Nick Rutter, chief product officer at FireAngel, explores the latest fire safety innovations available to housing providers to not only help achieve full compliance while minimising running costs but also provide intelligent, connected solutions that can be adapted for the future.
From struggling to gain access to properties, to overcoming issues regarding the adequate measurement and management of property risk, housing providers are facing increasing pressures regarding fire safety.
There are a number of complications associated with missed tenant appointments and the difficulty engineers experience when trying to gain access to properties to conduct maintenance and repairs. This is resulting in not only a reduction of the level of protection provided, but also expensive consequences, particularly regarding the cost of repairs after a fire.
However, by taking a proactive approach and implementing preventative fire safety measures and using connected technologies removes the physical barriers many providers face. Housing providers can instead ensure full compliance across their entire housing stock while understanding and meeting fire safety requirements of the future.
Following the Hackitt Review, the housing sector wants to adopt its principles to ensure the long-term efficiency of their properties with regard to fire safety. While specifying smoke and heat alarms that quickly and effectively respond to all types of fires is essential, providers can go above and beyond legal requirements by choosing advanced solutions that react in real time to potential fire events.
Although ionisation-sensing technology was traditionally a popular choice because of its low cost and outstanding ability to detect fast-flaming fires, concerns regarding its potential radioactivity and sensitivity now outweigh its benefits.
To ensure the fastest response times for all types of fires and maintain compliance with standards and regulations, multi-sensing or optical alarms should be specified throughout circulation areas, including landings and hallways. This provides a basis for ensuring compliance with all minimum fire safety requirements at the same time as following the guidance of the UK fire and rescue services.
However, there are a wide range of connected technologies currently available to aid professionals in taking this compliance one step further, supporting them in adopting a proactive approach that ensures the long-term safety and suitability of their properties, while complying to an LD1 specification, often for the cost of an LD2 specification.
While Scotland is taking significant steps in improving the energy efficiency of its housing stock through EESSH2, providers in other areas of the UK also want solutions that offer the highest levels of protection as well as actively improve the long-term sustainability of their operations.
A smoke alarm typically spends 99.9 per cent of its time in standby mode, dissipating the unused energy through heat. Once an alarm is activated, a significant increase in power is used, which is commonly provided by ‘dropping’ the voltage from the mains power supply.
The latest developments have led to the creation of mains-powered, low-carbon ranges that are Smart RF compatible and feature an intelligent ‘step down’ circuit that monitors the state of the alarm to manage the power available. This ensures the alarm uses just 10 per cent of the energy compared to an average AC alarm, significantly improving the efficiency of the alarm throughout its 10-year lifespan.
For housing providers, the potential to have a running cost as little as 60p per alarm over 10 years can lead to significant reductions in energy usage and subsequent operational cost savings.
Because the range is Smart RF compatible, it also provides housing providers with the adaptability to futureproof their properties to meet the needs of future residents and comply with future legislation. Offering the benefits of both Thermoptek and Thermistek sensing technologies to respond to all fire types, it supports the adoption of a mixed system that interlinks hardwired and wireless mains- and battery-powered alarms.
A mixed system not only provides the opportunity to have both 230v mains and DC battery alarms, but also the ability to include Smart RF-ready alarms. This provides more flexibility because additional smoke, heat, carbon-monoxide and specialised assisted-living products (such as a wireless alarm control unit, strobe and pad), can be wirelessly added or removed to/from a network, depending on the needs of a particular tenant and their level of risk.
This enables housing providers to achieve a higher standard of fire protection throughout an entire property where a hardwired interlink may not have been possible previously. Smoke, heat and carbon-monoxide alarms can be wirelessly meshed together on a private network so when one alarm sounds, they all sound to immediately notify all individuals of a potential event, leading to a safer and quicker exit and minimising the potential fire damage.
And again, because the alarms are Smart RF-compatible, housing providers can upgrade the system by fitting a Smart RF radio module into the alarm. This allows the wireless interlinking of up to 50 alarms in one network so that vital information, such as current status, alarm history, replacement dates and network health, can be monitored via a cloud-based connect gateway.
By using a connect gateway, which uses a unique algorithm and features patented Predict technology to identify and highlight high-risk patterns of behaviour regarding fire safety, it bridges the gap in communication by instantly notifying relevant individuals in the event of an alarm activation. For example, high risk or vulnerable individuals can be remotely overseen in real time as the connect gateway sends live updates to designated individuals regarding the status of the smoke, heat and carbon-monoxide alarms installed throughout the property.
By adopting a proactive and connected approach to the fire and carbon-monoxide protection systems installed throughout their portfolio, housing providers can ensure compliance with all current legislations, safeguard their tenants and properties, and future proof against any changes to building regulations.
The adaptable technology also lets housing providers easily upgrade the fire protection systems installed throughout their entire housing stock at a later date, reducing the potential asset management challenges and associated costs they may have previously experienced. The remote monitoring capability that connected technologies offer also provides a revolutionary approach to preventative fire safety that delivers the highest standards of protection in the most cost-effective way.
Nick Rutter is chief product officer at FireAngel.