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A journalist with 13 years of experience on trade publications covering construction, local government, property, pubs, and transport.
September 13, 2017

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BSI revises standard for fire detection and fire alarm systems

BSI, the business standards company, has revised its standard for fire detection and fire alarm systems.

The standard, BS 5839-1:2017, covers the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in and around commercial buildings.

BS 5839-1:2017 Fire detection and fire alarm system for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation and commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises is referred to in both volumes of the government’s statuary guidance for fire safety, Approved Document B, which concerns building regulations in England covering fire safety matters within and around buildings.


The National Security Inspectorate is among organizations which consider the recommendations given in BS 5839-1 mandatory, and thus essential for contractors to follow.

The revised standard is relevant to anyone involved in the commissioning, installation, design and planning of fire alarm and detection systems for non-residential dwellings.

Some of the key changes over the standard it replaces include:

  • Improved definition of the L2 fire alarm system. L2 Fire Alarm Systems are designed to offer automatic detection on all escape routes within a building
  • Modified guidance for use of multi-sector detectors, with distinct sections dedicated to both the application and testing of these
  • Clauses 17 and 18 require clarification as to the use of Voice Alarm Detectors (VADs) and Visual Indicator Devices (VID)
  • Inclusion of a section in the standard concerning the testing of the power supply, and how long any batteries or contingency power supply should last for
  • Guidance for persons who work at night so they can recognize the alarm

Ant Burd, head of market development for Built Environment at BSI, said: “BS 5939-1 was revised with input from the Fire Industry Association and the Chief Fire Officers Association.

“It will be a go-to document for anyone involved in the installation or maintenance of commercial fire detection and fire alarms, and will prove essential for contractors in the industry. It’s well-respected and easily one of the most important fire detection standards used in the United Kingdom.”


The term ‘fire detection and alarm systems’, in the context of this standard, includes systems comprising of only one or two manual call points and sounders, as well as complex networked systems that incorporate a large number of automatic fire detectors, manual call points and sounders.

The term also includes systems which are capable of providing signals to initiate the operation of the other fire protection systems and equipment (such as fire extinguishing systems, smoke control systems or automatic door release equipment) or safety measures (such as the shutting down of air handling systems, closing of oil or gas valves, or grounding of lifts).

It does not apply to other systems and equipment themselves, or the ancillary circuits to interface with them.

Recommendations for systems

Recommendations for the planning, installation and servicing of facilities for operation of certain fire protection systems by the systems addressed within BS 5839-1 are given in the relevant part of the BS 7273 series.

Equally, BS 5839-1 does not recommend whether or not a fire alarm system should be installed in any given premises. Recommendations for fire detection and alarm systems in dwellings are covered in BS 5839-6.

Some notable organizations which the standard is expected to be relevant to include:

  • Fire Industry Association
  • Electrical  Contractors Association
  • National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation
  • Fire Safety Association
  • Loss Prevention Certification Board
  • National Security Inspectorate
  • Chief Fire Officers Association
  • Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board
  • Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
  • British Cables Association
  • BRE Building Research Establishment
  • Institution of Electrical Engineers
  • National Association of Fire Officers
  • London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority

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