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Alarms in blocks of flats

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stephen1974
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Alarms in blocks of flats

Post by stephen1974 » Fri May 10, 2019 11:23 am

How is the alarm system supposed to work in a block of flats?
Every flat must have its own detector, but what about connecting to the main building alarm?

I recently had someones smoke detector go off, but no building alarm. There were no obvious signs of fire and there appeared to be someone moving around in the flat, though they didnt switch off the alarm and they didnt answer the door. 4 hours later the fire service turned up, threatened to break down the door, at which point it was opened and the herroundos stench of burning came out with the building alarm activating almost immediately.

Obvious that was a big concern. I assumed that the fire service would have a word in the occupiers shell like and that would be that,

Last night it happened again. Not sure how long it went on for, but I guess an hour. I was in that half asleep half awake stage where I could hear it, but it didnt register with my brain. When it did I went and knocked on the door. The door didnt open, so I was just about to go phone the fire service, when the alarm went off, to be replaced with a loud hissing noise that went on for at least 30 minutes.

1. Whats the requirements for connecting to the building alarm?
2. What could that hissing noise be?

I've emailed the managment company for the building today and just asked whats going on and what do you want us to do if it happens again. I don't want to be calling out the FS if there is no need, but the first time round, something was burning - there was a need - and it took 4 hours.

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Re: Alarms in blocks of flats

Post by stephen1974 » Fri May 10, 2019 1:37 pm

Response from the management company.

Both times the occupant has fallen asleep whilst cooking.

He must really be out cold to not hear the alarm going off or smell the burning going on. They've given me the flat number of someone who has keys to all the flats so thats something. Feel sorry for the old guy that live there but this isnt just his flat at risk.

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Re: Alarms in blocks of flats

Post by witsd » Fri May 10, 2019 4:07 pm

There's no requirement for there to even BE a building alarm, in fact in most purpose-built blocks I would recommend against it.

What happens inside one apartment shouldn't really be able to affect anyone else at all, which is why stay put policies are usually perfectly valid.

If it's not purpose-built, or if stupid stuff has been done over the years (UPVC doors, anyone?) then sure, the stay-put is out of the window (not literally) and there is maybe an argument for an alarm covering the common areas, but I still wouldn't link it directly to the LD2 (or LD3) systems within the flats, unless you want everyone woken up and maybe even evacuated every time Doris forgets about her toast.

Assuming that stupid stuff hasn't been done, I'd really only want a 'building alarm' to cover bin chute terminus rooms and perhaps electrical plant rooms, and even then, only if either there's a 24 hour staff presence or an external link to an ARC, otherwise what's the point?

Fire in plant room → no one inside their flats hears it → those who do hear it don't know what to do / can't access the room / can't provide FRS with access / can't (and shouldn't) reset the alarm themselves.

It's chaos :D

The one exception would be for detection that triggers AOVs or smoke extract systems, but again, I don't believe that an actual audible alarm would generally be useful.

In conclusion, be worried about the guy because he may well end up killing himself, but in all probability it won't affect anyone else. Certainly keep calling the FRS when his alarm sounds, and if you want you can push the landlord to install a stoveguard system (if electric cooker), but don't expect too much success unless perhaps with a large social landlord who may be afraid of bad press.
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Re: Alarms in blocks of flats

Post by Messy » Fri May 10, 2019 4:18 pm

Blimey Stephen, that is a worrying situation.

First of all, with 32 years in the fire service being part of my past, I can categorically say that if you hear the fire alarm sounding, and cannot raise any response at the front door, you should call 999 every time. It doesn't matter if this is just once more or daily for a month. Do not be reluctant and you will not get into any trouble for doing so. The profile of this gentleman is one I have seen many time end up as a fatal fire. Can you imagine how dreadful you would feel if that time - and only that time - you decided to ignore it??

As wltsd has said above, If this is a purpose built block of flats and not a conversion of a house for example - it can be acceptable for each flat to have its own stand alone domestic smoke detector system which is not linked to the main fire alarm. Indeed, it is acceptable for the escape route not to have any common fire alarm system, or if it has, it may just be manual fire alarm points (break glass points)

In purpose built flats, each flat is built as a self contain fire resisting cell. And as long as the owners haven't done anything stupid and clad the block in a combustible material, then the fire should be held in the flat of origin

Even where blocks of flats have automatic detection in the staircase, they may only have a single heat detector behind the door in each flat. This will operate if the fire is going well, but not on smoke alone.

So what can you do?

You could ask to see the flats fire risk assessment and see if the fire alarm has been considered as part of that assessment
You must continue to dial 999 if you suspect a fire
You could write to social services saying you think this person is at risk and copy in your local councillors
You could write to the landlord asking him to review the fire risk assessment in light of the risk this guy poses
You could trying contacting the local fire station. They have limited powers, but can offer a home fire risk assessment to the occupier (but cannot force him to comply) and if you are lucky, a correspondence from the fire service to social services can be quite influential

Good luck

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Re: Alarms in blocks of flats

Post by hammer1 » Fri May 17, 2019 3:00 pm

stephen1974 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 11:23 am
How is the alarm system supposed to work in a block of flats?
Every flat must have its own detector, but what about connecting to the main building alarm?

I recently had someones smoke detector go off, but no building alarm. There were no obvious signs of fire and there appeared to be someone moving around in the flat, though they didnt switch off the alarm and they didnt answer the door. 4 hours later the fire service turned up, threatened to break down the door, at which point it was opened and the herroundos stench of burning came out with the building alarm activating almost immediately.

Obvious that was a big concern. I assumed that the fire service would have a word in the occupiers shell like and that would be that,

Last night it happened again. Not sure how long it went on for, but I guess an hour. I was in that half asleep half awake stage where I could hear it, but it didnt register with my brain. When it did I went and knocked on the door. The door didnt open, so I was just about to go phone the fire service, when the alarm went off, to be replaced with a loud hissing noise that went on for at least 30 minutes.

1. Whats the requirements for connecting to the building alarm?
2. What could that hissing noise be?

I've emailed the managment company for the building today and just asked whats going on and what do you want us to do if it happens again. I don't want to be calling out the FS if there is no need, but the first time round, something was burning - there was a need - and it took 4 hours.
As mentioned if purpose built, you would normally not be looking for a communal automatic fire detection (AFD) system for the main reason of false alarm/unwanted fire alarm signals/level of fire compartmentation. Communal AFD would only be in place if for some compensatory reason/purpose group of residents or building is involved in the current cladding issues or as mentioned for AOVs/smoke control.

Not sure about the hissing noise but would follow up that management company look into it.

In regards to the resident, I would follow up with recommendation of a 'home visit' from the fire brigade, if the owner has any responsibility, a person centred FRA may suit to tackle any possible issues.

If not purpose built (especially if post 1991 build) then the communal fire alarm system would normally have a heat detector interlinked to the building system rather than a smoke so to reduce false alarms.
The song goes...{I'm gonna walk down to electric avenue and I'm gonna say ' have you got PAT testing records for all that mate'}

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