Can I install downlights, ducted air conditioning, ceiling exhaust fans or manholes in my unit ceiling?
Well yes… but you need to be very careful if your ceiling designed to have a “resistance to the incipient spread of fire to the roof space for a period of not less than 60 minutes”.
Fire rated ceilings are an fire safety measure, designed to slow the spread of fire from one part of the building to another.
In an emergency situation emergency lights should run on their backup battery for at least 90-minutes. Australian Standards require that exit & emergency lights be tested every 6 months. Exit and emergency lights have a shorter lifespan when compared to non-emergency lights.
Preventing false alarms & faults on FIPs
False alarms are a nuisance!
- They divert fire and rescue from dealing with genuine emergencies.
- They create complacency, making residents themselves less likely to respond quickly in a genuine emergency
- They cost money!
We call them ‘false alarms’ because there is no real threat of a fire, but most of the time there is a genuine reason for the alarm – the smoke detector has done its job – it has activated when it has sensed smoke (or something that appears to be smoke).
According the FRNSW, the main causes of false alarms are:
- Poor ventilation
- Burnt toast
- Cooking fumes
- Aerosol sprays
- Cigarettes and candles
- Tradespeople and cleaners
- Dust in the air
- Dirty smoke detectors
- Damage to ‘break glass alarms’ or ‘manual call points’
- System malfunction
- Poorly maintained systems
- Insufficient maintenance frequency in harsh environments
- Insect infestation
There are there are 2 peak times for false alarms – during the morning (700am-900am), and during the evening (600pm-800pm). False alarms are least likely to occur when most people are sleeping (1100pm – 600am). What does this tell us? False alarms are usually the result of human behaviour!
So what can be done to reduce the occurrence of false alarm?
1. Educate residents & occupants
- Do not leave cooking unattended (including the toaster).
- Do not smoke indoors.
- Do not use aerosol sprays near smoke detectors.
- Do not intentionally interfere with the fire detection system.
- Doors to kitchen areas should not be wedged or otherwise held open, since this may permit cooking fumes to permeate beyond the kitchen and activate nearby automatic smoke detection. In addition, this practice may increase the fire risk to occupants and contravene fire safety legislation.
- Ensure any fans, vents, and if possible windows, are open before cooking or showering
2. Ensure tradespeople working in the building have the fire detection system isolated.
- Carpet laying, pressure cleaning, plastering, painting, building – these common activities produce small airborne particles which can activate smoke detectors. Competent tradespeople usually organize to have the fire detection system isolated if they believe their work will impact the system.
- In the case of minor works, ensuring adequate ventilation may be sufficient to avoid false alarms.
3. Ensure fire detection system is well maintained.
- The fire detection system will only be effective if it is maintained by a competent person. Poor maintenance will result in false alarms.
- Regular cleaning (light dusting) is recommended & insects – particularly in the summer months – should be monitored.
4. Ensure the fire-detection system is appropriate for the building, or its location in the building
- Could a smoke detector be changed to a heat detector near a kitchen, or in a plant room?
A well-designed fire detection system is essential in preventing false alarms! Occasionally, we come across very poorly designed fire detection systems, where too many, or the wrong type of detectors have been installed. These buildings experience high levels of false alarms, and sadly, not much can be done without spending a lot of money to remedy the initial design & install.
5. Ensure the causes of false alarms is identified & remedied.
- Modern fire detection systems allow fire contractors to identify the source of the alarm.
- A one-off false alarm is to be expected from time-to-time, but repeat or persistent false alarms may require formal approach to identify the cause.
- In the case of persistent alarms from a single source, a faulty or aging device may need to be replaced.
Preventing faults on FIP
A fault is not an alarm. A fault is the system identifying an abnormal condition.
Faults are usually indicated by a fault light on the FIP, sometimes accompanied by a description on the LCD screen of the FIP. In some instances, the FIP will produce a buzzing or beeping sound.
Removing, or interfering with any device on the system will cause a fault. A large number of faults are caused by individuals unclipping detectors from the roof without knowing that such actions trigger fault conditions at the fire panel.
Residents & tradespeople working in the building are strong advised not to touch any device forming part of the system.A large number of faults are triggered by
Rectifying faults can be expensive, as it generally involves fire maintenance contractor attendance.
Some panels have no means of storing data of exactly what detector triggered an alarm. And as such when the panel is reset there is often no means of knowing which detector is the faulty one causing repeat alarms. These are called conventional panels. If a building has a series of false alarms, the only way of confirming where the false alarms originated is for a resident to inform the fire contractor of the exact location of the faulty detector OR for the fire brigade to leave the detector in alarm and zone isolated and call in the contractor for rectification.
Managing faults and false alarms on conventional systems can be more disruptive, costly and more labour intensive than adressable systems that have the ability to track and store data of where alarms and most faults originate from.
These systems are prone to faults as they are relying on batteries with limited lifespans and wirelessly communicated transmission paths throughout a premises to operate.
Having an active member of the commitee able to replace batteries and reset the fire panel system can be a means of reducing the ongoing maintenance cost of such systems.
Owners of such systems should also budget for a more regular replacement routine of detectors when compared to a fully wired system. The individual detectors have a much shorter expected life span when compared to many wired smoke detector products.
Undertaking annual battery replacements to help prevent faults occuring can lead to lower overall maintenace costs rather than awaiting a fault occuring on the panel and calling out a fire technician to rectify on a case by case basis.
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I don’t think we’ve had contractors come through before who were so clean and tidy, helpful and responsive with ideas about how to better maintain the heritage and be compliant and generally respectful of the property.
He was so thoughtful, he stopped the really noisy part of the repair so I could answer calls. I went out at lunch, and he was on his hands and knees washing the floor in the entry because he’d brought in some debris from the street.
People are very quick to complain but slow to compliment so I just wanted to say thank you for your prompt service.