handbooks available, outlining the guidance for:

Fire Alarm systems BS.5389

Emergency Lighting BS.5266

When we look at the two guidelines above, experience tells us that whilst many of the sites we visit have one or both of the above systems installed, sadly very few are maintaining or giving them any attention on a regular basis.

Whilst it is difficult for sites to be fully aware of every safety aspects required at their site/operation, which is why they employ our expertise, it is nevertheless important to be kept abreast of the key facts. Please take the time to read the key points set out below or purchase your copy of the handbook by searching “Hochiki” on the internet.

Emergency Lighting  (BS.5266)

This should be provided in every windowless room, passageway and escape route. The provision of a torch on a hook is not acceptable practice. Steps, stairways, changes in level, changes in direction are all areas that need to be adequately covered.

An installed module should be identifiable by a small green LED in more recent installations, and a red LED on older units. In addition to identifying the unit, the LED indicates it’s power pack is ‘on-charge’, but does not give any guarantee it will function for the required period of time in an emergency. This is where it is necessary to ensure the system is regularly serviced (eg. at the same time as the forecourt electrical test).

Pages 20-23 of BS.5266 are particularly relevant in deciding which areas should receive priority.

Fire Alarm Systems (BS.5839)

Previously it was accepted that in very compact premises that a shouted warning of ‘FIRE!!’ was sufficient. However, if the secure door of a managers office is shut and locked, while counting cash for example, this is no longer ‘suitable and sufficient’.

Again, a system is no better than it’s maintenance, and for this there should be good documentation to support the maintenance schedule. In many of the premises we visit an incipient fire in a stockroom (usually with the door wedged open or missing) will result in the common areas becoming rapidly smoke-logged.

Pages 3, 8, 10 -12 of the BS.5839 guide are most informative. If you are recommending a fire alarm system, you do not need to be drawn into the technical details. That is the job for an accredited installer. There are plenty of jobbing electricians who may offer to do the work, but the system must meet the standards of BS.5839, i.e. a domestic type smoke detector will not be acceptable.

An accredited installer will issue an ‘Installation Certificate’ and a ‘Commissioning Certificate’ on completion, your unlikely to get these from a local handyman!

A simple premises may be provided with a manual ‘break-glass’ red fire alarm call point, which should be located at each exit. I have often found these hidden by display stands, chiller cabinets etc. This may be in addition to an automatic system of smoke and/or heat detectors. The installations in such a system, would also give considerable protection to the premises and stock when closed, especially if all internal doors are shut/locked (business resilience).

Article written by – Bryan Pick (Senior Consultant, Suresite)