Want to be a rebel?
The fire alarm industry is an extremely conservative industry surrounded by powerful legislation, European standards, British recommendations and great products. All of this makes for a good safe environment for employees and the general public but does it offer the best value for money for the businesses and organisations that have to provide and maintain such systems in their buildings?
In our view the answer is no. For a start the cost to maintain a fire detection and alarm system in a large NHS hospital is expensive, time consuming and disruptive. We’ve been hearing for the past couple of months just how stretched and under resourced the NHS and in particular our hospitals are. So why don’t we change the way we maintain systems to help make our hospitals, or any other large organisation for that matter, more efficient.
As far as Drax Technology is concerned we have had the technology to help achieve this for years but it will take a brave man or woman (the responsible person) to stick their head on the block and instigate the changes. However, they don’t have to do this on their own. With agreement from all “Interested Parties” e.g. Fire and Rescue Service, Responsible Person, building owners, insurers, manufacturers, things could legitimately change for the better, benefiting organisations like the NHS without compromising safety.
Drax Technology’s AMX alarm management software has been collecting valuable data from thousands of fire detection and alarm systems for over 25 years but does anybody use that data to their benefit. Unfortunately, in our experience very, very, few. What a waste!
So what does Drax Technology recommend. Well firstly, ensuring our AMX software is on site to collect the valuable data available from the many different fire detection and alarm systems that are out there. Connecting to the myriad of different systems that exist is the easy bit, we’ve been doing it for years. Making the most of the data collected and implementing change is more difficult, but we’re here to help.
Analysing the data collected from an existing system is the first step and provides a benchmark for the future. The success or not of any subsequent changes made to system design, equipment, maintenance providers or maintenance processes can now be compared and improvements measured.
The equipment used in a modern fire detection and alarm system such as fire sensors and control panels are produced not only in their millions by global manufacturing businesses to exacting quality requirements. They are also subject to an exacting approvals process prior to being released to market, designed to ensure they meet the appropriate European safety standards.The technology utilised has also improved significantly with sensors capable of distinguishing between real fires and smoke from say a vehicle exhaust or steam from a shower. Then there’s the control equipment with connectivity capable of outputting the data it collects from the thousands of sensors it continuously monitors.
Yet despite all of the above we still send an expensive fire alarm engineer with a “Smoke Pole” around the building once a year to contaminate those relatively clean smoke sensors. Some of which will not respond, and have to be put into “test mode” because they will reject the unreal smoke used to test the sensor! A valuable test? I think not.
So why don’t we apply some common sense and remove the current requirement to test every device once/yr. Firstly, using a hospital as an example, the building is manned 24/7 by competent trained personnel and in most locations the sensors are in a clean environment. In addition, the fire alarm control panel is constantly monitoring the wiring and the devices connected to it and must annunciate any
fire or fault that occurs within seconds. The standards define this precisely. Many systems are also capable of reporting the current status of each sensor, again there are clearly defined parameters around what is normal and what is not. Is it really necessary to test every device every year with all this going on?
Drax Technology’s powerful AMX software, adds another level of sophistication and is used to collect the data. It is then possible to generate reports detailing exceptions or trends. If this data is reviewed regularly, the engineer can be used to simply service the devices that are performing outside the “norm” and maybe carry out some additional random testing of say 10% of all devices rather than test everything annually. This would be a huge departure from what is done currently and as mentioned above would need the buy in from all interested parties. However, the savings each year could be significant. Currently the cost to maintain a system comprising around 6000 devices would be around £40k per annum and that’s assuming everything can be done in normal working hours, which in a hospital just doesn’t happen. Using technology and the data provided this figure could be reduced by around 75%, every year.
In addition, the data can also be used to identify whether one manufacturers equipment or system’s provider is more reliable than another. Identifying the cause of unwanted alarms is a lot easier using data collected over time and offers another opportunity to an organisation looking to
save money. At the same time the AMX software can provide essential and detailed information should a fire occur with regard to the location and hazards that exist nearby. This additional information saves critical time as well as reducing the risks to occupants and the emergency services.
As mentioned previously, fire detection and alarm systems are maintained in accordance with a set of recommendations, BS5839 Part 1. But they are just that, recommendations. So why not rebel and try something different with the potential to improve productivity as well as safety. If you already utilise Drax Technology’s AMX software why not give us a call to see what you can save by using the data already at your fingertips. If you don’t have our software on in your premises but see some value in installing it and would like to know more then, again we are just a call away.