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Apollo holds court in Buckinghamshire

An Apollo-based fire detection system has been installed to protect people and premises at the Magistrate’s Court in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Representing a total upgrade of the previous fire protection to meet L1 requirements, the new intelligent fire system was installed by Network Security & Fire, based in Basingstoke.

Apollo holds court in Buckinghamshire

The Milton Keynes Bench was founded in 1979 from an amalgamation of the former local benches at Fenny Stratford, Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell. The Magistrate’s Court is housed in purpose-built premises in the centre of Milton Keynes, which includes a public area, custody suite and six courtrooms, as well as offices for court administrators and the probation service.

The original, single loop addressable fire system had been renewed at various points previously, but was no longer fit for purpose. The Estates team specified a new analogue addressable system with high sensitivity smoke detection in the custody suite, together with an automated Voice Alarm (VA) system.

There was no possibility of closing the building while the upgrade was made, so installation of the new fire equipment had to take place out of hours. This was not the only challenge on the project, as John Angell, Contract Manager, Network Fire & Security, explains:

"In addition to limited access, we had to take into consideration the need to rewire the vast majority of the system. This was compounded by the design of the building, which features plasterboard ceilings, rather than suspended ceilings, and made access to voids for cable-laying quite difficult.

"Within the courtrooms themselves, we also had to take into account the high ceiling heights. The roof void in each court has a central dome that rises two storeys at its highest point. This was not only an issue during installation but could have restricted access for essential maintenance. We were able to overcome this aspect by positioning the fire detectors around the coffer that surrounds the central roof dome."

Network Security & Fire recommended a fire system based on Apollo’s Discovery distributed-intelligence technology to meet the requirements for the Magistrate’s Court. Around 260 Discovery devices were used in total, including optical smoke and heat detectors, loop-powered beacons, manual call points and interfaces. The fire system is configured around three networked Advanced Electronics control panels.

The modular voice alarm system comprises three master and five slave units. It is pre-programmed with a series of automated messages that are activated in the event of an alert, but there is also an option for manual intervention to broadcast bespoke messages using a microphone.

Explaining his company’s specification, John Angell says: "We would always recommend Apollo as part of a fire detection solution. Their open protocol allows us to choose exactly the right equipment for a project and tailor the solution to the client – in this case enabling us to select the compatible Advanced Electronics control panels and distributed voice alarm system. Apollo’s Discovery range was perfect for this application thanks to its proven reliability in the field and advanced features that minimise false alarm incidents."

If an alarm is raised by devices within the courtroom areas, evacuation procedures are initiated in these zones and an alert is transmitted to the custody suite. Equally, should an incident be detected in the custody suite this area will be evacuated immediately and the court areas are put on stand-by.

John Angell concludes: "Considering all the challenges regarding the ‘live’ site and other installation restrictions, this project went incredibly smoothly. We have been able to equip the Magistrate’s Court with a modern fire detection system that is reliable, easy to use and flexible enough to meet current and future requirements."

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