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Monarch Fire News

Why use a fire alarm company to install your fire alarm?

I know this may be a strange question but it is one that is asked quite often, electrical companies claim they can install a fire alarm system just as well as a specialist fire alarm company and some can don't get me wrong but unfortunately some can't. So what are the benefits of using a dedicated fire alarm company over the local electrician?

An example of how it can go wrong

Low cost fire alarm
To explain let me give you an example of a project recently done in our local area, a company had there building renovated during these renovations the architect specified that emergency lighting and a fire alarm to be installed, the project manager then told the electricians that these were needed. The architect had put on the drawings locations for detectors and lights and the electricians followed the drawings supplied. The client then had a visit from the authorities to check the site and they ordered a full fire risk assessment be carried out, this then highlighted some issues caused by not using the dedicated alarm company.

So what were the findings

Firstly the design was done by the architect who was not qualified and accredited by a third party for designing fire alarm systems as required under BS5839 and as the Fire Reform Act refers to this British Standard he did not comply. The installers who were the electricians did not supply installation certificates, the system was not commissioned so there were no commissioning certificate and the client never had the alarm handed over so no acceptance certificate. The lack of certification, or as we call it The Paper Trail, caused the client to have to call in a qualified company to then carry out the tests required to issue the certificates, the added costs of this increased the overall costs above that of the original quote from the fire alarm company, luckily the alarm could be added to quite easily so that it did cover the areas missed in the original drawings. The panel supplied by electricians tend to be a lower cost unit, they are not as reliable as those sold within the fire alarm industry. The manufacturers of the more specialist fire alarm systems do not sell them to companies that are not approved to work to BS5839 so most electricians are restricted to purchasing from wholesalers, a very important point here is most fire alarm manufacturers give a 3 year warranty but most electricians can only off 12 months and these warranties are subject to service schedules in accordance with BS5839.

Is this a common Problem?

Another very similar case was found a few days ago when we visited one of our clients, they again used a project manager to oversee the refurbishment of there business premises, upon a service is it we noticed an issue with the fire alarm, adjacent the panel should be a fused switch to isolate the power from the panel, the panel is mounted in a common area of the building as it needed to be accessed by other occupants. The electricians had wired it directly to the fuse board which was in the clients private area and as such not available in the event of an incident out of there operational hours. Again there were no drawings or certificates, no handbook had been given either, the client had to go on the Internet to find out how to stop the alarm from going off. In addition to the alarm the emergency lights have been installed, unfortunately the designer did not take into consideration the testing of these lights, a discharge test is required annually and this test lasts 3 hours, no test switches have been fitted so the only way to test is turn off the main lighting power for the duration of the test, this means the company can't test during normal operating hours, fitting test switches at time of install would have cost pennies but to retrofit will cost pounds. The simple addition of the test switches would mean testing can be done with no inconvenience caused to the client.

Why should you use a specialist company?

Well first thing is you will get your certification as required by the fire reform act, most of the time the equipment installed will be a higher quality than that purchased from an electrical wholesaler and using the kit we supply as an example would carry a 3 year defect warranty as opposed to a single year if you are lucky. You also get the back up of knowing that you will pass your inspections first time. In addition as qualified companies tend to use equipment supplied by the higher end manufacturers the equipment is normally a higher quality but not that much more expensive as we buy direct from manufacturer so no middle man involved with the sale so no additional mark up.

Will it cost more to use a specialist Fire Alarm Company.

Costs to use a specialist company is sometimes more than the electrician but can normally be offset by the backup and extended warranties given. In addition your options are normally reduced as they will have limited access to manufacturers so you would not normally be given the option of Wireless Fire Alarms, these are a specialist area but the equipment is high quality, the additional costs are offset by the reduction in cost for labour and cable costs. So if you are looking to install a new fire alarm or upgrade the one you have think about employing a dedicated fire specialist, ask the architect and project managers to confirm that they will actually be using a company that is working to the fire reform act and is qualified in accordance with BS5839. These questions will save you money in the end.

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