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What type of fire alarm do I need for my business premises?

Nov 9, 2020

What type of fire alarm do I need for my business premises

Let JCH Safety help you determine your requirements


We regularly receive calls from people asking, ‘what type of fire alarm do I need for my premises?’ Let us try and help.

The answer isn’t as simple as saying you need a certain type of automatic fire detection system because you are a shop, warehouse or factory. Most buildings are different, or at least the occupants are, and because of this the fire risk alters. The type of fire alarm you require depends on the specific level of fire risk you face. To determine the type of fire alarm you need you first have to assess the risk.

Often, a call to help a client settle on a specific type of fire alarm arrives because they have had some fire alarm quotes. These vary widely in cost and this is because each contractor they have asked has designed a different type of fire alarm system. They specify different types of detector heads, different types of installations and equipment. They even specify differently where to put the detection points. This means you are probably not getting a like for like quotation making it impossible to compare the quotations properly.

Our experience is that this haphazard approach to fire alarm design is often incorrect and should not be encouraged. At the least it can result in additional work being required in the future to achieve the correct level of automatic detection. At worst, it could result in death if the fire alarm is not correctly designed and installed.

It is always a good sign when we get a call because a competent fire alarm installer has requested a fire risk assessment be carried out to determine the correct specification.

This is the professional way to determine what type of fire alarm detection system you require. When a contractor asks for a fire risk assessment, it is a good sign that they know what they are doing!

A bit about JCH Safety – what we do and what we don’t do!

JCH Safety does not sell fire alarm systems and this blog is in no way produced in order to try to sell you a fire alarm! Instead it is a way to help you determine your requirements and know what you should do when buying a fire alarm. After all it is a considerable investment and it may, if designed and installed properly, come to save your life!

“We don’t sell alarms, installations or fire extinguishers.”

We do provide competent safety advice.

JCH Safety are professional chartered occupational safety and health consultants and fire risk assessors. We are based in Warwickshire near Coventry and work as far north as Manchester and as far south as London. We offer unbiased advice about building safety requirements including fire safety and automatic fire alarm systems. We do this through carrying out fire risk assessments.

Why have a fire risk assessment?

Fire is a dangerous life threatening event that destroys businesses. A good fire risk assessment saves lives, prevents fire, mitigates the damage from a fire, and helps businesses thrive. Many companies that suffer a fire never recover because they were not properly prepared to deal with a fire.

A fire risk assessment helps to prevent fire and gets organisations into a strong position to be able to manage a fire should one occur. This involves evacuating people and containing a fire in the area it started long enough for the fire service to extinguish it.

Most, if not all fires are preventable.

How does a fire risk assessment determine what fire alarm is required?

When a fire does happen, and unfortunately they do, you need the correct automatic fire detection system to be installed. It will allow the swift evacuation of the building and for the business to stand the best chance of survival.

The sooner you know their is a fire, the sooner the fire is challenged, controlled and put out. Complex fire alarms can turn off equipment, open and close doors, smoke vents and remotely access help. These vital minutes where your fire alarm carries out these actions save lives and protect buildings.

Fire risk assessments should determine what grade of fire detection system you require. Fire risk assessment carried out by JCH Safety always specify this.


How should I compare fire alarm quotes?

Having a good quality, well designed and professionally fitted fire alarm is vital. What is difficult is determining how to select the correct fire alarm and compare fire alarm quotes. Too often, customers simply look at the price and choose the cheapest. This usually means, if a specific grade has not been determined, that you will end up with a simple and insufficient system.

Firstly, arrange for your building to have a fire risk assessment if you haven’t already got one. The fire risk assessor should determine the level of fire detection that your building requires.

Next, you should look to choose reputable, specialist contractors to provide quotations for you. Fire alarm installation is a professional service and should be carried out by professional contractors.

Provide the contractors with the findings of the fire risk assessment which will specify the standard that the fire alarm installation should be designed to.

When you get your quotes in, don’t just select your supplier based on cost. Talk to them, ask probing questions and find out other companies they have worked for locally. Ask for references and get in touch with them. You need to ensure you are selecting the right contractor because you will be likely starting a long relationship with this company. This is because you will require annual servicing and maintenance moving forward. Speak to the fire risk assessor and ask them to comment on the quotes as FRAs have a lot of experience in this area.

What type of fire alarms are there?

Commercial fire alarms should be designed to meet BS 5839-1:2017. This British Standard code of practice is for the design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems in non-domestic buildings. The standard contains recommendations for the locations of fire alarm system components. This is based on the objective the system should fulfil – known as Categories.

The Categories are L and M for systems designed to protect life and Category P systems designed and specified with the intention to protect property.

It is very common for a fire alarm system to be installed for a building to incorporate a mixture of Categories.

There are many matters to be determined for a fire alarm. There are different types such as conventional fire alarm systems, addressable systems, analogue and digital. There are wired systems and wireless systems. Along with this there is a selection of different types of detector points to choose from. This is why you should have a professional fire risk assessor and installation contractor specify and design your system.

Points to consider

  • The action to be taken in the event of fire
  • How long it would take the Fire Brigade to attend a fire
  • The type of users of the building including any disabilities and issues users may face
  • The type of system required i.e. BS 5839-1 L1, L2, L3 etc and where appropriate, parts of the premises to be covered.
  • Whether the building is single or multi occupancy and if a fire would affect these other building users
  • Whether there are sleeping occupants of the premises
  • Whether other construction or refurbishment work is to be done at the same time as the installation. If so, consultation with other contractors may be required.
  • You should consider how the fire service would be contacted in the event of a fire
  • Whether the type of occupants or activity in the building will require a greater provision of Manual Call Points than normal

All of these different factors should be considered in the design of the fire alarm. This is why it is important to start this process with a fire risk assessment.


JCH Safety Ltd, based in Nuneaton, offers nationwide health and safety support and fire risk assessments to businesses. Whether you are based in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Derby or Manchester, or even further afield, we would be happy to help. Please get it touch for a free quotation.