Workplace fire detection: early warning is key

Issue 3 2022 Fire & Safety

Workplace fire detection systems should be correctly installed and regularly tested to ensure they provide proper cover. If they are working optimally, they will help your staff members safely escape any flames and ideally alert you to a small fire long before it has chance to grow into a dangerous inferno.

“The sooner any fire is detected, the more time people have to get out of harm’s way,” says Andrew Worthington, general manager: Fidelity Fire Solutions, a division of the Fidelity Services Group. “A growing fire can potentially end up blocking any available escape routes, which makes early detection crucial. This is especially relevant for larger multi-storey buildings where there could be many hidden places a fire could start, undetected by the human eye.”

Worthington noted that the fire detection system should be installed to the design and safety standard relevant to the environment it is meant to protect, ensuring adequate cover across the entire building, without leaving any unprotected areas.

It is also important to consider the category of detection system required based on the nature of the building involved, as well as what is being protected, be this life or property. A heat detector, for example, could prove more effective than a smoke detector in dusty areas or in premises that are laden with fumes.

The next step is to make sure the detectors are connected to an early warning system that alerts anyone inside the building, or who is calling for help from emergency services.

“Factories or industrial premises could choose an electronic alert system that raises an alarm, while public premises such as shopping malls or hotels may choose a voice prompt system that encourages people to evacuate. This voice system is also useful in bigger buildings where a phased evacuation process could be required,” says Worthington.

Testing and maintenance are two critical elements on which any fire protection and detection plan is built. Worthington says no matter what type of detectors and alerts have been installed, it is recommended that it be tested as often as possible.

Workplace safety regulations also have specific regulatory requirements for certain industries on how often the systems need to be tested and the level of record keeping that is required on such maintenance and testing.

“Instead of doing it yourself, rather get an authorised and experienced service provider to test your fire detection system. They can also assist in giving expert advice on any changes you should consider implementing.”

There are useful questions to ask that can guide you on putting the best possible system in place for your unique needs:

• What do industry regulations say about the frequency for testing a fire detection system for your type of work, and do you meet this requirement?

• Have you empowered your staff with the information they need to check the system regularly and properly?

• If the system is tested by external parties, are they qualified and experienced to do the testing and to give you advice on fixing any problems?

• Does the system you installed give enough warning for anyone on your property to escape to safety in case a fire breaks out?

• Does everyone on the property understand what to do when a fire alarm is activated?

• Have you put a manual system in place for raising the alarm and do your employees understand how to use the system in case they see a fire?

• Do you do regular evacuation drills to ensure staff are aware of evacuation routes and protocols?

For more information contact Fidelity Services Group, [email protected], www.fidelity-services.com / www.adt.co.za




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