Dr. Zzeus Q&A: Should all fire alarm systems have a zone plan?

Dr. Zzeus Q&A: Should all fire alarm systems have a zone plan?

Dr. Zzeus, Tom Brookes, MD of Zzeus Training and Chairman of the FSA, answers your questions related to fire safety compliance.

Q. Should all fire alarm and detection systems have a zone plan and zone indicator lights?

I’ll start with the short answer: the standard is clear and states that on or adjacent to the fire control and indicating equipment (fire panel) should be a diagrammatic representation of the building correctly orientated. This should have all the building entrances, circulation spaces and be divided into zones. It can be illuminated or a printed plan.

Now for the long answer: the British Standards committee for BS5839-1 is FSH 12 and we’ve considered zone plans and zone lights quite a few times over the years. We usually come back to the Rosepark Care home fire in 2004 where 14 elderly residents died.

The subsequent inquiry highlighted that if the care home had a zone plan close to the fire control and indicating equipment (instead of a zone list) some, if not all, of the residents could have been saved. That’s 14 lives lost because the owner and fire company decided not to install a zone plan.

As a result of the Rosepark inquiry, BS5839-1 now emphasises the importance of a zone plan in numerous clauses throughout the BS5839-1 document, so there’s no excuse for not having a zone plan.

Every fire control panel must have provision of zonal indicators and a zone plan, and if either one is missing the other has little value.

The advantages of an addressable system and its text display, for people familiar with the premises and the operation of the fire alarm control panel, is universally accepted for locating a fire within the building.

However frequently, when a fire occurs the building might be unoccupied, or those who attend the activation – such as a key holder or the fire service – may not be familiar with the building and names given to areas or rooms within it. Zonal indicators provide immediate, at a glance information to those responding to an alarm signal, particularly firefighters who may need to make a very quick decision based on that information.

The plan of the building is useful for firefighters in the orientation and determination of the route to the detection zone of fire origin. Often the zone plan is the only plan the attending firefighters have of the building on arrival. The zonal indicator lights and the zone plan can provide firefighters with information regarding the spread of fire.

Another issue that fire alarm engineers don’t always consider is that a firefighter attending the fire and looking at the control panel may not know which buttons to press to scroll through the digital display and it is not feasible to train all firefighters in all fire control panels. Hence to aid finding the location of the activated detector its vital to have a correctly orientated zone plan close to the fire control panel.

Another recommendation that came from the Rosepark fire was, where occupants of a building are likely to need assistance from staff to evacuate the building (residential care premises and hospitals), the fire detection and fire alarm system should be addressable if the building has facilities for more than ten people to sleep.

Do you have a question you’d like answered by Tom? Email your queries to: Tom@zzeus.org.uk

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