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Practical Guide to Grade D Fire Alarm Systems published

21 June 2021

TIM BENSTEAD has authored ‘The Practical Guide to Grade D Fire Alarm Systems’ as a readily accessible publication based on BS 5839-6 for Grade D systems. The publication focuses on Grade D systems as this is the most commonly used grade of system installed in dwellings.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the subsequent Hackitt Report published in the wake of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, it’s clear that the entire construction industry is undergoing a wholesale review of its practices. As part of this review, competence has rightly become a clear factor that must be suitably considered.

Indeed, BS Flex 8670 in its current form (v.3) is a new standard that deals with core criteria for building safety in competence frameworks. Treating competence as a core requirement will naturally impact all aspects of work, including the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems conforming to BS 5839-6.

Each year, the Fire and Rescue Services of each of the home nations produce data relating to the incidents they’ve attended. The data for England is published by the Home Office and the figures detailed are reflected throughout the rest of the UK.

This data highlights a number of key features. For instance, smoke alarms work in reducing the risk of death or injury. Further, the number of fire-related fatalities per million is higher for men and older people. Of the 243 fatalities in England in 2019-2020, 199 occurred in dwellings (in Scotland there were 21 fatalities in dwellings in a similar timeframe). Also, 21% of mains-powered smoke alarms and 37% of battery-powered smoke alarms fail.

Historical data

Looking at historical data, the failure rate of mains-powered and battery-powered alarms has remained stubbornly set at the percentages stated above (ie 21% and 37% respectively). There are many reasons for this, including (among other things) fire not being covered by the system, a fault in the system or incorrect installation and defective/missing batteries.

At the heart of many of these issues is a failure to give due consideration to an appropriate risk assessment within domestic premises, inadequate design, an inappropriate choice of alarms, poor positioning of those alarms and poor maintenance regimes.

While many electricians will be familiar with the installation of smoke and heat alarms within a domestic premises, too many will be less familiar with the specific recommendations of BS 5839-6 for fire detection and fire alarm systems. Too often, the electrical contractor complies with the minimum recommendation detailed within local guidance – such as Approved Document B in England and Wales and the Technical Handbook in Scotland – and fails to account for specific risks within a dwelling when deciding upon the grade and category of system.

For landlords and those having responsibility for fire detection and fire alarm systems, guidance is equally necessary as they need to satisfy themselves that they’re in complete compliance with relevant standards and legislation.

Practical guide

Authored by Tim Benstead MSc MIET MCIBSE Bed (Hons), ‘The Practical Guide to Grade D Fire Alarm Systems’ supports electrical contractors and, indeed, all those involved with fire safety in dwellings when it comes to understanding their roles and responsibilities.

The book covers the nature of fire and fire spread, fire risk assessments, competence, design, installation, commissioning and certification, maintenance and servicing procedures transacted by competent persons.

Benstead (pictured, right) was the former principal technical author/engineer with Certsure LLP (operating the NICEIC) and was responsible for all of the books and Connections articles produced as well as the Technical Manual. He writes with credibility and insight about the key issues raised within the industry.

Currently the chair of JPEL64/B, Benstead is a member of JPEL64 and has been a member of FSH12 and FSH12/1 (the British Standards Institution committee responsible for BS 5839-1 and BS 5839-6) for more than 15 years. He’s also a member of FSH17, the committee responsible for the production of BS 8629 that deals with emergency evacuation systems.

*‘The Practical Guide to Grade D Fire Alarm Systems’ is distributed via www.docs-store.co.uk and is available through major electrical wholesalers