When it comes to commercial properties, fire safety is a top priority. Whether it be a small store, office building, or large factory, ensuring your commercial premises and employees are protected by the proper fire safety systems is critical.

Where required by the National Code of Construction (NCC), commercial properties must have smoke detectors connected to a fire panel and occupant warning system, more commonly known as an Automatic Fire Detection and Alarm System.

Depending on your business operations, building type and location, the design, installation and maintenance requirements for commercial fire detection systems outlined in AS1670 will differ.

However, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked questions to give you some general guidance.

How often must commercial fire detection systems be checked?

Automatic fire detection and alarm system are tested monthly, six-monthly, yearly and five-yearly in compliance with AS1851.6.

What is the difference between a detector and a fire detection system?

This is best explained in two parts:

  1. Systems – general systems cover a building or part of a building. There can also be systems that can have a specialised use. For example, a system that covers a computer data centre can operate special hazard suppression systems that actively work to quell a fire.
  2. Detectors (which form part of the above system) refer to either:
    • Photo-optical or Photoelectric detectors– detect the smoke when a light beam reflects off the smoke particles.
    • Thermal/Heat detectors  – detect spikes in temperate or abnormally high temperatures.

Specialised commercial fire detection systems may be required in high-risk commercial properties, such as factories and chemical plants. These can include heat detectors, designed to detect rapid temperature increases, and aspirating smoke detectors, which use a fan to draw air through a network of pipes to detect smoke particles. The alarm solution you need will depend on your site.

Are fire detection systems required in apartment blocks as well as commercial properties?

Residential buildings can use interconnected smoke alarms in the common area. Although buildings over 25m in height or where smoke alarms are not suitable, an AS1670 detection and alarm system may need to be installed in the common area. Smoke alarms alone are OK inside the units. However, it’s important to note that commercial buildings that require an AS1670-compliant detection can’t just use smoke alarms. Your building classification will influence your specific requirements.

How do fire detection systems operate?

A fire detection system is managed by a fire control panel. This panel consists of inputs and outputs. Inputs use any number of methods to detect a fire. The outputs are then triggered, activating brigade call, occupant warning, smoke control, suppression system etc.

Where must the system be located?

The fire detection system will be connected throughout the building, and the central fire control panel is located at the building entry point. This provides easy access for the brigade so they can gather critical information about the fire before they enter the building.

Do all fire detection systems automatically alert the fire brigade?

Automatic Signalling Equipment (ASE) is an add-on module that sends alarm activations to a call centre, sending the brigade out. Not all systems need it, but any with sprinkler systems, buildings over 25m high, high risk etc., do.

 What are the different types of commercial fire detection systems?

  • Conventional is the older technology and is simple and cheap. It is a simple circuit per zone and can be either an ‘open’ or ‘closed’ circuit. You know which zone is in the alarm, but from the panel,  you don’t know which device caused the alarm. If there is an issue, you can only isolate the whole zone.
  • Addressable is more advanced (and expensive), allowing data to be sent over the circuit. I.e., the panel can ‘talk’ to each point on the circuit. This means you know which point caused the alarm and can isolate the single point. Zones are also ‘virtual’, so you can create multiple zones on one circuit. They are also more advanced fault codes and extra circuit redundancy.
  • Occupant warning – Once the panel has detected an activation on one of the inputs (conventional or addressable), the panel can be programmed to then activate one or more outputs. The most common of which is the occupant warning system. This is usually a separate circuit containing sounders or speakers that warn occupants of the alarm and start the evacuation.

Are you able to design, install and maintain fire detection systems in full?

For a fire detection system to be installed, you need a qualified cabler with a cabler’s license, an electrician to supply the 240v to the panel and an accredited practitioner for design to be able to design the systems.  At Betta Fire Protection, we have a reliable team of certified contractors to carry out all cabling and electrical work for installation. At the same time, we can manage the design and maintenance of the system.

With over 40 years of expertise, we have all your commercial fire detection system needs covered. Call Betta Fire Protection on (02) 8669 9100 today and discover our commercial fire safety packages for your business.