In January of this year, the new standard for Visual Fire Alarm Devices (EN54-23) came into force. Designers of fire alarm systems must ensure their systems meet this new legislation, the requirements for which have been driven by the Equalities Act. The product standard is designed to ensure that, as far as is practical, the fire system will generate an effective warning for all occupants of a building, particularly people with hearing difficulties, in the event of a fire.
Audible sounders are one means of getting people’s attention, but what happens if you are working in a noisy environment (such as a workshop with machinery running), wearing ear defenders or headset (e.g. in a recording studio or call-centre), or have a degree of hearing loss?
The new standard specifies the manufacturing requirements of a visual alarm device (VAD) and covers the planning, design, installation, commissioning and service of such devices. The VADs must be sufficiently bright to mean they can be the prime means of alerting someone to a fire. Manufacturers of VADs must state the amount of light they produce and the size of room that can be covered by a device.
The effectiveness of a visual alarm device will depend not only on its light output, but on the ambient light in the room. VADs will offer less coverage in a brightly lit room as compared to a dark one. All of this must be taken into account by the system designers.
It is worth noting that the new standard only applies to new installations. You are not required to upgrade existing alarm systems, although you may wish to consider if you can improve on your current system in light of the new recommendations.
At OHeap, we have been working to the new standard in a number of installations. Manufacturers have been aware of the upcoming deadline and there are a range of new devices available. As previously, it is the responsibility of the fire system designer, responding to the risk assessment for a specific building, to calculate the positioning and number of detectors, call points, and audible and visible alarm devices required to provide adequate coverage to protect the building’s occupants.
As might be expected when there is a major change to standards that affect such a complex matter as fire system design, there is considerable discussion in the industry about what changes will be required from the introduction date. Reputable suppliers and system houses such as OHeap have already conducted in-depth discussion sessions with risk assessors and specifiers and are able to offer comprehensive advice on the implications of the new standard.
If you have any questions about the new standard and how it affects your system then give us a call.