Fire Safety, Smart Home

Interlink Fire Alarms – What’s The Connection?

Standalone alarms are quite limited in the surrounding areas that they can detect, and the distance their sound can travel. As a result, tenants may not always hear the alarm unless they’re close by. This is a cause for concern, especially in light of a recent BBC News study which found that a staggering 27 out of 34 children will sleep through smoke detector alarms.

In order to safeguard tenants, it’s vital to install an interconnected system. This triggers all alarms to sound when one detects a problem, so alerting all the occupants throughout the house – no matter where they are. Additionally, specialist products can be installed in the system. For instance, it’s possible to install a low frequency sounder, which is much more likely to wake high-risk individuals (such as children), those with mild to moderate hearing loss, or those under the influence of alcohol.

As defined in Buildings Regulations Document B, new residential buildings, conversions or houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) require a mains-powered interlinked smoke alarm with a dedicated battery backup supply. With this in mind, it’s imperative that landlords work to implement these interconnected alarm systems in order to provide the highest levels of fire and CO protection for tenants.

Interlinked alarm products

Residential alarms can be hardwired interlinked, with wires physically connecting each alarm, or they can be interlinked wirelessly with radio frequency (RF) technology; a quicker and much less destructive process.

When a Wi-Safe 2 network of products is installed, the resulting “meshed network” of heat, smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors is continuously communicating via wireless signals. This means a faster and wider-spread reaction if any problem is detected.

Furthermore, in interconnected systems such as SONA by FireAngel, the sound of all the alarms will mimic the specific pattern of the triggering alarm. So, for instance, if a CO alarm activates, all the smoke alarms will mimic its sound pattern and vice versa. This allows occupants to identify the type of alarm and act accordingly e.g. evacuating the premises in and calling 999 in a fire alarm, or opening all the doors and windows and calling the Gas Emergency Service in a carbon monoxide alarm.

A tenant can also locate the original sounding alarm by pressing one of the interconnected alarms, or by using the control unit’s ‘locate function’.

Creating a radio frequency network

For those wishing to implement multiple alarms – such as asset managers, specifiers or commissioning engineers – it is important to note that a maximum of 50 alarms with the Wi-Safe 2 logo can be interlinked on a single network.

These can be a mixture of battery powered, hardwired, or hardwired with a battery backup, e.g. a SONA mains alarm will link with a FireAngel battery smoke alarm. Installing mixed system alarms gives a great deal of adaptability to suit the needs of the property, but is still subject to local regulations and guidance. It is also possible to connect a Wi-Safe 2 enabled alarm to a pre-existing hard-wired network.

For a free guide on specifying and installing FireAngel products (with a section on Wi-Safe 2) please see the following:

Interconnected alarms in social housing

As quoted in the BS5839 part 6 2004, “In the United Kingdom, around 80 % of all fire deaths and injuries occur in dwellings, a total of 450 to 500 deaths and around 14000 injuries per annum.”

Having a fire in the home can have disastrous consequences, so it is important to invest in the best preventative measures possible, especially if tenants are living alone, or are a high risk individual.

Given that social housing accommodates a high proportion of vulnerable tenants – including those who are elderly, living with a disability, or have dementia – it’s crucial to provide the highest level of protection possible. By using an interlinked system, tenants will be better-able to detect and react to an alarm. For instance, if a normal sounding alarm is not appropriate, then the system can incorporate products aligned to their specific needs, such as low-frequency sounders, strobes and vibrating pads.

To see a full list of products, see our fire safety measures for adults at risk blog post.

Installing and testing Wi-Safe 2 alarms

Using Wi-Safe 2 products greatly simplifies the installation process, as all the products can be linked together in a matter of seconds with a simple two-touch connection process.

Radio- frequency alarms therefore greatly reduce the mess compared to  hard-wiring a connected system. Furthermore, when an alarm is connected to the mains power for electricity, the nearest lighting circuit is normally used – another way of keeping disruption to a minimum.

By adding an alarm control unit to a Wi-Safe 2 network (with at least one SONA Wi-Safe enabled alarm), this also greatly facilitates the testing process. There is no need for a physical test – which may require standing on a ladder, or similar – so that alarms can be tested, silenced or located from any part of the home. This feature can be very valuable to vulnerable tenants, whilst greatly reducing the time taken to individually test standalone alarms.

Here is another video illustrating how easy Wi-Safe 2 products are to install at home, in addition to linking alarms with specialised technology for vulnerable tenants (e.g. strobe and vibrating pad)

Costs of a wireless interlinking system

The costs involved in any system will depend on how much work is required, the number and types of units required and labour time involved. However, given that heat, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can all be wirelessly interconnected, this will be quicker and less destructive than the hardwired alternative, saving contractors both time and money.

Once implemented, different fire alarm systems will also have varying energy usage and running costs. As all SONA by FireAngel smoke and heat alarms have extremely low energy usage and running cost (on average less than 10% of other AC alarms!) this will help lower energy costs for tenants, contributing in a small way to more affordable housing.

To find out more about fire safety legislation, interlinking alarms and best practice in social housing, download our free eBook below!

Additionally, if you are a landlord wishing to check the level of fire safety in the rental accommodation, you can download our free Checklist For Landlords here.