Everything you need to know about fire alarms

Instant warnings regarding smoke or fire in your property could save your life. Understanding the rules and regulations regarding fire alarms, and knowing how to use them correctly, are essential steps to making sure that you, your home or business, and your possessions, stay as safe as possible.

What are the regulations surrounding the use of fire alarms in the UK?

Fire alarms are covered by a piece of legislation called The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which is often referred to by the shortened title of ‘The RRO’. Practically all businesses, and all rental properties, are legally required to have an adequate fire detection and warning system in place. Usually, this means that your business premises need to have a fire alarm system installed. However, in rare circumstances, where numerous specific criteria are all met, a fire alarm is not legally required. The criteria that need to be met include the ability for everyone on the premises to hear a shout of ‘fire’ and the certainty that there will be no vulnerable, elderly or disabled people on the premises. It is clear that as a matter of course, it is best practice for all businesses to have a fire alarm system installed. When it comes to private homes, if they are not being rented out, it is at your discretion whether or not you install a fire alarm system. However, it is clearly in your interests to do so.

How to install your fire alarm system correctly
All fire alarms need to meet the BS (British Standard) 5839 safety guidelines and they should be integrated into a wider fire safety risk assessment and management strategy. Fire alarms ought to be installed on every floor, and there should be a fire alarm in all stairwells as well. In addition to the provision of at least one fire alarm on each floor of the building, if there are any sleeping or cooking areas in the building (for instance bedrooms where employees can sleep before and after night shifts) these should each be fitted with their own fire alarm. Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors should similarly be installed on every floor and additionally in every sleeping and cooking area. When it comes to smoke detectors, it is wise not to place them too close to hobs or showers as the steam that rises naturally from these devices during their everyday use can set off the detector’s alarm. All fire safety alarms ought to be tested weekly, and there should ideally be a fire drill at least every couple of months so that all employees know exactly what they ought to do in the event of a fire.

Now you are ready to check and (if necessary) update your fire safety system
Take this opportunity to examine your fire safety strategy and to ensure that you have an adequate number of well-placed and properly working fire alarms on your premises.