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What does BS 5839-1 mean for a building manager?

Did you know that the BS 5839-1 fire alarm standards emphasize not just the technical aspects of fire alarm systems, but also the competence of maintenance company, record-keeping, and adherence to manufacturers' instructions? This focus ensures that fire alarm systems are not only installed according to high standards but are also maintained effectively to remain reliable over time.

According to BS 5839-1, the building manager or a specifically appointed "responsible person" bears the essential duty to ensure adherence to fire safety standards. This includes overseeing the proper installation, activation, and upkeep of fire alarm systems within the premises.

Moreover, BS 5839 provides nuanced guidance on the selection of fire alarm system categories based on a comprehensive fire risk assessment rather than a rigid application of rules. This allows for a more tailored approach to fire safety, reflecting the unique needs of different premises​​. The standards also delve into specific requirements for wiring and cabling to ensure that fire alarm systems can operate effectively even under the dire conditions of a fire, preventing signal degradation and ensuring timely alerts​​.

fire engineer installing the fire alarm system cables

What does that mean for a building manager?

Under BS 5839-1, the primary responsibility for compliance with fire safety standards, including the installation, commissioning, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, falls on the building manager or the designated "responsible person" for the premises. This responsibility encompasses ensuring that the fire alarm system is designed, installed, and maintained by qualified and competent personnel, typically from companies that are accredited by recognized bodies such as BAFE and members of the Fire Industry Association​​​​​​.

This means that while the fire alarm company plays a crucial role in providing expert services that comply with BS 5839-1 standards, the ultimate legal responsibility for ensuring that the fire alarm system is compliant and functions correctly rests with the building manager. The building manager must ensure that the chosen fire alarm company has the appropriate insurances, certifications, and references to undertake the work required to meet BS 5839-1 standards. This includes conducting fire risk assessments, designing the appropriate fire alarm system category for the building, and implementing the necessary installation and maintenance procedures​​​​​​.

In essence, while the fire alarm company must perform its duties competently and in accordance with BS 5839-1, it is the building manager who must verify the company's qualifications and ensure ongoing compliance with the standard, thus bearing the legal responsibility for non-compliance.

What is the best approach?

Opting for a reputable fire alarm company is the most effective strategy.

Building managers must carefully adhere to BS 5839-1 standards, which necessitate contracting a certified fire alarm company. This isn't merely a matter of preference but a legal obligation, with significant risks involved for non-compliance. A "qualified" company, in this context, refers to one that has passed rigorous evaluations by the BAFE registry and holds membership in the Fire Industry Association. This ensures that the fire alarm system is installed and maintained by professionals recognized for their expertise and reliability in the field.

Ensure a dedicated account manager is assigned to efficiently handle all aspects of your system's needs. This is non-negotiable - avoid any company that isn't intimately familiar with your building or cuts corners. Choose company which offers communication with an engineer rather than a salesperson. The safety of your building cannot be underestimated.

bs5839-1 what does it mean for a building manager infographic



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