Installing or upgrading your fire alarm system in 2014? then this is a must read!
Siobhan O’ Dwyer of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, offered some very practical advice in last Friday’s Irish Independent as to how Owner Management Companies (OMC) of apartment dwellings can seek to reduce the costs of the annual service charge.
In her article, Siobhan reflects on some of the significant costs that make up the service charge, including insurance, electricity, waste and landscaping and provides suggestions for cost savings. She also acknowledge’s aspects of the service charge, in which frequency and quality of service must not be compromised including, fire safety and reiterates the importance of appropriate service contracts and regular inspections . We could not agree more!.
There is however, no mention as to how such service contract costs could be better managed… so we thought we would offer some tips of our own.
The servicing and maintenance of the Fire Detection & Alarm System can represent a considerable portion of the annual service charge. Here’s some food for thought….
1. Type of Contract
Most fire detection & alarm system providers can and will offer two options when it comes to a service contract – a basic standard contract and an all inclusive package.
The standard contract will normally comprise of the 4 routine service visits as required by IS3218:2009 with all other extra’s invoiceable. If you opt for this option, be sure to agree prices for spare parts and call outs for the duration of the contract as well as charges for out of hours and non routine works.
The all inclusive package as the name suggests will normally allow for the routine service visits, spare parts, call outs etc and generally speaking providers will arrive at this cost based on the history of the site together with a contingency fee. This advantage of this option is that it provides a flat fee for the contracted period. However, you risk that you may not get the full value.
Deciding on which option to choose is very much site specific and will depend on a number of factors including level of false alarms due to accidental or malacious damage and availability of a caretaker or responsible person on site amongst others.
2. Monitor Costs
There’s a saying that goes “You can only manage what you monitor” and how true it is. You should monitor your service provider costs and review/discuss annually to ensure the contract type still suits your needs. Make sure all alarm activations are recorded in the fire alarm logbook and consider also the nature of any call out related charges. Could these be better managed ? for e.g. an upgrade plan for an old system experiencing a high volume of false alarms may reduce costs significantly in the long term.
3. Monitor Procedures
Procedures will of course be site specific in terms of who should be contacted in the event of an alarm activation i.e. the managing agent, caretaker , service provider etc and whom authorises call outs and non routine works. We recommend this is limited to 1 -2 persons so as to avoid any unnecessary charges.
Responsility for gaining access to individual apartments for both routine and non routine works should also be contained in the service contract and a effective procedure put in place so as to reduce the need for return visits and subsequently additional charges by your provider .
Whereby a full time care taker or responsible person is available on site, you should ensure that adequate training is provided on the fire alarm system. The ability of such person to respond and resolve minor issues such as “removed detectors” or broken “break glass” could signigicantly reduce the service contract outlay. In addition, we recommend that such persons hold a small amount of spare parts on site, further reducing the need for your service provider to call out.
We hope you found these tips useful. As always we would love to hear your comments or questions.
If you missed Siobhan’s article and would like to read it, please click here!
Author: Brendan Stamp Tech IEI, IS3218:2009 and 291:2001 Qualified
Managing Director, Guardian Fire & Security
We may never take notice of it until we need it, but Fire & Life Safety equipment is all around us in the buildings that we live, work and visit every day.
Fire & Life Safety equipment which includes amongst others, fire detection devices such as Smoke/Heat detectors, signalling equipment such as Break Glass Units, Sounders and Beacons, Fire Suppression Systems, Emergency Lighting, Fire Extinguishers, Hose Reels etc are ultimately designed to protect lives. When such equipment is interfered with, losses can go well beyond replacement costs, downtime and penalties.
Public area’s and premises that experience large footfall’s of traffic such as Hotels, Airports, Shopping Centres, Community Halls, Cinema’s and Theatre’s, Schools and in more recent years Apartment Complexes which feature shared communal area’s and involve a high degree of interdependence are at a greater risk of experiencing vandalism or accidental damage to the Fire & Life Safety Equipment.
Here at Guardian we have compiled our Six Top Tips to reduce this risk:
1. Know What Equipment you have on your premises and location of same
2. Appoint a “Responsible Person” to carry out regular visual checks on all Fire & Life Safety Equipment. This can be a Staff Member or in the case of Apartments, preferably a live in Caretaker.
3. Consider your existing Security measures. If you have CCTV, let customers/tenants know that these systems are in place.
4. Protect what Protects You. Consider fitting protective cages or covers over devices and equipment such as Smoke/Heat Detectors, Break Glass Units, Panels, Sounders, Fire Extinguishers etc these are an ideal cost effective means of deterring malicious or accidental damage without interfering with their legitimate use.
5. Know How to operate Fire Alarm & Life Safety Equipment. Ensure all staff has received instruction on the correct use of your Fire Alarm Control Panel and all Life Safety equipment so as to avoid accidental damage. Ensure instructions for Fire Alarm are located beside Fire Alarm panel together with contact numbers for your Service Provider and/or Management Company in the case of apartments.
6. Report any damage/suspicious activity immediately.
Author: Brendan Stamp Tech IEI, IS3218:2009 and 291:2001 Qualified
Managing Director, Guardian Fire & Security
Today I will consider a further three common causes of false fire alarm activations and again offer your business further tips to help you reduce the risk of a false alarm.
All systems are prone to malicious/accidental damage; however, the risk factor can vary greatly depending on the nature of your business.
For example: If your business has a large footfall of traffic through the door, the risk of malicious/accidental damage is greater than that of a business to business company. Apartment Complexes, Sports & Community Halls would also be classed as high risk.
Here’s some food for thought for high risk area’s…
Use “Resettable” Break Glass Units. The resettable units are not only convenient but they are also cost effective as they remove the need to keep a supply of spare glass at your premises. They can also be easily reset by any member of staff, thus reducing related call out charges.
Protective Cages/Covers are also an inexpensive way of reducing the risk of accidental or malicious damage. We highly recommend the use of break glass unit protective covers especially in high traffic areas. These should be readily available from any good service provider retailing at somewhere between €5 – €8 per cover.
Cages also come in all shapes and sizes and are ideal in areas prone to vandalism. These can be fitted to any device including the Fire Alarm control panel itself.
It is also worth noting that CCTV Systems can act as deterrent in area’s which are prone to vandalism/malicious damage.
Above all, I cannot over emphasise the importance of logging all false fire alarm activations in the false alarm section of your Fire & General Register/Logbook. Aside from being a requirement, this will allow you to monitor trends and take action where needed. We also recommend reporting all false alarms to your maintenance/service provider.
As with any system or machine, regular maintenance is essential to ensure optimum performance. Most addressable Fire Alarm panels monitor what is called the “analogue values” of devices. Devices with a high reading pose a greater risk of causing a false alarm. During routine service/maintenance visits engineer’s can identify devices with a high reading and take action before a false alarm occurs.
Ensure you have a Fire Alarm Service/Maintenance Contract in place, and that your provider is competent to carry out the contract in accordance with Irish Standards 3218:2009.
Monitor the Fire Alarm Control Panel on a daily basis for any pre alarms and notify such to your service provider. This duty should fall under the remit of your nominated “Responsible Person”.
3. Plan for Upgrade
Detection devices such as smoke detectors, heat detectors etc generally have a life Span of 10 – 15 years. Beyond this the likelihood of false alarm activations increases.
Whilst proper maintenance will prolong the life of detection devices, we recommend that you consult with your service provider regarding a Phased Upgrade Plan. Not only will this spread the cost of the upgrade over a number of years, it should also considerably reduce the cost of the upgrade if devices can be changed out during a routine service visit.
I do hope that you have found this two part series useful, if so, we would love to hear from you. Remember, to check back with us regularly for news, offers and tips!
False fire alarm activations are not only disruptive to your business, but they can also prove costly, in terms of downtime and service charges should the fire services respond to the activation.
In this two part series, I will consider the common causes of false fire alarm activations and offer your business some top tips to help you reduce the risk of a false alarm.
The design of your fire alarm system should be fit for purpose and take account of the nature of your business and environmental conditions in which it operates for e.g. will the system be exposed to heat, cold, moisture, vibrations etc.
For example: A high heat temperature detector would be preferable than a smoke detector as a means of detection in the cooking area of a restaurant/hotel kitchen.
You may not be aware that under the Irish Standard 3218:2009 your contractor should involve you (end user) in the design process. Make it your business to get involved at this stage as mistakes early on can prove extremely costly.
If you are moving into new premises with an existing fire alarm, consider how this change of use may affect the system? Consult with your service provider if you have any concerns or questions.
The introduction of new conditions can lead to an increase in false alarm activations. New Conditions could include for example refurbishment or repair of office space, new machinery, increased traffic etc. It important to note that such activations may not present immediately.
If repair or refurbishment works are taking place, you should protect the smoke, heat or multi sensor detectors in that area. Your service provider should be able to supply you with temporary covers free of charge to protect these devices.
Note: We always recommend that you liaise with your provider about fitting of same to ensure detection is not compromised during such works.
Related to my second point, but worthy of being addressed separately is the use of aerosols. This build up of aerosol particles from air fresheners, polishes and cleaning materials can contribute greatly to false fire alarm activations.
If possible minimise the use of aerosols near smoke/heat and multi sensors detectors. If they must be used, ensure aerosols are not sprayed in the direct path of a detector.
Part 2 … coming soon. Remember to check back with us regularly for up to date news, offers and tips. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you! Maybe you have a question or query you would like advice on? Feel free to leave us a message…
I feel it is an important time to comment on what has been a much talked about topic in recent months, that is: Fire Safety in Apartment Blocks.
In October, 2011 we learned of the major fire safety risks at the 187 apartment complex, Priory Hall in Donaghmede which included inadequate fire resistant materials and an inadequate fire detection & alarm system amongst others. This resulted in residents being evacuated and rehoused.
This week we learned, that up to 300 houses and apartments in another north Dublin housing estate; Belmayne, are in need of extensive repair work due to fire safety problems. According to an article in Thursday’s Irish Times, an inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade revealed defects in the timber framed construction of the houses which means they cannot meet fire safety regulations. For more on this story, please click here. This news comes as the deadline was reached (Friday at Noon) for submission of suggestions to the Department of the Environment on how to improve fire safety in apartment blocks. What is shocking, is that this comes over 20 years after the introduction of the Building Control Act of 1990. Had all of the terms of this act been enforced, I may not be writing this article today!
Fire in apartment blocks is a REAL risk and it is exasaberated by the mere complexity and use of the building itself. I only have to look back to Friday 20th January this year, when a fire destroyed the Kennedy Plaza apartment block in our town of New Ross, Co. Wexford. Whilst, no one was seriously injured, residents are still feeling the pain and coming to terms with what has happened and worst still what could have happened.
The introduction of The Multi – Unit Development (MUD) Act which came into effect on April 1st 2011 now places an obligation on the owner’s management company to provide a statement setting out the fire safety equipment installed in the development together with maintenance arrangements. Whilst this is a very welcome development for residents of such blocks, it may do little to improve safety measures without proper enforcement.
Following Friday’s deadline we now await the government’s proposals to be published. This will most likely be sometime later in the year. God know’s what we face in the intervening period. We truly hope not another Stardust. What we need now is a real committment in terms of resources for enforcement and we need it quickly.
However, whilst we can apportion blame to government, builders, architects and service providers, my point in writing this article is to drive home the reality – that we all have a responsibility for fire safety, that is each and everyone of us, whether that be in our home, our place of work or our profession. Fire safety cannot and should not be compromised.
I urge you to take that responsibility today! As any road user has a responsibility for road safety, you too have a responsibility for fire safety. Look around you and consider what steps you can take as an individual to improve fire safety? Perhaps its the testing of the smoke alarm in your home, the preparation of an evacuation plan, testing of fire extinguishers or the reporting of fire hazards in your workplace. We all need to do our bit to make fire safety a priorty! Don’t delay…..
Author: Brendan Stamp, Tech IEI, IS3218:2009 Qualified
Managing Director Guardian Fire & Security
In Part 1, I identified that as an owner/manager of a building or premises in which a Fire Alarm System has been installed there comes certain responsibilities.
In brief, I established that in order to fulfil your obligations under IS3218:2009 (The Irish Standard governing Fire Detection & Alarm Systems) you must:
1. Designate a “Responsible Person”
2. Appoint a “Competent Person”
3. Put a Service/Maintenance Contract in place
4. Ensure the Frequency of Maintenance is as set out in the standard
Today, I will look at the records that should be maintained/or be available upon request where a Fire Alarm System has been installed:
Operation & Maintenance Manual
This should be issued on completion of install when the system is handed over to the End User i.e. normally the Owner or Manager.
The Zone Chart should be sited beside the Control Panel. It is a map of the building which indicates what zones cover what area’s e.g. In a restaurant, Zone 1 might cover the Kitchen, Delivery and Storage Area while Zone 2 might cover the Dining Area.
Again sited beside the Control Panel, the Instruction Sheet should provide details of how to read a Fault/Fire Condition together with system instructions as to how the Control Panel may be silenced or reset in the case of a false alarm. It should be noted however, that all site specific fire/evacuations plans should be heeded and followed in the event of an alarm activation.
Model Test Certificate
The Model Test Certificate indicates the Planned Inspection Frequency and records the actual Test Dates. Again this must be sited beside or close to the Control Panel
The Responsible Person must ensure that the Fire Alarm Logbook is kept up to date with the following events:
- Dates, Times & Causes of Alarms (Genuine, False, Practice etc)
- Dates & Times of Tests e.g. Fire Drill
- Dates & Times of any Disablements
- Any ongoing or exceptions noted during a Routine or Special Service
- Any Alterations
In the event that you do not have an Instruction Sheet/Model Test Certificate or Logbook, these should be requested from your Maintenance Provider.
Maintenance Certificates/Engineer’s Reports
Certificates and Reports together with any other documentation relating to works carried out on the Fire Alarm System should be kept with the logbook in a safe and secure place for the protection of the “Responsible Person” and be made available to any authorised persons such as a Fire Officer, Health & Safety Authority etc.
Failure to maintain adequate records can result in the issuance of improvement/closure notices, fines and/or imprisonment.
If you have any questions in relation to the above, please feel free to contact us on 051 448774.
Guardian Fire & Security is Registered & Accredited to IS3218:2009
I think it is fair to say that some of us still struggle to fully understand our responsibilities when it comes to the Fire Detection & Alarm Systems installed on our premises. This can be for several reasons including the complexity of legislative language
In this 2 part series, I hope to simplify and clarify your responsibilities as set out in IS3218:2009 (The Irish Standard governing Fire Detection & Alarm Systems for Buildings)
1. Responsible Person
First and Foremost, a person having control of a building or premises, whether occupied or not must designate a “Responsible Person” to supervise the Fire Detection & Alarm System.
The “Responsible Person” must be suitably trained and posses the necessary knowledge to perform this job together with the sufficient authority to authorise any necessary work to ensure the system is operational at all times.
2. Competent Person
The Responsible Person should then appoint a “Competent Person” or Company to maintain the Fire Alarm System and put a Service/Maintenance Contract in Place.
Note: Even when a contract is in place, the onus is still on the Responsible Person to ensure the system is Serviced/Maintained correctly.
The “Competent Person” must be able to demonstrate that they are competent to carry out the work e.g. provide details of Qualifications, Training, Experience, Professional Membership and Accreditation to IS3218:2009.
3. Service/Maintenance Contract
The Service/Maintenance Contract should contain the following information
- Site Information e.g. Name, Address, System Type
- Frequency of Maintenance
- Breakdown of tests to be carried out during visits
- Emergency Contact Details – Can Provider Offer 24 HR Call Out?
- Call Out Charges/Labour Costs
- Duration of Contract
- Signatures of both parties
It can also be useful to get a list of the costs for the replacement of common devices e.g. Smoke Detectors, Break Glass Units etc as these can vary greatly from one provider to another.
4. Frequency of Maintenance
IS3218:2009 requires all systems to be serviced quarterly i.e. 4 Visits Per Annum with one exception as follows
A small site with a system that has 2 Zones or less and no more than 20 devices may be serviced Bi Annually (2 Visits per Annum). However in this case, the Responsible Person must carry out additional checks between visits.
Next Week I will look at the various records that must be maintained by the Responsible Person.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your comments or questions. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us on 051 448774.
Guardian Fire & Security is Registered & Accredited to IS3218:2009