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January 16, 2019

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fire alarm systems

Wireless fire alarm systems: Sounding the alarm

Paul Henson, Sales and Marketing Director at Ramtech Electronics, looks at why latest generation wireless fire alarm systems that incorporate medical response and other functionality are transforming safety on construction sites.

Ramtech Electronics Manchester Airport

“The construction industry is one of the most dangerous to work in, and despite ongoing focus on health and safety it remains at the top of leagues tables for serious injury and death. Wireless fire alarm systems have certainly helped improve fire safety and they are now commonly used by many construction companies.

“Acceptance of this kind of technology – partly because wireless systems are much easier to use – prompted us to look at other functionality that could be incorporated to improve safety. Bearing in mind that construction is a dangerous industry and that research shows the first hour after an accident will largely determine a critically injured person’s outcome, it seemed a logical step to incorporate an ‘emergency call’ feature into each wireless fire alarm call point. This functionality enables an injured worker (or their colleague) to raise the alarm by activating the nearest call point, ensuring that help gets to them faster.”

Fire and medical alert

“The regulatory standard for fire alarms on construction sites is EN54-25 and this applies to both wired and wireless systems. However, wireless systems offer a number of distinct benefits, including the fact that the call points are quick and easy to reposition and don’t have the issue of cabling that you get with a traditional wired alarm.

“The Joint Code of Practice (JCOP) reinforces the need for construction site fire alarms to be BS-EN54-25 compliant. This essential reference document contains the advice; Components of automatic fire detection and alarm systems should be marked as complying with EN 54 (paragraph 13.8). Wireless fire alarm systems incorporate manual call points that can be activated by anyone or automatic heat/smoke detectors, which provide 24/7 coverage even when the site is vacated at nights and weekends.

“The addition of a stand-alone medical alert on our WES3 wireless fire alarm system, along with other functionality, joins up safety on site as well as giving site managers the ability to manage activity associated with the system. When this kind of technology is used in conjunction with a cloud-based monitoring platform (WES REACT) it allows project management teams to receive real-time information regarding site emergencies, and instantly send customised alerts out to relevant site personnel.

“EN 54 compliant wireless fire alarm systems that incorporate a medical alert facility enable a person to easily raise an alarm from any of the call points without prompting a complete site evacuation. The technology incorporates a new optional inspection delay so that site managers have the time to establish if a false alarm has been raised. This feature can also be used to organise a staged evacuation process.

“Another positive feature of this kind of technology is that it gives site managers a pre-alarm function, allowing them to turn off the alarm sounder on other stations and enable a lower level alert without triggering a full evacuation. A full isolation test mode means individual call points can be tested without the need for a full system alarm.

“A range of units make up the system, including call points, interface, heat detector, dust resistant smoke detector, link and base station. The system is compliant with key safety standards, including HSG168, the Structural Timber Association Guidelines, and the Fire Protection Association Joint Code of Practice and it is installable to BS5839.”

Case file: Manchester Airport

Ramtech Electronics Manchester Airport

“The challenges at Manchester Airport Transformation Project (MAN-TP) were centred on the need for a wireless fire alarm system that was scalable to a project of this size, whilst being fast and easy to reposition the call points. To put this into context, MAN-TP is the fastest growing construction project in the UK with £1m of new infrastructure added each day. At its peak there will be over a thousand workers on site.

“Our cloud-based monitoring platform is currently used at MAN-TP, which will see Terminal 2 become 150% larger and the focal point of the airport’s operations when it is completed in 2020. MAN-TP comprises the expansion and reconfiguring of Terminal 2 to become the airport’s primary terminal building, along with The Link, a new bridging space between the new T2 as well as new stands and piers, offering better departure gate facilities.

“Laing O’Rourke, main contractor on the development, specified WES REACT to protect the 1,200 workers who will be on site at its peak from the dangers of fire. It provides construction teams with a simple and secure means of communicating fire, medical and other site emergencies to affected personnel, both on and off site. As one of the largest construction programmes in the North of England, Laing O’Rourke approached us because they were looking to ensure that it met the highest fire safety standards on site.

“All manual call points in their respective zones are interlinked, creating a completely secure wireless mesh network that can be activated simply by pressing the button. Once internal fit out begins, meaning areas of the site become enclosed and ‘out of site’, automatic heat/smoke detectors will be added to the system. Strategic placement of these will mean that a fire is automatically detected and a zone-wide alarm triggered.

“An ability of the wireless signal to pass through all commonly used materials on site including concrete, stone and steel means that if just one unit is triggered it creates an audible alarm across the entire MAN-TP zoned area. Once the alarm is triggered the system instantly sends an alert to nominated personnel allowing them to identify the nature of the alert and pinpoint exactly where it is on site.”


“The growing number of high profile fires on construction and renovation sites not only endanger life and cause costly damage, they generate a huge amount of negative publicity for the companies involved. As a result, it is prompting more developers to really analyse their fire prevention equipment. Increased functionality such as stand-alone medical alert and monitoring means safety on construction sites is being transformed. When used in conjunction with a cloud-based monitoring platform like WES REACT, WES3 becomes a total fire safety solution.”

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