What is the code BS5839 and why does it matter for my business?

Looking to safeguard commercial spaces against fire hazards?

Delve into the insights provided by BS5839, which presents crucial recommendations for fire detection and alarm systems in both new and existing non-domestic properties.

This standard serves as a comprehensive guide aimed at enhancing safety within commercial premises. It’s essential reading for professionals involved in the design, installation, and maintenance of fire systems in commercial settings.

Here’s everything you need to know about the BS 5839 standards!

What is the code BS5839?

BS 5839 is a series of national British Standards that provide guidelines for fire detection and alarm systems for non-domestic buildings:

Part 1: Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems for Buildings (BS5839-1:2017)

BS 5839-1:2017 is a British Standard that provides guidelines for designing, installing, and maintaining fire detection and fire alarm systems in non-domestic buildings.

It is a comprehensive guide focusing on fire detection and alarm systems specifically tailored for non-domestic buildings. This standard aligns with current national building regulations for both new and existing non-domestic premises.

Part 2: Specifications for Manual Call Points (BS5839-2:1986)

BS 5839-2:1986 is a standard that outlines specifications for manual call points used in fire detection and alarm systems in buildings. It provides guidelines for the design and installation of these call points, detailing their requirements and functions in fire safety systems.

Part 3: Specification for automatic release mechanisms for certain fire protection equipment (BS5839-3:1988)

BS5839-3 is a standard that deals with automatic release mechanisms used in fire protection equipment like fire doors and dampers. It outlines how these mechanisms should work in response to fire alarms or detectors and emphasizes the need for a central control system.

This standard, developed by a committee representing various organizations, focuses on ensuring these mechanisms function properly for safety. It highlights that while they’re meant for specific purposes, regular inspection and maintenance are crucial for reliable operation.

Additionally, it mentions the importance of third-party certification schemes and reminds users of legal responsibilities and potential restrictions imposed by fire authorities or insurers regarding the use of these mechanisms.

Part 4: Specification for Control and Indicating Equipment (BS5839-4:1990)

BS 5839-4:1990 is all about the nitty-gritty of fire detection and alarm systems in buildings. It lays down the specifics for control and indicates the equipment used in these systems.

This standard sets out what the equipment should do and how it should be tested, including the power supply it needs. Just so you know, it doesn’t include indicating gear used at far-off manned centres.

Part 5: Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings – Specification for optical beam smoke detectors (BS5839-5:1988)

BS5839-5:1988 outlines the rules and tests for smoke detectors using an optical beam. It details the performance criteria for these detectors, which work by detecting changes in an optical beam due to smoke.

This standard covers detectors with specific separations between their components but doesn’t include detectors with larger separations due to limitations in the fire test room size defined in another standard.

Part 6: Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic properties (BS5839-6:2019)

BS5839-6 is an updated standard focusing on fire detection and alarm systems specifically for domestic properties. It covers how these systems should be designed, installed, commissioned, and maintained. This update brings new recommendations for fire detection in supported housing and revised guidance for communal fire alarm systems in flats.

One significant change is the revision of system grading, altering the sections and removing Grades B and E while splitting Grades D and F into further categories. These new categories define the level of protection needed for different types of properties.

Moreover, the standard now details three categories (LD1, LD2, LD3) to indicate where fire detection systems should be installed in different areas of the property, ensuring varying levels of protection based on potential risks.

This update is BS 5839-6 aims to provide better fire protection in domestic settings. It advises professionals, like architects and installers, on the necessary standards to ensure the highest level of safety for individuals in various types of domestic properties.

Part 8: Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of voice alarm systems (BS5839-8:2013)

BS5839-8 deals with voice alarm systems, providing recommendations for their design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance. These systems broadcast speech or warning tones automatically in response to signals from fire detection and alarm systems.

This standard covers systems that can transmit both live voice messages and pre-recorded emergency messages. It’s essential for various professionals involved in implementing fire safety measures in buildings, such as designers, manufacturers, architects, installers, and regulatory bodies.

BS 5839-8 aims to enhance fire safety by offering updated guidelines for voice alarm systems. The latest version, BS 5839-8:2013, includes changes like new recommendations for loudspeaker placement, improved audibility guidelines, updated information on cables and wiring, and modifications in terminology for better clarity.

Part 9: Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of emergency voice communication systems (BS5839-9:2021)

BS 5839-9 deals with emergency voice communication (EVC) systems. This standard is a guide for designing, installing, and maintaining these systems.

It’s meant for various individuals involved in managing buildings and ensuring safe evacuation during emergencies. This includes those responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining EVC systems, as well as building managers, control officers, and anyone overseeing building evacuations.

BS 5839-9 covers the planning, installation, and upkeep of emergency voice communication systems as part of a fire detection and alarm setup. It emphasizes the use of EVC specifically during fire emergencies to communicate evacuation messages and coordinate with fire wardens, stewards at events, and people in refuges or firefighting areas.

However, it’s important to note that this standard doesn’t dictate whether an EVC system should be installed in a particular building. Instead, it focuses solely on the specifics of EVC systems during fire emergencies, excluding general intercom or telephone systems.

The recent update to BS 5839-9 incorporates the latest regulations and industry changes, ensuring it aligns with current requirements for building evacuation, especially concerning individuals with disabilities. Overall, it aims to ensure that EVC systems meet high standards of reliability, safety, and performance during emergencies.

Why does my business need a fire alarm system?

Having a fire alarm system isn’t just a safety checkbox—it’s a crucial pillar of protection for your business. Let’s dive into why fire alarm systems are necessary.

First off, it’s about safeguarding lives. A fire alarm system is your early warning system. It’s the superhero that alerts everyone in the building the moment it detects even the slightest hint of smoke or fire. Seconds count in emergencies, and these systems are your first line of defence, ensuring everyone can evacuate safely.

But it’s not just about people; it’s also about your business. Imagine the devastation of losing everything to a fire. A fire alarm system isn’t just a safety net; it’s your shield against massive property damage and financial loss. It helps contain fires faster, giving firefighters a head start to mitigate the situation.

Plus, as we’ve mentioned, there’s the legal side of things. Regulations often mandate businesses to have fire alarm systems in place. Compliance isn’t just about following rules; it’s about doing your part to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved—employees, customers, visitors—everyone.

Here’s the thing: it’s not just about having any fire alarm system; it’s about having the right one. Tailoring a system to your business’s unique needs is crucial. Whether it’s the layout of your space, the type of business you run, or the specific risks you face, a customised system ensures you’re prepared for the unexpected.

What are Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems?

Fire alarm systems come in various types, from simple manually operated setups to sophisticated, digitally controlled networks. The kind of fire detection and fire alarm system you require depends on the size and nature of your premises. According to BS 5839-1 guidelines, these systems encompass a wide spectrum—from configurations with just a couple of manual call points and sounders to intricate networks with numerous automatic fire detectors, manual call points, and interconnected control panels.

It’s important to note that this standard doesn’t cover systems designed primarily to extinguish or control fires. Also, voice alarm systems, setups combining fire alarm functions with non-fire related functions, audible or visual way-guidance systems meant to complement fire alarms, and public emergency call systems (like 999 or 112) fall outside the scope of this publication.

The glossary within the Standard (pages 3-10) offers definitions of key terms, ranging from “addressable system” to “zone plan.” Furthermore, there’s a detailed discussion (pages 11-13) categorizing these systems, and linking them to specific types of premises. Exploring Annex A can provide a clearer understanding of what these categories entail for various settings.

What does “Categories of System” mean?

In BS5839, fire alarm systems are diverse, ranging from basic manual setups to intricate, digitally controlled networks. These systems are tailored to the size and needs of the premises they safeguard. The standard categorizes systems into L and P groups. L focuses on life protection, while P aims at property protection. Often, a building’s fire alarm system comprises a mix of these categories.

Category M offers minimal protection, relying solely on manual call points (MCPs). Although uncommon for entire premises, it suits scenarios like workshops where rapid fire detection is expected, or where automatic detection might falter. Category M, often used alongside other Categories, mandates alarm devices throughout the site.

Category L prioritizes life protection, particularly escape routes and areas at high fire risk. These categories progressively enhance protection levels, with L1 systems providing the highest life safety by combining MCPs and automatic fire detection throughout the premises.

Category P primarily targets property protection, usually complementing Category L requirements, especially prompted by insurance evaluations. For instance, P1 systems focus on safeguarding the entire building and entail AFD throughout, with alarm devices installed as specified in designated areas.

Understanding these Categories is pivotal in determining the right fire protection levels for different building areas, ensuring the safety and security of occupants and property.

What should you consider when designing fire detection or fire alarm systems?

In understanding the design of a fire detection/fire alarm system, delving into BS5839 reveals a comprehensive breakdown. Section 2 (pages 17-91) dissects the design process into 22 segments (8-29). From defining the appropriate system category for a specific building to contemplating electrical earthing, each subsection follows a clear format. It offers insights into design aspects and lists recommendations, often linking to other relevant British Standards.

Though not exhaustive, here’s a glimpse into the key points to consider:

System Type

Categorizing systems into L, P, and M aligns with safeguarding life, property, or a mix. However, automatic detection’s extent is usually gauged through a fire risk assessment rather than a strict application of system categories to every building type.

System Components

Ensuring all system components comply with relevant standards and have undergone proper testing is paramount. Certification under a recognized scheme is advised for each component.

Detection and Alarm Zones

Dividing buildings into detection zones and establishing distinct alarm zones is recommended, especially for more complex structures. These ensure prompt response to a fire and delineate evacuation procedures, particularly in phased evacuation scenarios.

Communication with Emergency Services

Depending on the system category, summoning emergency services swiftly is crucial. Manual systems may rely on human intervention, while property protection might necessitate automatic transmission of signals.

Routine Maintenance

Regular system testing, inspection, and servicing are imperative. Weekly and monthly routines, supplemented by periodic inspections, help identify faults and maintain system efficiency. Record-keeping through logbooks and documentation is vital at each stage.

Changes in the 2017 Revision

The updated Standard includes clarifications on various aspects, from call point covers to enhanced guidance on multi-sensor detectors, voice alarm systems, and technological advancements in fire detection. These changes reflect adaptations to other major fire safety Standards and aim to improve system reliability and compliance.

Understanding these design considerations helps tailor fire detection/fire alarm systems to meet specific building needs, ensuring their effectiveness in protecting life and property.

RACAM, Your Fire Safety Partners

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Explore how our tailored solutions can fortify your safety measures and safeguard your business and its occupants.

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