- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
- Specialist wikis
Last edited 17 Dec 2020
New standards for better fire safety in homes
Despite the increase in fatalities recently, we should remember that domestic fire deaths per year overall have been following a downward trend since 1980, which (perhaps coincidentally) is the year BS 5839 was first introduced. Statistically, fatality rates in fires where there is a working smoke detector are between two and three times lower than in fires where no correctly functioning detector is present.
Since its inception, the BS 5839 series of standards has grown into nine parts, making the distinction between domestic and non-domestic premises and dealing with a range of specific systems in detail.
It is therefore vital that the changes in BS5839-6:2019 are well-understood by the fire and security industry. They were made to reflect new technologies and the new ways we use alarms in different premises, with a view to increasing residential safety, and further reducing fatality rates. Some of the key issues to be aware of are discussed below.
 Grades explained
For the purpose of specifying a fire detection and fire alarm system, the Standard has both grades and categories of system. There are six grades, A to F, with grade A being the most comprehensive - incorporating smoke detectors, sounders, break glass and central control approved to BS 5839-1, down to grade F, battery powered smoke alarms.
In BS 5839-6: 2019, grades B and E have been removed entirely. Grades D and F have been sub-divided into grade D1/grade D2 and grade F1/grade F2.
Where grade D previously covered mains-powered alarms with battery back-up, D1 now applies to mains-powered alarms with integral tamper-proof battery backups, and D2 applies to mains-powered alarms with replaceable battery back-ups.
 Reviewed categories
The Standard states that the level of protection to occupants needs to be directly related to the fire risk. However, it lists various categories of system, which describe the level of protection the systems provide.
Where and how many alarms are installed will affect how quickly a fire is detected. Generally, the higher the category of system, the higher the level of protection. Recommended grades and categories of protection for different types of residence have been altered in the updated Standard. The new system is outlined in the following table:
 Testing and maintenance
 Additional guidance
In additional updates, new recommendations have been made, so that:
- Mains-powered carbon monoxide (CO) alarms may be interconnected with fire-detection systems.
- The blocking or delaying of fire-alarm signals transmitted via social alarm systems in sheltered housing to a receiving centre is prevented.
- Fire detection in supported housing is improved.
- Communal fire alarm systems should not normally be installed in purpose-built blocks of flats.
 About this article
This article was written by Tom Brookes, Chair of the Fire & Security Association. He was named as IFSEC Global’s seventh most Influential person in fire safety in 2019. The article was previously published in the autumn 2019 issue of ECA Today, the magazine of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and can be accessed HERE.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved document B.
- BRE articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- BS 9999.
- CE marking
- Fire detection and alarm system.
- Fire detector.
- Fire fatalities in Scotland.
- Fire performance of external thermal insulation for walls of multistorey buildings, third edition (BR 135).
- Fire protection engineering.
- Fire safety design.
- Fire safety officer.
- Ionisation smoke alarm.
- Joint fire code.
- Managing fire risk in commercial buildings: A guide for facilities managers.
- Optical smoke alarm.
- Smoke detector.
- The causes of false fire alarms in buildings.
- Understanding the factors affecting flashover of a fire in modern buildings.
Featured articles and news
Exploring the key to the adoption of this abundant energy source.
His clients have ranged from Liberace to St Nick to world-class athletes.
These tactical structures can be permanent or temporary.
Organisation recognises milestones of the project's next phase.
Welding and metalworking businesses must manage respiratory risks.
New report explores how regulations are being put into action.
The golden thread and BS 8644-1.
Bitumen binder may delay road surface deterioration.
A varied portfolio of internationally recognised buildings.
Threatened by housing and expanding universities.
Getting "boots on the ground" to make things happen.
Building systems may begin to learn.
CIOB to recognise Client of the Year and Team of the Year.
PAS 9980 PAS 9980:2021 addresses fire risk appraisal and assessment.