Dr.. Zeus Q&A: Should all fire alarm systems have a zone plan?


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Dr. Zzeus, Tom Brookes, MD at Zzeus Training and chair of the FSA, answers your questions regarding fire safety compliance. Q: Should all fire alarm and detection systems have a zone chart and zone indicator lights? I’ll start with the short answer: the standard is clear and states that in or next to a fire control device and equipment (fire panel) must be a schematic representation of a properly oriented building. This should contain all building entrances and circulation spaces and be divided into zones. It can be lighted or printed plan. Now for the long answer: The British Standards Committee for BS5839-1 is FSH 12 and we have studied area plans and area lights many times over the years. We usually go back to the Rosepark Care home fire in 2004 in which 14 elderly people died. Subsequent investigation highlighted that if the nursing home had an area plan close to fire control and indicated equipment (instead of an area list) some, if not all, residents could have been saved. These 14 lives were lost because the owner and the fire brigade decided not to install the area plan. As a result of the Rosepark query, BS5839-1 now emphasizes the importance of an area plan in several clauses throughout the BS5839-1 document, so there is no excuse for not having an area plan. Each fire control panel should contain zone indicators and zone plan, and if one is missing, the other has little value. The advantages of an addressable system and its text display, for people familiar with buildings and the operation of a fire alarm control panel, are universally accepted for locating a fire within a building. However, often, when a fire occurs, the building may be unoccupied, or those attending the activation – such as the key holder or the fire service – may not be familiar with the building and the names given to the areas or rooms within it. Area indicators provide fast, immediate information to those who respond to the warning signal, especially firefighters who may need to make a very quick decision based on that information. The layout of the building is useful for firefighters in directing and determining the path to the fire source detection area. The area plan is often the only plan the firefighters present for the building have on arrival. Zone indicator lights and zone plan can provide firefighters with information regarding the spread of the fire. Another problem that fire alarm engineers do not always think of is that a firefighter who attends a fire and looks at the control panel may not know which buttons to press to scroll through the digital display and it is not feasible to train all firefighters on all firefighting panels. Hence to help find the location of the active detector, it is imperative that you have a properly oriented area plan near the fire control panel. Another recommendation that came from the Rosepark fire was that, as building occupants are likely to need help from staff to evacuate the building (residential care buildings and hospitals), a fire detection and fire alarm system should be routable if the building has facilities for sleeping more than ten Persons. Do you have a question you’d like Tom to answer? Email your inquiries to: [email protected] Additionally, get more details on Zzeus training and the range of courses on offer by clicking here


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