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Christian Garczynski
Christian Garczynski

What is BS 5839 Part 1 2019 and Why is it Important for Fire Safety?


BS 5839 Part 1: A Guide to Fire Alarm Systems Design and Compliance




Fire alarm systems are essential for the protection of life and property in any building. They provide early detection and warning of fire, allowing occupants to escape safely and firefighters to respond effectively. However, designing, installing, commissioning and maintaining a fire alarm system is not a simple task. It requires a thorough understanding of the relevant standards, regulations, codes of practice and best practices that apply to fire safety in the UK.


One of the most important standards for fire alarm systems is BS 5839 Part 1, which provides recommendations for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems for non-domestic premises. This standard is widely used by fire safety professionals, consultants, contractors, engineers, architects, building owners, managers and regulators as a benchmark for good practice and compliance.




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In this article, we will explain what BS 5839 Part 1 is and why it is important, how to design a fire alarm system according to BS 5839 Part 1, and how to use Safety Systems Designer software to streamline the fire alarm system design process. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about BS 5839 Part 1 at the end of the article.


What is BS 5839 Part 1 and why is it important?




BS 5839 Part 1 is a British Standard that provides recommendations for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems for non-domestic premises. It covers all types of buildings except domestic dwellings (which are covered by BS 5839-6) and certain specialised premises (such as offshore installations, ships, mines, etc.).


The scope and purpose of BS 5839 Part 1




The scope of BS 5839 Part 1 includes all aspects of fire detection and fire alarm systems, such as:


  • The objectives of the system



  • The choice of system category and coverage



  • The selection and positioning of detectors, manual call points, sounders, visual alarms, control and indicating equipment, power supply units, wiring and cabling



  • The integration with other systems (such as sprinklers, smoke control, voice alarms, etc.)



  • The testing, commissioning, handover, inspection, servicing and maintenance of the system



  • The documentation and certification of the system



The purpose of BS 5839 Part 1 is to provide guidance on how to design a fire alarm system that meets the specific needs and requirements of each building. It also aims to ensure that the system complies with the relevant legal and regulatory framework for fire safety in the UK.


The legal and regulatory framework for fire safety in the UK




Fire safety in the UK is governed by various laws and regulations that apply to different types of buildings, occupancies, activities and locations. Some of the main ones are:


  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (FSO) 2005 - This applies to all non-domestic premises and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 - These apply to all non-domestic premises in Scotland The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 - These apply to all non-domestic premises in Northern Ireland The Building Regulations 2010 and the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 - These set the minimum standards for fire safety in new and altered buildings The Housing Act 2004 and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 - These cover fire safety in certain types of residential accommodation, such as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), flats, etc. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 - These require employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected by their activities, including fire safety



These laws and regulations place a duty on the responsible person (usually the employer, owner or occupier) to carry out a fire risk assessment, identify and implement appropriate fire precautions, and ensure that the fire alarm system is suitable, sufficient and maintained. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations can result in prosecution, fines, imprisonment or even loss of life.


BS 5839 Part 1 is not a legal requirement, but it is a code of practice that provides recommendations on how to comply with the legal and regulatory framework for fire safety. Following BS 5839 Part 1 can help the responsible person to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to ensure fire safety and reduce the risk of fire. It can also help to avoid disputes, claims, litigation or enforcement action in case of a fire incident.


The benefits and challenges of complying with BS 5839 Part 1




Complying with BS 5839 Part 1 can bring many benefits for the responsible person, the building occupants, the fire authorities and the society at large. Some of these benefits are:


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  • Enhancing the protection of life and property from fire Reducing the likelihood and severity of fire incidents Improving the response and effectiveness of firefighting operations Minimising the disruption and damage caused by false alarms Increasing the confidence and satisfaction of building users and stakeholders Meeting the legal obligations and expectations for fire safety Avoiding the penalties and consequences of non-compliance



However, complying with BS 5839 Part 1 can also pose some challenges for the responsible person, especially if they are not familiar with the standard or do not have access to competent advice. Some of these challenges are:


  • Understanding the scope, purpose and content of BS 5839 Part 1 Applying the recommendations of BS 5839 Part 1 to different types of buildings, occupancies, activities and locations Balancing the costs, benefits and risks of different design options Selecting the appropriate system category, coverage, devices, equipment and wiring Integrating the fire alarm system with other systems and services Ensuring the quality, reliability and compatibility of the system components Testing, commissioning, handing over, inspecting, servicing and maintaining the system Documenting and certifying the system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance



To overcome these challenges, it is advisable to seek professional guidance from a qualified fire safety consultant or contractor who has experience and expertise in fire alarm system design according to BS 5839 Part 1. Alternatively, it is possible to use a software tool that can simplify and streamline the fire alarm system design process.


How to design a fire alarm system according to BS 5839 Part 1




The design of a fire alarm system according to BS 5839 Part 1 involves several steps and stages that require c


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