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Fire protection system saves lives within days

Just days after it was installed and commissioned, a Fike Twinflex fire alarm system in a Blackpool apartment block provided early warning of a fire, giving time for the building to be evacuated and the fire successfully extinguished without harm to the occupants of the premises.

Fike Twinflex products

The alarm system was designed and installed by Blackpool-based DD Fire Alarms, a company with experience in providing alarm systems for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) and hotels. Initially, DD Fire Alarms was called in to refurbish the existing fire alarm installation at the apartment block, but after examining it, the company determined that it would be difficult and costly to repair and also that, even if it was brought back into full working order, it would not meet current regulatory requirements.

DD Fire Alarms therefore proposed that a completely new fire alarm system, based on Fike Twinflex products, should be installed. The landlord of the apartment block, mindful of the need to safeguard his tenants and his property, agreed to proceed on this basis.

“The Twinflex system was ideal for this application,” said Darren Johnson, Managing Director of DD Fire Alarms. “It is exceptionally reliable and is also fast and easy to install, since it is a two-wire system. This means that the sounders and beacons are combined with the detectors on the same circuit, which reduces the amount of wiring required. In fact, it is our experience that the cost savings we are able to make on installations by using Twinflex two-wire technology mean that it is invariably the most competitive option.”

A further attraction of Twinflex for this application was that the detectors, beacons and sounders are centrally powered and there are no batteries to replace. This is particularly important in HMOs, as DD Fire Alarms has found that when battery-powered devices start to beep intermittently to indicate that a new battery is needed, many tenants disable the devices rather than fit a new battery. This leaves the tenants with no fire protection, and the problem may remain undiscovered for many months until the next routine fire system inspection.

The Twinflex two-wire system also has a built-in alarm confirmation delay feature that is particularly useful in HMOs. This is typically configured so that fire signals from the common areas or from manual call points immediately sound the alarms throughout the premises. In contrast, a fire signal from an automatic detector in an individual apartment initially sounds the alarm just in that apartment. Only if the fire signal from the apartment persists for more than one minute are the alarms sounded throughout the building.

This arrangement, which complies fully with Part 1 and Part 6 of BS5839, is useful as a fire signal from a single apartment may well mean nothing more than someone has burnt toast, in which case raising a general alarm is unnecessary and disruptive.

At the Blackpool apartment block, DD Fire Alarms completed the installation of the Twinflex system on a Friday evening and on the following Monday the system was actuated by a fire in one of the apartments. On entering this apartment, the other residents of the building found that the occupant had set fire to a duvet and, in an unsuccessful attempt to smother the fire, had rolled it up. This made it difficult to tackle the fire with a conventional handheld extinguisher.

The fire brigade had been summoned and on arrival were able to deal with the problem quickly. Because the Twinflex system had detected the fire and sounded the alarm so promptly, damage was minor and was restricted to the apartment where the fire had occurred, and the occupant suffered no lasting ill effects.

Had the new fire alarm system not been in place, it is likely that the occupant of apartment would have been overcome by smoke, and that the fire would have taken hold and spread through the building. There would then have been a significant risk to the lives of the other tenants, some of whom had young children who would have been particularly susceptible to smoke and heat. Costly damage to the property itself would also have been inevitable.

As a result of this incident, the fire brigade carried out an investigation that included an evaluation of the Twinflex alarm system. They confirmed that this had played a major role in limiting the impact of the fire, that it fully met current legislative requirements, and that it was ideally suited to providing effective and dependable protection in HMOs.

“This incident confirms beyond all doubt that reliable alarm systems in HMOs save lives,” said Johnson. “It has certainly proved convincing for many other landlords and property owners in the Blackpool area. This month alone we are installing five more Twinflex systems, and we have orders for many more over the coming months. There’s no surprise about this, of course,” he continued. “The system is versatile and dependable and, since it doesn’t use batteries, it’s virtually maintenance free. In addition, it offers excellent value for money. The final factor is that the fire service has confirmed that Twinflex fully meets its requirements for fire protection in HMOs and similar applications. In short, Twinflex is the right fire protection system at the right price.”

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