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It is a Victorian building converted in the 1970s to 11 Flats.  There is one fire exit route.

We have a fire alarm and sounders.  These can't be heard in individual flats  (not much use !)  Are we legally required to have a system that is audible ?  Does the fact that we have a system which does not alert individual flat owners affected responsibilities ?

The building is managed by Residents Management Company. 

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If you can't hear it there is no point in having it. If the construction is such that the fire resistance for a 'stay put' policy (only the flat on fire has to evacuate) is not present and/or the associated smoke control provisions are also missing then a simultaneous evacuation policy is required necessitating at least a heat detector and sounder off the common system in each flat's internal lobby in order to:

- Detect a fire in a flat where the occupiers are not in (or are dead!) before it breaches the limited compartmentation and affects other flats and the common escape

- Provide 80dB at the bedroom door in each flat so as to be able to wake sleeping occupiers so they can evacuate before being trapped

Life safety for the flat where the fire occurs is provided by separate domestic smoke alarms (so that inevitable cooking false alarms don't disturb the whole block)

If your conversion provided the same fire resistance as if it was purpose built then you don't need a common fire alarm at all. You only need common detection (no sounders or call points) in this case if there are automatic smoke vents to the common stairs and lobbies.

You need a decent Fire Risk Assessment to determine which way your property needs to go.


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Further to what AB has said, yes Residents Management Company does have a legal responsibility, to fit a fire alarm if necessary and it must be fit for purpose. The guidance for installing a fire alarm is BS 5839 part 6 which includes a section on audibility and if it cannot be heard by all relevant persons, it is as useful as a concrete parachute.  

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