Electrical Contracting News (ECN) October 2016 - Page 43

FIRE ALARMS Step #1: Understand the standards required Will Lloyd, from the Fire Industry Association, started out his career as an electrician before he retrained as a commissioning engineer for fire alarms, before eventually (many years later) joining the FIA as a technical manager. He advises, ‘The electrical contractor’s bible is the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations. Regulation 560.10 says fire alarms shall comply with BS5839 series. So if an electrician is fitting a fire alarm, then they should comply to these standards.’ So what should an electrician do before fitting any fire alarms? ‘First of all, get a copy of the standard (available on the FIA website). Secondly, do the FIA training courses. It’s really easy to get into wiring fire alarms. Wiring fire alarms is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. But you have to get it right.’ Step #2: Get familiar with the legislation Legally speaking, anyone can fit a fire alarm, so long as they are deemed competent, as this is what is laid out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. ‘If you wire a fire alarm, you do need to be aware of the Fire Safety Order,’ states Lloyd. ‘If you do it incorrectly, you could be prosecuted. And there has been cases of fire authorities prosecuting fire alarm installers for doing things wrong. So they would be quite happy to prosecute anyone – including electricians that worked on the fire alarm, if there is reason to.’ So all an electrician really needs to do is be competent. Be good at fitting fire alarms according to the Standards. But once that initial training is done, there is a whole new world of contracts and jobs that electricians can work on. Anyone can fit a fire alarm, so long as they are deemed competent. Step #3: Get the right training The best way to get started is to get some training. Training needn’t be time consuming or expensive, but it should be extensive and recognised by the industry. The FIA offers courses that are both of these things, and should also be able to provide you with further technical guidance once you’re out on the job. If an electrician has years of contracting experience, can they just get started with fitting fire alarms? ‘Well, yes,’ explains Lloyd. ‘But there is a little bit of extra knowledge that you need to know. ‘In the fire industry, all our wiring and fixings have to be done with fire-rated fixings. You have to think what happens to the smoke in the room, and what things sticking out from ceilings cause problems with smoke, eg. beams, lighting fittings – all these sort of things you will learn on the FIA training course.’ Competency is made up of knowledge, training and skills. Step #4: Get certified Competency is made up of knowledge, training and skills. The easiest way of showing competency is to be third party certified. The added bonus is that larger firms may wish to subcontract to electricians with certification, as this shows that they have the skills to do the job correctly and safely. ‘The fire alarm industry, especially the big companies, do not want to do their own installation as it is too expensive. They have to pay the engineers quite a lot more. They like to subcontract to an electrician because there is an electrician on site,’ explains Lloyd. ‘Because if they’re building a new building, they are having to put the power in, so the electrician is already there to do that. Why can’t he put in a bit more cable? He can, he just has to know a little bit more. FIA training will give you that little bit of knowledge. Once you’ve got third party certification, and done the training, then you’re ready to hire yourself out to the bigger companies who’ll pay you to do their installation work. Once you have certification, the bigger companies will have the confidence in you because it is a scheme that they use themselves. If you are a competent installer, this is a whole new revenue stream for you.’ Additionally, the certification process itself is a policing system, a way of checking your competency – which is vital from a legal standpoint. Step #5: Advertise your new service Congratulations! If you’ve done the training and got certified, you’re now ready to advertise your new service and start fitting commercial fire alarms. Imagine being the main contractor to some of the largest and most famous brands in the UK, such as supermarket chains and fast food outlets. Whilst there is no guarantee that you 100 per cent will become contractor to the biggest companies, the potential for greater earnings and more work coming in will be extremely appealing to most. Which is great news for electricians looking to move into installing fire alarms. The key thing to remember here is the necessity of getting proper training and working towards getting third party certification – all of which can be done through the FIA. You can find out more by going to www.fia.uk.com. 43 42-43 Fire Alarms – FIA.indd 43 12/09/2016 12:19