As we start moving towards being allowed to open more of our buildings to more people, are the protective measures we put in place against COVID-19 going to impact our fire protective measures?

01 July 2020

Many routine maintenance visits may have been delayed due to lockdown, in spite of the FIA helping fire professionals being classified as key workers. Many businesses remained closed and inaccessible during the lockdown. As buildings start to open up, the life safety systems installed in them will be in need of some attention in the form of routine inspections by a competent person.

Periodic inspection on a fire alarm system isn’t just checking a few call points and detectors, in fact, there is a great deal of emphasis on checking the building. BS 5839-1:2017 45.3 b) is all about the visual inspection of the building and the system installed, to check whether structural or occupancy changes have affected the system’s compliance with the recommendations of the standard.

This includes, but is not limited to, checking that call points and detectors are unobstructed, partitions have not been installed within 500 mm of any detector, and if any alterations cause additional components to be needed. For example, if COVID screens are hung from the ceiling within 300mm of the ceiling these would be treated as walls to the flow of smoke.

The fire risk assessment for the building should be reviewed if there has been a change in the building. Through putting up protective barriers, depending on the size extent of those screens and partitions, it could mean greater travel distances to an exit and call points, or barriers to smoke and heat.

This does not give carte blanche to the maintenance company to go ahead and install additional components, it should involve a discussion with the customer in the first instance and the correct relevant advice issued - based on the recommendations within the standards.

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 protective measures will be in place, but we do know that a fire can happen at any time. Whether the system is intended for the protection of life, or property, we don’t want other protective measures to hinder the operation of these critical systems.

You can learn more about the recommendations of BS 5839-1 by attending our Fundamentals in FD&A Course.

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