Fire alarm systems in communal areas within purpose built blocks of flats…

It is apparent that some purpose built blocks of residential flats are equipped with a fire alarm system in communal areas but have no significant structural deficiencies that may require such a system to be in place. With the exception of dwellings such as sheltered housing or extra care housing, it is not necessary to install fire detection and alarm systems in communal areas.

Examples of inadequate structural deficiencies could be:

  • Inadequate compartmentation
  • Inadequate smoke control in single staircase properties
  • Significant increases in travel distances
  • Inadequate means of escape when flats open directly onto single stairway
  • Flats not sufficiently separated from commercial premises below

Clearly, automatic fire detectors linked to automatic opening vents or other smoke control measures form an integral part of the fire strategy for some types of buildings, however there is generally no requirement for manual call points and alarm sounders in communal areas.

There appears to be a growing ground swell in current guidance to either remove fire alarm systems completely or at least to disconnect sounders in order that residents do not unnecessarily evacuate their flat when there is no need.

What Quantum Compliance say…

Although we agree that a fire alarm system is not required, if not linked to automatic opening vents and the property has no significant structural deficiencies we will not ask for its removal but will stress the need to maintain the system in accordance with the appropriate sections of BS 5839, as well as encouraging property managers to ensure residents are thoroughly conversant with the ‘stay put’ policy for the building and closely monitor any reports of false alarms.

Where there is an automatic fire alarm and detection system linked to the automatic opening vents (AOVs)  linked to sounders in the communal areas of the property, again, residents should be thoroughly conversant with the ‘stay put’ policy for the building.

Note: Be aware, an alarm will always be required within converted properties. For converted buildings of no more than two storeys a Grade D LD2 system may be installed, otherwise a Grade A system should be installed.