CO Advice, Fire Safety

Interlinked alarms: The future of fire and carbon monoxide safety

Andy Greenhorn, FireAngel’s Northern Regional Sales Manager for Scotland and Ireland, explores how interlinked alarm systems can be utilised to achieve the highest standards of protection.

With just a few months left to achieve compliance with the Scottish Government’s new Tolerable Standard, our Northern Regional Sales Manager, Andy Greenhorn, explores why interlinked alarm systems should be proactively installed not only throughout Scotland, but the entire United Kingdom.

What are the requirements of the new Scottish Tolerable Standard?

Interlinked alarms

The updated Tolerable Standard provides a dedicated framework that outlines the minimum requirement of fire, smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) protection for Scottish homes. Whilst private rented and new-build homes must already meet these standards, from February 2022, the legislation will apply to every home in Scotland, regardless of age or tenure. The regulations also apply to the installation of new alarms, in addition to any existing alarms, which must be reviewed in accordance with the revised guidance.

Under the new regulations, all properties must feature an interlinked fire and smoke alarm system that includes one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general living purposes, such as the living room, in addition to the installation of smoke alarms in every circulation space on each storey, including hallways and landings. A heat alarm should also be installed in each kitchen.

All smoke and heat alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked, whilst a CO alarm must also be installed in every room where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance, such as a boiler, fire or stove, to ensure adequate CO protection in the presence of a flue-burning appliance or flue.

Both mains-powered and 10 year sealed long-life battery powered alarms are suitable, as long as they facilitate either hardwired or wireless interlinking. The mains-powered alarms must comply with a Grade D1 Specification, while the battery powered alarms must meet the requirements of a Grade F1 Specification.

Why does the standard stipulate interlinked alarms?

Interlinked alarms

Developed in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the fire safety laws outlined within the Housing (Scotland) Act aim to significantly reduce deaths and casualties from fires throughout all types of residential properties, by providing individuals with increased levels of protection and the earliest possible warning of a fire.

This can be successfully and cost effectively achieved by installing both mains-powered and battery powered devices throughout key locations, including lounges, bedrooms, kitchens and circulation areas, to create an interlinked fire and smoke system.

By installing smoke, heat and CO alarms that feature Smart RF technology, electrical professionals can create a hybrid network that achieves the earliest possible warning of a fire or CO event, as by meshing multiple devices together, when one alarm sounds, they all sound, mimicking the chirp of the original smoke or CO alarm that has identified and detected the danger.

This ability to mesh battery and mains-powered devices together not only complies with the key requirement of the Updated Tolerable Standard, but is particularly useful for projects where hardwiring isn’t feasible, as the network can be quickly extended wirelessly, whilst also offering the opportunity for additional safety products to be added to the system at a later date to meet any change in an individual’s requirements or level of risk.

What type of alarms should you be recommending and installing?

Interlinked alarms

Under the new regulations, both mains-powered or 10 year sealed long-life battery powered alarms are suitable, as long as they facilitate either hardwired or wireless interlinking. The mains-powered alarms must comply with a Grade D1 Specification, while the battery powered alarms must meet the requirements of a Grade F1 Specification.

By installing interlinked systems that adhere to an LD1 Category, electrical engineers can achieve compliance with latest BS 5839-6 Standards, whilst also supporting the recommendations outlined within the Building Safety Bill 2021 and the Fire Safety Act 2021. This enables professionals to successfully futureproof residential installations to meet legislative updates before they come into force, by ensuring every type of property is protected to the highest possible standards.

Devices such as FireAngel’s Specification Range of mains powered and battery powered smoke, heat and CO aid installers in achieving a cost effective and efficient approach to achieving compliance with the new Standard, as the suite of devices can be instantly interlinked together to form a hybrid network, simply by fitting a Smart RF Radio Module into each device.

Are there any additional benefits of interlinked alarms?

Interlinked alarms

Yes, interlinked systems such as FireAngel Specification also offer the opportunity for the level of protection to be further increased, as by wirelessly meshing every device onto a private network, remote monitoring of the entire system can be achieved through the installation of a Connected Gateway, either upon initial installation or at a later date. This facilitates the transfer of data from every device in real time to a centralised dashboard, including the current status of every alarm, network health, alarm diagnostics and replacement dates.

From an electrical contractor’s perspective, this enables them to document the completion of each installation phase, as information is instantly logged via the wireless network to validate the install. For example, by taking a photograph of each completed installation, the images can be wirelessly uploaded to a centralised platform to generate immediate sign off, which subsequently produces a certification of fire legislative compliance, in accordance with BS 5839-6.

This intelligent process of confirmation eradicates any requirement for paper-based data capture, ensuring each installation has been adequately assessed for competence and validated to ensure the maximum levels of detection have been achieved, completely revolutionising approaches to documentation and verification.

By facilitating a preventative, rather than reactive, approach to fire and CO safety that can be cost effectively achieved throughout all types of residential properties, interlinked systems provide the highest possible standards of protection and traceability and should be recommended and installed throughout the entire United Kingdom, not just Scotland.

For further guidance about the latest updates, please refer to the Scottish Government website or contact your local specification manager.