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Richard James

Installing fire detection gear in Commercial office

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Hi, I've bought an office - two floors approx 1700sqft overall. At the moment it has two large rooms and one smaller one, plus staircase and 2 small toilets.

I have tenants going in but they intend to install partitioning etc and rework the internals.

I gather that they are the Responsible person as regards maintaining fire systems, extinguishers etc as there are no communal areas.

I'm confused about fire detection equipment however and have read conflicting information. I don't see how we can install a system and assess risk if we don't know how they are going to lay out the offices, how many people will be in there etc.

My original intention was to install mains linked smoke alarms in each room, and then legislate in the lease for them to undertake to assess risk dependent on their use and update as required. But a Fire alarm company has come in and told me I need to install a fire panel and various detectors, manual panels etc at a cost of over £3000.

I'd be grateful for any advice as to whether mains linked will suffice and then my approach above re: lease is OK.

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As an office the minimum requirement, both under Building Regulations, Government fire safety guidance and the commercial fire alarm standard BS5839-1 is a Category M fire alarm system with a control panel, alarm sounders and break glass manual call points. Only if desired for property protection (in which case the alarm would need monitoring) or if there is an unusual layout affecting means of escape (e.g. an Inner room) would detection be required and even then not in every room or stair.

As a landlord providing a Category M system meets your obligations and the tenant's fit out and desire for property protection should determine if they need to or wish to add detection - in which case they should pay the cost of the additions which should be to the main system (not adding separate equipment).

The cost of a proper fire alarm system can be reduced by specifying a twinwire system (such as Alarmsense) as instead of there having to be separate cabling for callpoints/detectors and for sounders you can put call points/detectors/sounders on the same cabling.

Mains smoke alarms are for BS5839-6 systems in dwellings and are not intended for commercial premises (No call points, no fault monitoring, no fire resistant cabling, etc)

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