Does your fire alarm have DDA-compliant sounders and beacons installed within the system?
When installing a new fire alarm system, you need to consider the needs of those who could be present, including individuals with disabilities and impairments. For example, an individual who is hard of hearing may not hear the fire alarm, and as such, you should take measures to ensure everyone is alerted in unison.
The Equality Act 2010 (formally the Discrimination Disability Act) means that those who manage business and public premises need to put provisions in place for all. These include a vast array of procedures and products. With fire alarm systems, these include an auditory and visual method of making people aware in an emergency.
Sounders and Beacons
Sounders are loud, often with controllable volumes and tones, but with those who have a severe hearing impairment, this isn’t sufficient. Beacons often use an ultra-bright Xenon or LED light which strobes when the alarm has been activated and will grab the attention of everyone in the room.
In fact, a combination of sounders and beacons are also recommended for noisy work environments. This means that regardless of sound levels or hearing protection, everyone will still be alerted.
Available as separate devices or combined units, they are wired within the same circuit of your fire alarm system and will activate in unison. Suitable for installing to the ceiling or a wall, multiple units will often be required for larger rooms.
Retro-Fitting Compliant Devices
With a new system, it’s easy to install as many of these devices as you need where you require them, but with an existing system which needs adapting, your options are limited. Combined sounder-beacon devices or bases are the most convenient and cost-effective solution as they don’t require new connections.
Existing sounder units can be replaced with devices which include a built-in beacon, or you could change existing detector bases for those which incorporate sounders and/or beacons.
Premises Where People Sleep
In hotels, B&Bs, care homes, hospitals and other premises where people sleep overnight, you’ll often be told by a fire alarm installer that your system should meet L1 requirements. This ensures that the sounders are loud enough to wake people from their sleep, as well as meeting the requirements for differing needs.
Vibrating pillow pads listen out for the fire alarm. Once the alarm sounds in the room, the pad under your pillow will begin to vibrate, waking you up and alerting you to an emergency. This is primarily designed for those with hearing impairments to ensure that they are woken immediately for a speedy evacuation. With a wireless design, you only need to offer these to residents/visitors who require them.
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
It’s essential that your emergency evacuation route and procedures take into account all of those who could be present on site when an emergency occurs. This includes children, the elderly, and those with learning difficulties or physical impairments.
You may require specialist equipment such as evacuation chairs for those who are unable to quickly descend stairs in order to exit to safety, and put procedures in place to ensure certain staff quickly check an area is clear before making their own exit.
Ultimately, the best way of knowing for certain that your evacuation measures are up to scratch is by carrying out fire drills. The fire service suggests carrying out these drills every six months, and this will highlight any issues so you can resolve them before it’s too late.