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What Makes an Evacuation Alert System Different to a Standard Fire Alarm?

The evacuation alert system is not a fire detection system. It is an alert system that is activated by secure manual control, available only to the FRS.

The evacuation alert system is not a fire detection system.  It is an alert system that is activated by secure manual control, available only to the FRS.  The FRS will only activate it when they consider that the normal stay put policy must be changed because of the circumstances of a fire incident.

Unlike a fire detection system, there are no manual call points to facilitate the warning of other building users and there are no fire detectors in the system to automatically raise the alarm.

Fire detection systems are intended to operate at the early stage of a fire, and in some situations, particularly high-rise buildings, the fire alarm system is intended to continue to operate for an extended period into the fire.  However, in ‘typical’ non-domestic buildings, the strategy is to evacuate the building once fire has been detected, to ensure that people at risk are relocated to a safe place.

Evacuate alert systems are intended to be installed in purpose-built blocks of flats that are designed to operate a stay put policy.

The expected situation with the evacuation alert system is that a fire will have been detected in a flat, the FRS will have been called, and that on arrival they will commence fighting the fire.  It is then anticipated that the fire spreads for some unpredicted reason, and the incident commander decides that it is necessary to depart from the stay put policy.

If the fire is spreading within the building, it will most likely spread due to specific internal features within the building.  For example, an unstopped riser that provides a vertical path for the fire, or a defect or hole in internal compartmentation, that allows the fire to spread from one flat to another.

If the incident commander becomes aware that the fire is spreading, it is likely that he / she will despatch fire fighters to assist a limited number of occupants from their flats to an alternative location.  Some occupants may need assistance and the route out of the building may pass through areas that are partially smoke filled, so this exercise is not without risk.

If the fire situation is such that the incident commander considers that he / she cannot spare fire fighters to be diverted to assist large numbers of occupants out of their flats, the evacuate alert system might be used.

At this stage, the fire might have been burning in the building for some considerable time and conditions within certain parts of the building, might be quite different to what would be expected in the early stages of the fire.

Therefore, the intention of BS 8629, is that the components of the evacuation alert system should have the best possible chance of continuing to operate as intended.  Therefore, enhanced fire-resistant cable is recommended for all of the system.

If a fault in the cable should occur, then the affect this has on the system should be limited as far as possible.  The consequence of a single cable fault should be limited to a single flat and the failure of a single circuit should be limited to a section of the building.

A concern of the committee responsible for BS 8629, is that over time the maintenance organisation responsible for the evacuation alert system, might not fully appreciate the objectives and use of the system.  A fire alarm company, for example, might see the safest situation as getting the occupants out of the building as quickly as possible.  Therefore, the committee decided that, at least for the first few years, the recommendation of the standard would be that there should be no connection between a fire alarm system and an evacuate alert system, even though it is logical that costly resources within the building, such as cables and power supplies, could be shared between the two systems.

Similarly, it was decided that the evacuation alert system should not be integrated with other safety systems in the building, such as smoke control, door release or plant shut down controls.  Many of these systems would be expected to operate early on in the fire incident, whereas the evacuation alert system must be available to operate at any time, even quite late in proceedings.

Sound pressure levels recommended in BS 8629 are similar to those that are recommended in BS 5839-6.  That is, that the sound pressure should be at least 85 dBA at the open bedroom door, but in addition to the sleep risk considerations, it is recommended that in other habitable rooms the sound pressure level should be at least 60dBA, which is similar to BS 5839-1.

It is also assumed (by the committee) that over the life of the block of flats, occupants might need additional facilities as they get older, or as a result of an accident etc.  Occupants will also change over the life of the flats, where the new occupant needs different facilities, such as visual alarms or tactile alarm devices.  Therefore, BS 8629 recommends that in each flat there should be a facility to add additional devices without jeopardising the operation of the evacuation alert system in other flats.

The BS 8629 committee also anticipated that access into flats, to undertake regular maintenance, could be challenging in some situations.  Therefore, it was decided that there should be a facility within the system to be able to confirm the operation of each flat’s evacuation alert devices from outside of the flat.  Some systems might have the facility for confirmation of the operation of each device at the control and indicating equipment, another system could rely on the maintenance technician standing outside the flat front door and being able to hear the alert devices from each flat in turn.

BS 8629 is unusually detailed with respect to the format and design of the controls at the control and indicating equipment.  This was a preference of the FRS representatives on the committee, who considered that it was essential that all systems would appear the same, and that the controls would be suitable for operation by a gloved hand.

It was also decided that a single, ‘evacuate everyone’ control, was undesirable, because it would likely cause chaos if everyone was trying to get out at one time.  Therefore, separate switches for each floor are suggested, with a further suggestion that in some buildings part floor evacuation might be more appropriate.

When an emergency system is in place, understanding maintenance and testing is absolutely critical to keep the system running and ready for use when needed.

Consulting a compliance expert will ensure that you comply with the design, installation and ongoing maintenance requirements of a system.  

Got a question about evacuation systems? Need help installing a fire alarm or emergency evacuation system? Get in touch today!

For over forty years, Fixfire® has been providing quality products, systems and services for Life & Property Protection. Whatever your requirement, please call our Compliance Team for expert advice and a refreshingly different approach.

Freephone 08000 891999

STEP 1:
STEP 2:
You provide a suitable up to date drawing of your building in either:
  • Hard copy
  • PDF
  • Or preferably AutoCAD (dwg) format
Depending on the availability of installation records and the complexity of the building, we arrange a visit to identify the zone number associated with each Fire Alarm Manual Call Point and Fire Detector (for practicality this may involve two engineers).
STEP 3:
STEP 4:
Fire Alarm Zone Chart is created.
Fire Alarm Zone Chart is supplied in A4 or A3 glazed frame for installation adjacent to your Fire Alarm Panel.

For over forty years, Fixfire® has been providing quality products, systems and services for Life & Property Protection. Whatever your requirement, please call our Compliance Team for expert advice and a refreshingly different approach.

Freephone 08000 891999.

Evacuation Alert System Panel
Evacuation Alert System Panel
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What Makes an Evacuation Alert System Different to a Standard Fire Alarm?
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