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carry on managing a system that is expensive to run and limited in choice of service suppliers. By avoiding closed protocol solutions, a competitive tendering process can be encouraged between different fire protection service- providers.

Open protocol systems

A fire detection/alarm system that allows the customer to choose between any qualified engineer to service/install a system is known as ‘Open protocol.’ The original cost for these systems can be higher than the closed protocol alternative, but once the total cost of ownership is considered, over the lifetime of a system open protocol solutions tend to be more cost-effective and flexible, allowing the building owner to choose between service-providers that meet their requirements, and quite often between control panel manufacturers. Although total cost of ownership is often overlooked – due to differences in managing capital and operational expenditure within NHS Trusts – it is key to ensuring that the best system is chosen for the building, and that it is ‘future-proofed,’ as well as the best possible financial outcome for the NHS.

Structural challenges

There are often a number of construction and renovation works in progress across a hospital complex at any one time, which can create additional challenges for the fire system. Given that hospitals are operational 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, any works being carried out must be completed without any downtime, and with minimal disruption. Contractors can create copious amounts of dust, which of course can set off smoke detectors, causing false alarms. This, combined with maintenance work being carried out at night, can cause a headache for healthcare estates staff, as personnel may need to be called out of hours to correct things. One option to prevent these false alarms while ensuring fire safety is to temporarily replace smoke detectors with heat detectors in the area being worked in. Heat detectors or CO/heat detectors are

Prior to an upgrade by Apollo of its fire detection/alarm system, the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital provided an example of how problematic and outdated fire systems can cause major issues for a healthcare site.

not prone to contamination, and are less likely to falsely activate due to dust. It is important to consider that the coverage of a smoke detector is larger than that of a heat detector, and thus a point for point replacement will result in a loss of coverage. Another option is to use a multisensor with multiple modes of sensitivity, such as Apollo Soteria; this detector is considerably more resilient to false alarms due to its advanced chamber design, and can, if required, be switched to a ‘heat only’ mode.

Isolators on all devices

A fire detection / alarm system should have isolators on all devices on which an evacuation depends, so that these devices will not be affected by fire damage to the system. This is especially important when partial evacuation strategies are employed, and it takes significantly longer to evacuate a building fully.

One recent example of the requirement for a fire system to be adaptable is the introduction of temporary structures, such as COVID-19 testing pods on hospital sites. While such structures are only temporary, it is still important to ensure the same high level of fire safety. This can be achieved very effectively using wireless detectors

Upgrading to a new system in a working hospital

The Luton and Dunstable University Hospital in Luton provided an example of how problematic and outdated fire systems can cause major issues for a healthcare site. The fire system previously in place had lots of agreed variation from the British Standards, was over 20 years’ old, and was becoming unreliable, with increasing probability of a major failure. The hospital was one of the worst- performing sites in terms of false fire alarms, according to Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC) data for 2016/17, with 36 false alarms resulting in fire and rescue service call-outs in a single year.

All fire panels and loop devices replaced

FIRE ALARM PANEL NIMBUS GATEWAY Figure 2: A remote monitoring solution.

Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust decided to act, by replacing all seven of the existing fire panels and loop devices, but utilising the existing cabling where it was fit for purpose. The new open protocol Apollo system came with a 10-year warranty, and is expected to last over 10 years. The replacement itself was done logically to reduce downtime while maintaining system integrity. The first step was to install a ring network around the whole site, with the installation of all new advanced panels. The main panel was then

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that can be added onto an existing system. For example, Apollo Fire Detectors’ wired systems can host a wireless interface module that communicates to the Apollo XPander wireless detection and alarm signalling. Full integration into the Apollo loop allows for all wireless devices to be viewed on the panel as part of a wider detection system. Wireless detectors are ideal for temporary structures due to high flexibility, fast installation, and their ability to be reused elsewhere in the building after the original structure has been taken down.

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