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RAISING THE ALARM Fire protecon guidelines explained

With fire incidents on the rise* Ian Ballinger, Cerficaon Manager for FireAngel, explains why it’s vitally important that local authority and housing associaon specifiers are fully aware of fire protecon guidelines and what measures are needed to ensure all requirements are met.

essential for specifiers to refer to the specific building regulations relevant to each dwelling. These define the legal levels of minimum protection required in order to adequately protect residents from all potential fire risks. However, even with Fire Risk Assessment complete, many specifiers can often be left confused with what fire preventative measures fulfil standard or enhanced levels of protection. At present, building regulations applying to Scotland and Northern Ireland are different to those in place across England and Wales, meaning that the level of protection required depends entirely on the postcode of the development.


Current Building Regulations in England and Wales (Approved Document B) stipulate a Category LD3 detection system with alarms only in circulation spaces that form part of the escape route, whereas minimum standards in properties constructed in Scotland and Northern Ireland must meet Category LD2, requiring additional protection in rooms that present a high fire risk to occupants such as the kitchen and living room.

Grades of system

In the case of fire safety, BS 5839-6 is the code of practice for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection in domestic premises. BS 5839-6 provides minimum grades and categories of fire detection systems for different types of dwelling. Generally speaking, the greater the fire risk and the more demanding the application, the more comprehensive the system needs to be.

uInterlinked alarms provide comprehensive protecon with warning of flre throughout the property.

For the purpose of specifying a fire detection and fire alarm system, the standard has both grades and categories of system. There are six grades, A to F, with grade A being the most comprehensive incorporating smoke detectors, sounders, break glass and central control approved to BS 5839-1 down to grade F, battery powered smoke alarms.

hen addressing adequate fire protection, particularly for new build properties, it’s

For single occupancy dwellings, generally a Grade D system incorporating mains powered smoke alarms (and heat alarms if required), each with a stand-by power supply is the common standard for the majority of domestic fire detection system installations. BS 5839-6 offers guidance on type and level of fire protection recommended in new build, materially altered and existing dwellings. The document covers provision of fire protection in multiple occupation residencies, rented and privately owned maisonettes (and two or more storey houses), houses of three or more storeys, and all sheltered housing.

Grade E (mains only alarms) is regarded as almost obsolete with most manufacturers standardising its mains powered range with alarms that incorporate a backup power supply, therefore continuing to provide protection in instances where there could be potential interruptions to mains power (i.e. coin or card operated meters) or indeed damage by fire. Grade F systems (battery-only powered alarms) can be considered for some existing, owner-occupied dwellings, but only where there is reasonable certainty that batteries will be replaced when needed. A preferable option would be to use of an alarm with a sealed-in battery designed to last for the life of the alarm. Such alarms are

commonplace and easily available in both retail and trade outlets.

Categories of system

BS 5839-6 divides fire detection systems into different categories that relate the level of protection afforded by the system. The category defines which areas detectors (i.e. smoke/heat alarms) should be positioned. u LD1: A system installed throughout the dwelling, incorporating detectors in all spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling, as well as in all rooms and areas in which fire might start (other than toilets, bathrooms and shower rooms). u LD2: A system incorporating detectors in all spaces that form part of the escape routes from the premises, and in all rooms or areas that present a high risk of fire to occupants. u LD3: A system incorporating detectors in all spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling.

Building regulations that apply to England and Wales currently require all new build, and materially altered single occupancy dwellings, to be installed with a Category 3: LD3 form of protection. This requires the installation of smoke alarms in circulation areas such as hallways and landings that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling in the event of a fire. This applies across all levels of the property, with smoke alarms required to provide protection every seven and a half


uWhen planning adequate flre protecon, parcularly for new builds, it’s essenal for speciflers to refer to the speciflc building regulaons that are relevant to each dwelling.

metres throughout hallways and escape routes, and three metres from bedrooms.

Whilst LD3 offers protection covering the primary

circulations/escape routes of a dwelling, upgrading to LD2 as recommended in BS 5839-6 affords a higher level of protection in the areas where it is considered a higher risk of a fire occurring. In recommending LD3, the building regulations seem to be at odds with the recommendations in BS 5839-6 and it would seem sensible in future revisions to standardise the requirements with that of Part 6 and of course the regulations for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Latest updates in regulations for Scotland and Northern Ireland require all new build properties to be installed with Category 2: LD2 levels of protection. In addition, to ensure high levels of fire protection throughout circulation areas, smoke or heat alarms should also be fitted in all rooms or areas that present a high risk to occupants. This requires heat alarms to be installed in kitchens and smoke or heat alarms to be located in each living room. Category 1: LD1, which is currently not a mandatory requirement in the UK, offers comprehensive protection for residents who might be considered at high risk by installing a network of smoke and heat alarms covering all areas within the property with the exception of bathrooms and shower rooms.

So, why is there a current disparity in the categories of Grade D fire protection systems required throughout the UK? Scottish building regulations have been updated in relation to fire safety guidance and requirements, bringing them in line with BS 5839-6, whilst the fire safety guidance for England and Wales has remained unchanged since the 2006 edition was published.

Scotland has had a consistently high fatality rate from domestic fires over the last few years. The fire fatality rate for 2015/16 was higher for Scotland than England, with 8.4

fatalities per million populations, higher than England’s 5.5 per million population**. The increase in fatalities marks the government’s decision to update the necessary building regulations so that new build dwellings offer residents greater levels of protection.

The Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, told the House of Commons in October 2016 that Part B building regulations were set to be reviewed in relation to England and Wales, however, an update is still pending. Whilst we wait for England and Wales’ building regulations to be updated, Fire risk consultants must take a proactive approach to the level of protection they provide residents by following best practice, which may involve installing alarms in high risk rooms that are not mandatory in the legislation. Housing associations and local authority specifiers can also provide the highest levels of protection by utilising a range of different technologies, such as installing interlinked alarms to provide comprehensive protection with warning of fire throughout the property.

It would seem pragmatic for the building regulations in England and Wales to be amended to stipulate similar requirements to those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. With this in mind, it’s essential that local authorities and housing associations consider carefully the level of fire protection they provide. SOURCES

*National Statistics Fire incidents for England 2015/16: government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/611182/ fire-statistics-england-1516-hosb0517.pdf

**National Statistic Fire incidents for Scotland 2015/16: media/1009443/fire_and_rescue_statistics_ scotland_2015_16.pdf


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