BS 5839-6 2019 – What has changed?

Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic premises

The BSI’s recent update of the domestic fire detection and alarm system standard, specifically Part 6 of BS 5839, outlines the code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic properties.

 

Why the British Standards Institute (BSI) has updated the domestic fire detection and alarm systems standard

Around 80 per cent of UK fire deaths and injuries happen in domestic premises. Tragically, that adds up to over 300 deaths and around 9,000 injuries each year caused by fires in people’s homes, where they should feel safe.

Thankfully, however, fire detection and alarm systems can substantially reduce the risk of death or serious injury from fire. Fatality rates in fires where there’s a working smoke detector are between two and three times lower than in fires where no correctly functioning detector is present.

There’s also been an overall downward trend in domestic fire deaths since smoke alarms were first given recognition in BS 5839-1 in 1988. It means that Part 6 of the current British Standard on fire detection and alarm systems can play a crucial role in reducing the risk of fire death and injury, which is why the standard has been carefully revised over the past 18 months. The revision has now been published as BS 5839-6:2019 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings Part 6: Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic premises.

 

The key standard for domestic premises

The BS 5839 series of standards began life with the publication of BS 5839-1 in 1980. It has since grown into nine-parts, splitting domestic and non-domestic premises and also dealing with a range of specific systems in detail.

Part 6 has become the key standard for domestic premises. This document supplies guidance and recommendations on planning, designing, installing, commissioning and maintaining detection and fire alarm systems. The recommendations refer principally to fire detection and fire alarm systems installed for the purpose of life safety but also include recommendations for systems that are intended to protect property. The standard covers homes designed to accommodate a single family; HMOs comprising a number of self-contained units, each designed to accommodate a single family; and sheltered housing, including both the dwelling units and the common areas.

It applies to both new and existing premises. Its recommendations can be applied to the fire detection components of combined domestic fire and intruder alarm systems, or fire and social alarm systems. The standard also includes recommendations for routine attention. The systems it covers range from those comprising a single self-contained smoke alarm to systems of the type described in BS 5839-1.

New recommendations have been added for fire detection in supported housing in particular, whilst revised guidance on the installation of communal fire alarm systems in purpose-built blocks of flats has also been introduced. The Standard has also been updated to reflect the updates made to Part 1 in 2017, which addresses non-domestic premises, combined with any other updates made to other Standards since the last full revision.

Below is an outline of the key changes to BS 5839-6 and the areas you should be aware of to ensure residents are offered the highest standard of fire protection throughout all types of domestic properties. This applies to property managers, architects, building professionals, installers and enforcing authorities.

 

Revised system grading for fire detection and fire alarm systems

Whilst BS 5839-6 has previously been split into six varying Grades, each outlining the level of protection appropriate for certain properties and their corresponding levels of risk, the new update has altered the six sections, removing Grade B and Grade E, whilst Grade D and Grade F have been split into Grade D1 / Grade D2 and Grade F1 / Grade F2 respectively. Grade C has been revised and its recommendations expanded.

The new grading system is as follows:

Grade A
Separate detectors, sounders and central control and indicating equipment with back-up power supply that conforms to British Standards BS EN 54.
Grade C
Separate detectors and sounders that are mains powered with back-up power supply and central control equipment.
Grade D1
A system of one or more mains powered detectors, each with a tamper proof standby supply consisting of a battery or batteries.
Grade D2
A system of one or more mains-powered detectors, each with an integral standby supply consisting of a user replaceable battery or batteries.
Grade F1
A system of one or more battery-powered detectors powered by a tamper proof primary battery or batteries.
Grade F2
A system of one or more battery-powered detectors powered by a user replaceable primary battery or batteries.

You should adhere to the above grades when designing, constructing and managing fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic properties. You should also be aware of the revisions made to Table 1 of the Standard, which outlines the minimum grade and category of system that should be installed to provide protection of life in typical premises. The updates have been made to reflect current living conditions.

In conjunction with Table 1, a new table has also been created, which outlines the recommended testing and servicing by grade to prevent the blocking or delaying of fire alarm signals transmitted via social alarm systems in sheltered housing to an alarm receiving centre.

 

3 categories for fire detection and fire alarm systems

With regard to categories, the standard of protection in sheltered housing flats has been increased from Category LD2 to Category LD1, positioning it as a higher potential risk. To meet LD1 requirements, the installation of a fire detection system is required throughout the premises – this includes all rooms (and circulation areas that form part of the escape routes) except toilets, bathrooms and shower rooms.

The three categories for fire detection and fire alarm systems are listed below and outline where fire detection systems should be installed:

LD1 Maximum Protection – all areas where a fire could start

Alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes and all areas where a fire might start, but not bathrooms, shower rooms or toilets, such as:

o Hallway
o Landing
o Living Room
o Kitchen
o Bedroom
o Airing / Meter Cupboards
o Loft
o Garage

LD2 Additional Protection – circulation spaces and high-risk rooms

Alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes and rooms or areas that present a high fire risk such as:

o Hallway
o Landing
o Living Room
o Kitchen

LD3 Minimum Protection – escape routes only

Alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes such as:

o Hallway
o Landing

Additional Guidance

  • The latest updates also outline the recommendation of optical smoke alarms or multi-sensor fire alarms featuring an optical sensor, to be installed in circulation areas such as hallways and landings.
  • Heat alarms should also be installed in kitchens to provide appropriate protection.
  • Interconnected alarms should also be installed throughout a property, dependent on the specific grade, through hard-wiring or wireless connections.

By following the latest changes to BS 5839-6, you can ensure the systems you install are not only fit for purpose for current living environments within domestic premises, but also ensure individuals are provided with the highest forms of protection available, contributing to the reduction in the number of fire deaths and injuries that occur each year.

Quantum’s Comments

We will be working with our clients to determine how this new standard will affect individual properties with fire alarm systems which may need to be reviewed as part of their fire risk assessment programmes.

Grenfell Tower: Government to pay £200m for safer cladding

The government is to cover the £200m bill of replacing Grenfell Tower-type cladding on about 150 private blocks in England with a safer alternative.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire had previously said the bill should be footed by the owners, not the taxpayer. But he acknowledged the long wait for remedial work to be carried out had caused anxiety and strain for people living in those high rises.

He said owners had been trying to offload the costs on to leaseholders.

A public inquiry into the fire heard evidence to support the theory that the highly combustible material in the cladding was the primary cause of the fire’s spread.

Latest government figures show that 166 private residential buildings out of the 176 identified with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding – the same type used on Grenfell Tower – are yet to start works on removing and replacing it.

Mr Brokenshire admitted he had changed his mind on demanding freeholders pay up for safety work. He said some building owners had tried to pass on the costs to residents by threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds.

“What has been striking to me over recent weeks is just the time it is taking and my concern over the leaseholders themselves – that anxiety, that stress, that strain, and seeing that we are getting on and making these buildings safe.”

Qnote – Poor Standards Of Fire Safety In New Build Homes

Houses developed by Persimmon Homes and Bellway Homes have potentially dangerous fire safety issues, BBC Watchdog Live has found.
New-builds constructed by the firms were sold with missing or incorrectly installed fire barriers, which are designed to inhibit the spread of fire.
In some cases, it’s thought a lack of fire barriers contributed to the spread of fires that have destroyed homes.
Persimmon Homes and Bellway Homes both said they were addressing the issue.
Building Regulations require that by law new homes are built with fire protection measures to delay the spread of fire and allow crucial time for escape.
In many new builds, particularly timber-framed buildings, fire barriers are a vital part of this fire protection.
The barriers are used to form a complete seal between different areas of a home, and without them, experts say, fire and smoke can spread five to ten times faster.
Responsibility for ensuring that buildings are compliant with Building Regulations ultimately lies with the house builder.
In the cases the BBC has uncovered, serious breaches have gone undetected during construction, leaving homes and lives potentially at risk if fire breaks out.
Quantum’s View
Now that the level of fire safety failings has be identified in new build homes, our residential property management clients should be aware that this level of scrutiny may now be turned to new build general needs blocks of flats and specialised housing.