Editor, UBM

January 24, 2017

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Case study: choosing a fire alarm system for a 19th Century church


A wireless fire alarm system has been installed in a major redevelopment at St John’s Episcopal Church in the west end of Edinburgh.

The church, which was built in 1818, is having a mezzanine floor added to the church hall, a cafe and retail units installed on the terrace and other improvement works.

The main contractor for the job, John Dennis & Company (Scotland) Ltd, was looking for a fire alarm system that would protect the historic building as well as the hundreds of people who use the building every week.

The challenge:

When deciding on a fire alarm system, the management team at John Dennis & Co had to take into account:

  • The vaulted crypt with confined spaces and restricted sightlines
  • The fact that the church has to remain fully functioning during the works

“We had specific concerns in the vaulted crypt because a fire may not have been immediately visible due to the low, arched ceilings and projecting internal buttresses,” said Stewart Carney, Managing Director at John Dennis (Scotland) Ltd.

“Add to that the fact there are limited escape routes and you can see why we required to be 100% confident in any fire alarm system we specified.”

One of the factors that dissuaded the company from choosing a wired fire alarm system was the time it would have taken to reposition as building works progressed.

“When we sat down with our surveyors and looked at the cumulative effect of moving the wired units, it added a number of days to the schedule,” added Stewart.

“It would also require a qualified electrician who could be working on other elements of the project.”


The solution

When looking for alternatives to a wired system, the company found the Ramtech Electronics WES+ wireless fire alarm system. The benefit for them of using this system were:

  • the units could be repositioned in seconds without the need for a qualified electrician
  • there are no trailing leads
  • the system is EN 54 compliant.

“A quick online search for a wireless fire alarm system soon picked up WES+ and highlighted the fact that whichever system we chose, it had to be EN 54 compliant,” said Stewart.

“A subsequent meeting with Ramtech Electronics’ technical representative confirmed our initial findings that wireless was the way to go on this project.”

The specification of WES+ automatic heat/smoke dectors meant that 24/7 fire alarm coverage was provided, even if the site was vacted at nights and weekends. Nominated personnel would receive an SMS notification that the alarm has been activated.

Additionally, automatic detectors would overcome the challenges of restricted sightlines in the crypt, ensuring that a fire was immediately detected, allowing speedy evacuation and alert of fire crews when personnel were present on site.

Automatic heat/smoke detection provide added protection for the church congregation, who will continue to attend regular services while the work is taking place and when site personnel are not present, such as Sunday evenings.

Incorporating automatic heat/smoke detectors, along with manual call points, meant that the Fire Plan would be immediately actioned, whatever time of day or might.

WES+ is the latest technological development from Ramtech, drawing on over 25 years’ experience of developing radio technology. It is the first UK wireless battery-powered fire alarm system engineered to comply with EN54 and therefore the Construction Products Regulation. 

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7 years ago

The scaffold tower in the second image in this article ranks highly on the wall of shame for poorly built unsafe mobile scaffold towers. It amazes me that still people risk their lives and lives of their colleagues by not building towers correctly. also demonstrates a lack of fundamental knowledge of the requirements of legislation surrounding work at height and work place equipment. Other than that a great article, thanks.