Which detectors do you need?
Different detector types are sensitive to different types of fire, so it’s very rare that you’ll find a building that only needs one type of detector. Even homes need a combination of heat and smoke detectors.
Smoke detectors – Optical smoke detectors
Also known as photoelectric smoke detectors, they respond well to smouldering fires, which are the ones caused by materials such as burning wood, paper and textiles.
For this reason, they’re the ones you’ll want in most rooms – that’s your offices, store rooms, staff rooms…you get the idea.
They’re generally pricier to buy than ionisation detectors, but they’re a necessary expense.
Smoke detectors – Ionisation smoke detectors
These are the ones you’ll want in your cleaner’s cupboard, surgical store, paint store, kitchen and the like, as they’re specifically sensitive to fast, clean burning fires. They’re the ones caused by burning paint thinners, petrol, paraffin, cooking oils, spirits and the like.
They’re also, however, sensitive to dust, steam and airflow, so can cause false alarms if placed near bathrooms, steam rooms and workshops.
Heat detectors – Rate of rise
Rate of rise heat detectors can be used when smoke detectors are unsuitable. They operate when a sharp increase in the room temperature occurs. This does, however, make them unsuitable in areas where temperature fluctuations are common.
Heat detectors – Fixed temperature
These heat detectors, like rate of rise ones, are suitable in dusty, smoky or steamy areas where having smoke detectors fitted may cause false alarms.
They start operating when a set temperature is reached, meaning that they won’t be needlessly triggered in areas where there are natural temperature fluctuations, such as kitchens and boiler rooms.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer for good reason; you can’t see, hear, smell or taste it. Without a CO detector, you’ve no way of knowing it’s there.
Carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted in any room that contains a fuel-burning appliance. However, if this isn’t possible, place the alarm in a central location.
Carbon monoxide detectors also serve another purpose; they can detect fires in the early, smouldering stages, when carbon monoxide is released. They should not, however, be used as an alternative to smoke detectors; they should be used in conjunction with them.
Manual call points
These ensure that staff and site visitors can manually raise the alarm. They should be placed along exit routes, near stairway, in corridors and in high risk areas. You can choose to have traditional break glass call points, but most businesses opt for a plastic element instead, as they’re safer for the operator to use.
Beam detectors are designed to provide large area detection for as small a cost as possible. They’re often used in situations where it’s inefficient or inappropriate to install a wired unit.
The standard beam detector has a range of 100m with a 15m coverage area. This keeps a 1500m2 area covered. They’re suitable for installation in heights well above the operational limits of standard detectors.
Typically, you might find them in museums, large warehouses, factories and similar environments.
Commonly known as air sampling detectors or aspirating detectors, they work by analysing the content of airflow.
Air is drawn in through a network of sampling pipes, which run across the ceilings of the area covered. This air is then sent to a central detection chamber, where it is screened for smoke particles.
They’re incredibly useful in high risk and high value areas, as they can detect a fire in the very early stages before it’s even fully formed.