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Fire Alarms in maisonettes above library premises.

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I was called out by an owner of a maisonette who rents his property out to have a look at the fire detection within the property and make recommendations. Firstly I am not 100% conversant with fire alarms to be honest.

There are a row of 5 maisonettes above a single storey library, access is via a rea staircase onto an open deck. The property was purpose built no roof voids and full compartmentation between library and flats and between flats exists. All internal doors are original fire doors with intumescent strips and seals to frames and perko closers which work!

When the property was built back in 1992 a full fire alarm system was installed linking both the library and the flats as a whole. Sometime back in 2010 the fire alarm was split into two panels one serving the library and one serving the flats with no communication of such to the leaseholders at the time.

The flats still have the original manual call points by the front doors (can't understand why these were installed) smoke detection in each hall and heat in kitchen with bells which are linked to each flat so if one flat at the end of the row sets there alarm off all of the flats bells start ringing, no signal is sent to the library. Whilst if the alarm goes off in the library all the flats are alerted via their system.

If the alarms go off in the flats at the moment one of the residents has access to the panel and can silence and reset which is a ludicrous position to be in as the useless managing agents of the flats are not clued up on what is required.

Both systems are managed and serviced by two different providers which makes it difficult as no one talks to each other regarding the installations. From the information I have managed to gather so far the library system is managed by the council whilst the flats system is managed by the managing agent.

The owner has been pursuing this for a number of years and getting nowhere, he has had some involvement with the local FRS but they don't appear to have offered any assistance or advice.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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The site needs a fire risk assessment to sort this out by a fire safety specialist with additional training in & experience of residential FRAs.(Legally it should have had one for 18 years now in any case!)

The current arrangement is one for a simultaneous evacuation usually required when one or more of the following is in place:
- Inadequate fire separation between commercial & residential uses (but you say it's OK)

- Shared escape between commercial & residential uses (but you say it's separate)

- Inadequate fire separation between flats &/or flats & common parts (but you say it's OK)

- Inadequate or no smoke control (but it's an open deck!)

- External Wall System High Risk (unlikely for size of building)

It seems (& this wouldn't be the first time this has happened) it has got a fire alarm system that it doesn't need nor ads any useful additional benefit and just costs everyone money and the premises may be acceptable with no common system and a 'stay put unless affected' approach.

I can't of course be 100% unless I've been and done the FRA - where in the UK is the property?


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Hi Anthony, thanks for the reply.

Yes I agree with the current set up it should be simultaneous evacuation, I am guessing that when it was built by the local authority it was a belt and braces decision to cover the whole site with a linked fire alarm system. I can only assume that when the flats where sold leasehold a number of years ago they decided to split the system in two without thinking about the ramifications further down the line.

I am waiting for the managing agents FRA on the communal area and will also see if I can get a copy of the libraries FRA to see if there are any underlying issues as to why the alarm was installed in the way it has been.

With the low risk in my opinion I would certainly look to remove the interlinked system between the flats as like you have said it doesn't add any additional benefits.

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