20 March 2012 by Graham Simons, FIA Technical Manager

To say that drive up to the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon for the FIA Conference last Thursday was a bit foggy would be an understatement but a lot clarity was provided in the various seminars during the day.

We had a busy program but I chose to start with Bernard Laluvein’s presentation on BS 5839-9, Code of Practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of emergency voice communication systems (EVC). Bernard described the typical emergency voice communication systems that are used to help communicate with people using a disabled refuge in a fire event. He then covered the changes to the document such as the requirements for back ground noise levels and the new requirements for wireless linked systems.

I went on to see Graham Ellicott's presentation, the Changing Face of False Alarms;  he discussed the important issue of false alarms and how this is affecting the fire alarm industry. Besides the costs to businesses and the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) resources, there is a risk to life from complacency caused by a high incidence of false alarms. Despite the CFOA Policy, there is a wide variation of the response from the FRS to an unconfirmed fire alarm call. The root of the problem lies in proper management of the fire alarm system and Graham was able to describe a few of examples of successful reduction and control of false alarms.

Fortunately there wasn’t a fire in the Heritage Centre’s kitchen, so returning after lunch and a wander around the Motor Museum's fantastic collection I was able to see the presentation from Alan Elder on Kitchen Fire Suppression Systems. It is amazing how many serious fires start in kitchens, from more often, the fume extraction systems. Damage from this type of fire can be catastrophic and very often involve the whole building. However, suppression systems offer an effective means of controlling this significant fire risk. Alan went on to describe the diverse Standards across Europe and the testing requirements for equipment. LPS 1223 along with NFPA 17A and UL 300 provide a solid basis in which to determine the design and layout of kitchen fire suppression systems. And then Alan provided insight into the proposed amendments to LPS 1223.

For the last presentation of the day I went to hear Peter Mundy give a much needed clarification of the relationship between BS 5839-1, EN 54-14 and ISO 7240-14. These documents all deal with the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems but are aimed at UK, European or International markets. The draft EN 54-14 could become a threat to our much loved and understood BS 5839-1. However, at this stage we believe that this will be a template document that will be mainly used by European countries that do not have strong national Codes of Practice. The ISO 7240-14 document is different to the others in that it only provides a prescriptive installation requirement similar to L1 in BS 5839-1. The FIA is contributing to the development of these documents and will continue to represent the UK interests and keep industry informed of developments.