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Deep cleaning – HPV fogging/ COVID-19 nebulising spray One unique challenge in the hospital environment for the fire detection system is the use of Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV). This type of cleaning fog is used to completely sterilise a room after use by each infectious patient, or the presence of an infectious substance that might have contaminated the area. The issue arises because the fog itself is similar in consistency to smoke, and therefore often activates optical smoke detectors. It is thus best practice to disable the detector and cover it to prevent false alarms while HPV fogging is taking place. Some systems will allow disablements to be made easily, and even via a mobile app. However, on some older systems, disabling detectors can be dangerous, since the process of recording which detectors have been disabled for fogging is only undertaken in a physical logbook, and is not visible on the control panel. Forgotten disablements will reduce overall system integrity and pose an immediate risk to life. A minor improvement that can also be made to make covering detectors quicker is to recess the cabling to the detector, so that any cover can get a full seal without the additional set-up of taping around the wiring.

In addition to issues with HPV deep cleaning, many sites have recently encountered a similar problem associated with paracetamol spray given off by ventilators treating COVID-19 patients. Adjusting the affected detectors’ sensitivity modes can instantly alleviate this issue, but if the problem persists, undertaking a full risk assessment, and increasing (human) monitoring, may justify contradicting BS5839 Pt 1 2017, and temporarily replacing smoke with heat detectors in these areas.

Contingency wards

There has been a recent push in the NHS to increase the number of contingency wards in hospitals. Converting live mental health hospital wards to become anti- ligature is extremely challenging, as the works have to be thorough, and may involve replacing bathroom facilities, as well as doors, lights, ironmongery, radiator covers, decorations, and some flooring. Replacing the fire detector for an approved anti-ligature alternative should be easy, but depends on backwards compatibility, and having an adaptive system. Adding additional detectors to an existing loop, and being able to address the new detectors to be discovered by the panel quickly, is ideal. The current use of load release anti-ligature detectors, while approved, still poses a significant risk, as the detector itself could be used to cause harm to the patient or others. In addition, once the detector is load

84 Health Estate Journal September 2020

Irina Cruse.

Harry Buck.

Salvy Vittozzi.

released it is no longer operational, and will cause a lapse in system integrity. There is an innovative alternative to the load release anti-ligature detector which solves this issue – an approved flush- mounted, anti-ligature, anti-vandal detector which cannot be removed from the ceiling due to anti-tamper screws. Apollo’s Soteria Dimension Specialist Optical detector eliminates the risk to patients and staff, and ensures fire system integrity. This detector is also fully backwards compatible, and can be added to any existing system from the same manufacturer.


There is an array of challenges to address in managing a fire detection system in a hospital; without due consideration these can lead to both high maintenance costs, but also – more importantly – to a lapse in overall protection for vulnerable people. In this article we have outlined several challenges, as well as recommendations to improve system performance and minimise cost, including:

Jeff Cutler.

n Having an Open Protocol system to reduce total cost of ownership.

n Installing detectors with in-built drift compensation, which have a longer lifecycle.

n Placing covers over manual call points, and considering recessing MCPs into the wall to the regulatory limit.

n Temporarily replacing smoke detectors with heat detectors in areas undergoing building work.

However, there are many more issues which will be important to consider. For more information on any particular features or benefits of a hospital fire detection / alarm system outlined in this article, and to discuss any other challenges not mentioned, consult an expert.


The authors would also like to thank their colleagues, Regional Sales manager (South), Salvy Vittozzi, and head of Systems at Apollo Fire Detectors, Jeff Cutler, for their input to this article, and to extend a special thanks to Steve Manuel, Fire Officer, Luton & Dunstable Hospital, and William Espiner of Aylsebury Fire Systems.


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