WES Blog


How to specify a fire alarm system for a construction site?

In our latest blog, we look at the five important factors that need to be considered when specifying a fire alarm system for a construction site.

Fire remains one of the greatest dangers to life on construction sites. According to the Home Office, there are around 11 fires on UK construction sites each day, equating to around 104,000 each year. The safety record of the construction sector has improved significantly over the past decade, although the rates of death and serious injury remains one of the highest of any industry.

This blog offers guidance to all those who have a role in the development, management and implementation of fire safety standards on construction sites.

1. What type of fire alarm system should I use?

At first glance, specifying a fire alarm system for a construction site would appear to be relatively straightforward. The end goal is clear; to get all people to safety in the event of a fire in the most efficient manner. However, unlike a completed building, which will have a fire alarm system built into the management system, a construction site does not.

That’s because one of the challenges of using a fire alarm system on a construction site is that it changes on a daily basis. For example, new floors, walls, boarding out or plastering makes it extremely difficult to use a wired system because of the need for constant repositioning the wires and call points.

When choosing a fire alarm system there are several significant benefits to selecting one that has been specifically developed for the construction industry. When we were developing our fire alarm system we went as far as collaborating with several of the top 100 UK construction companies to ensure that we incorporated features that made it user-friendly, practical and reliable to use on site.

2. What standards do fire alarm system need to comply with?

The Fire Protection Association’s (FPA) 9th edition of The Joint Code of Practice (JCOP) reinforces the need for construction site fire alarm systems to meet BS EN54. Version 9 of JCOP now contains the advice: Components of automatic fire detection and alarm systems should be marked as complying with EN 54 (paragraph 13.8).

It is worth remembering that not all wireless emergency systems are the same – to comply with EN54, the complete unit – and every unit in the system including base station, fire call point or smoke and heat detection unit – should have been tested to the relevant part of EN54. If in doubt, ask your supplier for the Declaration of Performance to see what has been tested.

Our WES+ fire alarm system has been independently tested and verified to all relevant sections of the EN54 standard. It is also compliant with key safety standards such as HSG168, the Structural Timber Association Guidelines, and the Fire Protection Association Joint Code of Practice.

3. What are the benefits of a wireless fire alarm system?

The principal benefit of using a wireless fire alarm system compared to a wired version is that it is very easy to reposition the call points as building work progresses. That makes placing the fire alarm call points, active heat detectors and smoke detectors a much more efficient process. In a nutshell, there are no trailing wires, which require specialist trades such as electricians, and could cause a trip or other safety hazard, such a cutting or drilling into them.

Another issue with a wired fire alarm systems is that it can prevent your subcontractors closing up elements of the build. For instance, each element of the construction project requires a hard-wired system and then, when it is ready for the next phase, such as boarding out and plastered, the wired system would have to be dismantled, work carried out and then the wires reinstalled! We know contractors that have used both wired and wireless fire alarms and there’s no comparison – wireless wins hands down, every time!

4. Should we choose a battery-powered fire alarm system?

Advances in battery performance and longevity means that wireless fire alarm systems are a really practical and safe choice for construction sites. WES+ is a battery operated system and has been tested to 3+ years, which has the added benefit of keeping replacement costs and waste to a minimum.

5. How do I reduce the risk of arson on site?

Arson is a growing threat for the construction sector and Zurich Insurance estimates that it accounts for 40 percent of all fires at a
cost of £400 million per year. Many of these occur out of working hours, when there are no people on site, meaning a greater potential for it to go undetected and spread to nearby occupied buildings.

As a result, more customers are specifying heat or smoke detection units as part of our WES+ wireless fire alarm system. These provide automatic cover 24/7, ensuring that the site is protected even when personnel are not present. During the day, manual call points, installed on site in accordance with the project’s Fire Plan, and interlinked to create a completely secure mesh network so that all areas receive the same audible and visual alert signal, can be manually triggered by personnel from any call point.

EN 54 compliant wireless fire alarm systems set the benchmark when it comes to protecting personnel and assets on construction sites, and all the other considerations then fall in behind this. Over the last 25 years, we’ve seen more construction companies willing to invest in this kind of technology and in doing so they demonstrate that they place safety and protection of life and property above all else.

To ensure your site has the best possible protection for workers and assets, whilst complying with the new EN54 standard, call the WES+ helpline on 00 44 (0) 115 822 3424.