Which category or grade of fire alarm do you need?

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As a property owner, you know the importance of having a fire safety system in place. When it comes to your business premises, you have both a responsibility and liability to have the correct measures and processes in place to adequately protect your employees and assets in the event of a fire.

There should be absolutely no compromise when it comes to fire safety equipment in your business – and the law says so too. As with most regulations, it can be difficult to navigate your responsibilities and what you need to have in place to remain compliant. With that in mind, here’s a quick fire guide to what you need to know about fire alarm and fire safety categories and grades.


The law

Under the catchily-named Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) October 2005, as a business you are required to carry out necessary fire risk assessments and protect against the death and injury of employees and “relevant persons” (i.e. customers, visitors) in the event of a fire. This doesn’t stipulate a fire detection system of any particular kind, but a fire detection or fire safety system will help you fulfil your requirements under the regulations.


BS 5839-1

BS 5839-1 is the British Standard for fire detection and alarm systems for non-domestic premises. UK law states that all business premises must have an “appropriate fire detection system”, and recommends that they are installed against the BS 5839 code of practice. Under the code of practice, there are a number of categories and grades which apply to different types of businesses, related to the level of protection and the complexity of the system requirements.


What are the fire detection system categories?

Under the BS 5839 for domestic premises and dwellings, there are 6 grades F-A, and 3 categories which identify the complexity and level of protection for fire detection systems. For non-domestic premises, i.e. businesses, they are categorised slightly differently.

At the highest level, they are categorised as:

M – manual systems – the building is fitted with call points and sounders, but no automatic fire detectors

L – automatic systems for the protection of life

P – automatic systems for the protection of property

It’s quite common for businesses, particularly within large premises or those who operate on multiple premises, to use a mixture of systems which fit into all three of the categories. Which category of system you need to install will depend on the results of a fire risk assessment.


Category L systems focus on escape routes and areas of the building with the biggest fire risk. Within category L, there are a further 5 categories:

  • L5 – systems designed to satisfy a specific fire safety objective
  • L4 – a system installed within escape routes such as corridors and stairways
  • L3 – L4 plus automatic detection in rooms connected to escape routes
  • L2 – L3 plus automatic detection installed in defined parts of the building
  • L1 – the top tier of protection, where systems are installed in all parts of the building

Category P systems focus on the protection of property, and so are usually stipulated as part of insurance cover. Within category P, there are 2 categories:

  • P2 – automatic system installed in high-risk areas
  • P1 – automatic system installed throughout the premises

If you’re paying attention, you’ll no doubt realise that a system which ranks on the L category scale will also satisfy the requirements of the P scale too. It’s also very common for businesses to use a mixture of manual and automatic detection, with automatic detectors and more sophisticated systems being used in higher risk areas.


Help is at hand

As any with any regulations or standards, it can seem like an insurmountable task to navigate them and get to the bottom of your responsibilities. Century Secure Group UK Ltd have been supplying fire detection and safety systems to businesses for nearly 20 years. We can help you ensure compliance and safety by carrying out a risk assessment, recommending and installing the right fire detection system for your needs. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch.

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