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Shared Commercial Premises - Linked Fire Alarms


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We currently rent part of a commercial unit. We have 95%of the first floor and on the ground floor there is a pizza shop, a KFC and a clothes shop. We have our own fire alarm as do the 3 premises below us.

Our fire alarm company say the alarms should be linked.

The building management company say they don't need to be linked.

Conflicting opinions with opposite outcomes! One saving money one making money!

We obviously have a duty to under the RRFSO to co-ordinate and co-operate but does this stretch as far as having a linked fire alarm system? There are no common areas's strictly other than KFC share part of the landing and stairwell as part of one of their escape routes.

Any advice as always, gratefully received.

thanks in advance


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Firstly as a business, its the employer’s responsibility to conduct a fire risk assessment (FRA) which will compare the current control measures with the risks presented and where/if necessary make changes where those measures are unsuitable. The key bit there is it is the employer's responsibility - not the fire alarm company or managing agents (insofar as what happens within the demise of your premises).

If you have conducted a FRA, did it mention the need to link the various AFD systems? Presumably not, so is it possible to contact the person who carried out that FRA for a second opinion of the fire alarm company’s view?

You are right to be suspicious as I have seen so much sales talk dressed up as legal requirements. I am NOT saying that is the case here, but its very common in my experience - and the bigger firms are the worst they are!

To determine whether your workplace needs to be linked to others is not something anyone can do remotely. Its all about the level of risk, but some pointers:

Your premises -

A) Are there more than one means of escape? or;

Is the only escape route via the shared KFC staircase? (if so, are fire doors between KFC and your area in good condition, kept closed and offer at least 30 minute protection?)

B) Are your staff and expected occupiers awake and able to evacuate immediately? (ie. not sleeping, not a large number of mobility impaired persons, not a medical establishment where people are subject to aesthetic? A bar or place where people are possibly inebriated? - for instance No 10 Downing Street 😉)

C) Is there lone working in your business, especially after hours when the catering businesses downstairs may be working?

D) Is the separation - vertical, but especially horizontal-  between your place of work and the premises downstairs in good condition and constructed  from fire resisting materials? No damage, holes, excessive cables or pipes passing through, vertical risers fire stopped between floors?  How about the ventilation ducting from the KFC and pizza restaurant - do they pass through your premises?


You can see its not a straightforward situation, but common sense dictates that if you have a medical establishment with vulnerable persons, or a hotel, or even staff sleeping over above a KFC with ducting passing through your premises and a ceiling which is not in the best of health - linking detection may be cheaper than improving the separation and moving the ducting in order to keep your staff safe. Sleeping persons will always need detection and of course fire spread will be rapid if the separation is poor.

However, if the separation is in fair to good condition and your staff are 9 to 5, ambulant and able to start an evacuation immediately, linking AFD may not be necessary to comply with the Fire Safety Order

Lastly, when any company that offer fire safety services come up with ‘you must’ advice, seek a reference from them. Under what legislation/article/section? Or what British standard - remembering that a BS is best practice and not law.  This way you can research their claims directly. 

Indeed, why not do that to your fire alarm company. Ask them to reference their advice and let me know on here what they say

Good luck

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