Should electricians fit fire alarms? Of course. They can expand their business and their earning potential by doubling up as a fire alarm installer as well as an electrician. But that ‘yes’ does come with a ‘however’ and there are many factors that electricians should consider before they do step into the fire alarm world.
Will Lloyd, from the Fire Industry Association started out his career as an electrician before he retrained as a commissioning engineer for fire alarms, before eventually (many years later) joined the FIA as a Technical Manager. He advises:
“The electrical contractor’s bible is the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations. Regulation 560.10 says fire alarms shall comply with BS5839 series. So if an electrician is fitting a fire alarm, then they should comply to these standards.”
So what should an electrician do before fitting any fire alarms?
“First of all, get a copy of the standard (available on the FIA website). Secondly, do the FIA training courses. It’s really easy to get into wiring fire alarms. Wiring fire alarms is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. But you have to get it right.”
Legally speaking, anyone can fit a fire alarm, so long as they are deemed ‘competent’, as this is what is laid out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
“If you wire a fire alarm, you do need to be aware of the Fire Safety Order,” states Lloyd. “If you do it incorrectly, you could be prosecuted. And there has been cases of fire authorities prosecuting fire alarm installers for doing things wrong. So they would be quite happy to prosecute anyone – including electricians that worked on the fire alarm, if there is reason to.”
So all an electrician really needs to do is be competent. Be good at fitting fire alarms according to the Standards. But once that initial training is done, there is a whole new world of contracts and jobs that electricians can work on.
Competency is made up of knowledge, training, and skills. The easiest way of showing competency is to be third party certified. The added bonus is that larger firms may wish to sub-contract to electricians with certification, as this shows that they have the skills to do the job correctly and safely.
“The fire alarm industry, especially the big companies, do not want to do their own installation as it is too expensive. They have to pay the engineers quite a lot more. They like to sub-contract to an electrician because there is an electrician on-site,” explains Lloyd.
“Because if they’re building a new building, they are having to put the power in, so the electrician is already there to do that. Why can’t he put in a bit more cable? He can, he just has to know a little bit more. FIA training will give you that little bit of knowledge. Once you’ve got third party certification, and done the training, then you’re ready to hire yourself out to the bigger companies who’ll pay you to do their installation work. Once you have certification, the bigger companies will have the confidence in you because it is a scheme that they use themselves. If you are a competent installer, this is a whole new revenue stream for you.”
Whilst this is great news for electricians looking to move into installing fire alarms, the key thing to remember here is the necessity of getting proper training and working towards getting third party certification – all of which can be done through the Fire Industry Association.
You can find out more by going calling 0203 166 5002 to speak to a friendly advisor, or click here to find out more about our training courses.