The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) updates national standard on crucial fire, alarm systems
The Standards division of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has, as part of its legislated mandate, published a revised version of South African National Standards (SANS) 10139, code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems in non-domestic premises. This comes in the wake of the Table Mountain and Charlotte Maxeke Hospital fires. The new standards bring South Africa’s fire safety standards in line with similar rules in the United Kingdom and Europe.
The revised standard includes updated recommendations about the need for a fire detection system, variations from the standard, system components, detection zones, communication with the fire services, staged fire alarms and manual call points.
Furthermore, there are also updated requirements for smoke detectors and updated requirements for spacing and placing of automatic fire detectors. There are also updated measures to limit false alarm and a commentary on inspection and servicing has been added.
“The revision of SANS 10139 will benefit the fire protection industry as it clarifies all requirements and will, ultimately, eliminate the confusion experienced by the protection industry. This, in turn, will result in a more effective use of the national standard, thus improving firefighting and improving the job of saving lives and preventing the loss of property. The standard also aims to mitigate the risk of failure of fire detection and fire alarm systems in and around buildings,” SABS Technical Committee chairperson and member, Laura Swart, said.
The document, formally called the "Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems in non-domestic premises", spells out if, when and what kind of alarm systems and smoke detectors should be used at non-domestic premises, like businesses and hospitals.
"It is crucial that a national set of guidelines and rules for the designers and installers of fire protection systems is provided for them to fold and uphold," the SABS statement read.
Here are some of the recommendations for instances where a fire alarm is put in place to save lives:
If the fire protection system is for a building where no one sleeps, automatic fire detection might not be necessary. This is because the fire will probably be detected before the smoke seriously reduces visibility in escape routes. In such case, a fire protection system where the design is based on a localised need for detecting fire in only one part of the building, might be enough.
In the case of a building where occupants could be in danger before someone realises that there's a fire, automatic fire detection is necessary.
The installation of fire detectors in only certain rooms in the building might be suitable but that will need to be determined by fire risk assessment.
Fire detection systems will need to be installed in escape routes or corridors when there's a need for the occupants of a building to be warned of the presence of smoke in the escape routes. For example, in building where there are workers in a large, mostly unoccupied area of a building where there's a high risk of fire.
Owners of buildings where people sleep in rooms accessed by corridors should be aware that gasses from a fire can produce smoke that is dense enough to fill a corridor before fire detectors in the corridor go off.
In the case of these buildings, detectors need to be installed in rooms that open on to the escape routes and within the escape routes themselves. This is to ensure that the occupants of the building or rooms have enough time to escape before the corridor is filled with smoke. In this case, heat, smoke, combustion gas or multi-sensor detectors are necessary.
However, this might not be enough. For example, it might be necessary to place fire detectors in other rooms, even those that don't open on to escape routes.
Or, owners of buildings might want to make sure that certain rooms, for example those occupied by disabled people, have an early warning detection system. In that case, smoke or combustion gas detectors are necessary, as heat detectors will not respond fast enough to the danger.
In the case of buildings where a significant number of people are at risk, like hospitals and residential health care facilities, fire detectors will need to be placed in all areas of the building.
These rules only apply to building owners who are looking for fire detection systems that could save lives; the SABS has a separate set of standards for building owners who want to protect their property.
Swart added that the revision of the National Standards was made possible through collaboration with the Fire System Inspection Bureau, the Fire Detection Installers Association and the South African insurance industry.
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