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17/02/2017 / Graham Lowe

Have You Had the Wool Pulled Over Your Eyes?

Are you having the wool pulled over your eyes.png

Open and closed protocols have been a key topic of discussion for decades, and with ever-evolving technologies in the fire detection industry, it is not surprising that there is an element of confusion surrounding the subject. In this blog, we aim to give you a clear, neutral, explanation of the difference between open and closed protocols, so you can make an informed decision when faced with the choice.

First and foremost, let us define what a ‘protocol’ is.

A protocol is the communication language that a manufacturer develops for their own equipment that allows the components of a fire alarm system to intercommunicate effectively to provide the rapid and dependable detection of fire.

Recently, the definition of an ‘open protocol’ has been open to interpretation; however, we believe the industry definition of an open protocol is very straight forward.

When manufacturers share the technical details of their protocol with third parties such as control panel manufacturers and other device or component manufacturers, allowing them to produce compatible equipment, it is considered to be an open protocol.

When a manufacturer does not provide general access to the technical details of its own protocol, and therefore its devices are not compatible with third party equipment, it is considered to be a closed protocol.

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of each, and whilst the below table is not exhaustive, it gives you an indication of the key issues you should consider when choosing one system over another.



Faced with the facts, you can now make an informed decision as to which solution is most suitable for your requirements.

All Hochiki products communicate using a high integrity communications link called Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP). ESP is an open protocol and is supported by a number of leading independent control panel manufacturers. When choosing Hochiki, specifiers, installers and end users all have an open choice on system design, installation and maintenance.  Hochiki’s ESP protocol doesn’t restrict you to one single manufacturer, allowing you freedom of choice without compromising on safety.

Need more information? Here’s a link to our whitepaper titled; ‘Open or Closed Protocol: Your Guide to Making an Informed Decision’.

Click here for more information on Hochiki products.

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25/01/2017 / Graham Lowe

So, what is Emergency Safety Lighting?

BS 5266 was revised for two key reasons; to keep the document aligned with associated national and European standards, and to recognise the fact that, in some situations, occupants might need to remain on the premises in safety. For example, it may be difficult to evacuate care homes, hospitals etc. The revised standard, therefore, introduces a new type of emergency lighting, ‘Emergency Safety Lighting’ (also known as ‘stay put’ lighting), and provides the risk assessor with clear guidance on how to assess where this type of emergency lighting might be necessary.


Diagram of Types of Emergency Lighting, ICEL 2016


The revision makes it clear that Emergency Safety Lighting should help occupants continue normal operations in the event of failure of the supply to normal lighting. In high risk task areas, this means that the illuminance value should not be less than 10% of the average of the normal lighting at the location of the risk. It is important to note however, that in some areas, such as hospital operating theatres, 100% of normal lighting levels may still be required.

The revision also stipulates that occupants can only stay in the building as long as it is safe to do so. This means that they can only stay in the building if the risk is minimal (eg. there is adequate daylight in the building), or until there is 1-hour duration left in the emergency lighting, or until the system allows occupants to be escorted to a low risk location.

When the emergency action plan is drawn up, a number of considerations must be made; if there is a stay put solution, how long can occupants stay? How will the end of the stay put period be indicated? What happens at the end of the emergency duration? How will occupants be directed to safe refuges? This must all be documented in the action plan.

A maintenance plan also needs to be established, and it is strongly recommended that the Emergency Safety Lighting is self-testing.

Hochiki’s ‘FIREscape’ is a fully monitored, intelligent, self-testing emergency lighting system which is suitable for a variety of applications. For example, it has been successfully installed at Sligo Regional Hospital and Teesside University. To find out more about FIREscape, please click here.

Hochiki has recently updated their A6 pocket guide to BS 5266, which you can request a free copy of via the website. Hochiki have also updated their Emergency Lighting CPD presentation to include the revisions to BS5266 Part 1: 2016; if you are interested in a presentation please contact us.

If you would like to discuss an emergency lighting project, please contact our Lighting Manager, Ian Watts, on 07789 228 949.

It is important to note that there are several other revisions to BS 5266 Part 1: 2016, and so we would recommend that you refer to the official full standard for more details.

10/10/2016 / Graham Lowe

How will Smart Cities affect the Fire Industry?


First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by the term ‘smart city’. In short, a smart city is an urban environment which is harnessing cutting edge technology in order to streamline services, reduce waste, reduce energy consumption and generally improve efficiency.

We all know that continual improvement is by no-means a new concept, but it is certainly being accelerated by the Internet of things (IOT).


The internet of things has already developed to include; wearable technology, smart heating systems, smart home lighting and we are now even beginning to see smart developments in the fire industry. For example, leading panels can now be accessed remotely and status reports can be downloaded.

Hochiki recently ran a survey asking installers which sectors they think will be most impacted by smart technology; it is not surprising that 24% thought facilities management would be most affected, but a further 18% thought that it would significantly impact the life safety industry.


Another accelerating factor for smart cities is the introduction of government initiatives. For example, this year saw the compulsory introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the UK construction sector. BIM is designed to improve consistency across the construction sector, and to improve efficiency, reduce wastage and cut costs across the whole lifetime of the building.

In Hochiki’s smart city report, Jonathan Gilbert of Kentec Electronics commented,

“As the survey findings suggest, government will be a key driver for smart technology in the life safety industry”.

However, he continued,

“In the UK for example, smoke detectors must be wired separately, so unless legislation changes to allow them to become part of a full system, complete integration will be impossible. It’s not to say that legislation won’t evolve to make smart cities a reality, but it’s certainly going to be one of the greatest challenges for everyone developing technology in the industry.”

This is certainly an exciting time for the life safety industry; with the amount of new technology at our finger tips the possibilities are (potentially) endless!

To read the full report, please click here to download it from our website.

19/09/2016 / Graham Lowe

The Effects of e-Cigarettes on Smoke Detectors


Since 2007, the use of electronic cigarettes has drastically increased worldwide, and more frequently we are being asked how e-cigarette vapour will affect Hochiki smoke detectors.

In order to understand how e-cigarette vapour will affect a smoke detector, we need to understand the particle size and distribution of aerosols produced by e-cigarettes. The Department of Chemistry at Monmouth University measured the particle size in an undiluted state using a spectral transmission procedure, and found that e-cigarette particles are typically between 0.25 – 0.45 microns, which is comparable to tobacco smoke (as shown on the graph below).


Diagram to show particle sizes (particle sizes obtained from engineering tool box and NCBI).

However, we must bear in mind, that the particles that reach a smoke detector will not be undiluted; they would have mixed with the saliva in the mouth, creating particle sizes more comparable to steam. We must therefore expect e-cigarettes to affect smoke detectors in the same way as steam.

Hochiki are renowned worldwide for manufacturing high quality, robust and reliable smoke detectors. We understand that false alarms are both disruptive and expensive, and as such we have incorporated a number of features in both our conventional and analogue smoke detectors that help protect against false alarms.

For example, Hochiki detectors contain a honeycomb structured mesh that has been specifically designed to maximise smoke flow, and improve tolerance against insects, dust and steam. If steam comes into contact with the mesh, the steam is forced to diffuse through the mesh resulting in dissipation of steam particles, thus reducing false alarms caused by steam.


By making the aperture smaller (0.4mm), narrowing the distance between apertures (0.05mm) and widening the effective aperture ratio, it maximises the smoke flow and improves tolerance against insects, dust and steam.

Furthermore, Hochiki smoke detectors work using optical technology; i.e. if smoke enters the chamber it will cause the infrared light to scatter and the device will go into alarm. In order to protect against false alarms, Hochiki devices use an optimum scattering angle between the infrared LED and the Photo Diode which reduces sensitivity towards steam and oil.

In conclusion…

There have been very few reports of e-cigarettes causing problems with smoke detectors. If you have purchased your smoke detector from a reputable manufacturer such as Hochiki, it is unlikely that a small amount of e-cigarette vapour will cause your device to go into alarm. Of course, if someone is standing directly under a detector and creating a generous amount of e-cigarette vapour, then the density of particles entering the chamber is likely to cause any smoke detector to go into alarm.

Whilst Hochiki devices are already considered to be amongst the most reliable in the world, our research and development department continue to experiment with the most innovative technology for use in future generations of Hochiki devices. This will guarantee that Hochiki devices continue to be some of the most robust and reliable devices on the market.


10/08/2016 / Graham Lowe

Large open spaces: Understanding your options

When faced with a large open space, such as a sports facility, shopping centre, museum or warehouse, you might be wondering which technology is most suitable. Vast open spaces can lead to rapid fire spread, therefore early detection is vital in order to reduce damage levels and avoid loss of life.


Your first option is probably going to be optical beam detectors. The advantage of beam detectors in these applications is their ability to detect when smoke is scattered over wide areas.  This is achieved due to the beam detectors using the obscuration method, which detects fire due to smoke particles obscuring the infra-red light along the sensing path.  When sufficient smoke blocks the infra-red light beam, reducing the received signal strength by a pre-determined setting, a fire condition is generated.  Such detection sensitivity enables the beam to identify a fire before it spreads.

Of course, there are limitations to beam detectors; for example, reflections from nearby objects can cause problems with a beam detectors ability to cover the required distance, and sunlight can also interfere with the beam; but careful positioning can avoid these issues.

BEAMS OBSCURATIONOptical beam detectors can be installed at a height of up to 25 metres, which means that very little unwanted obscuration is likely to occur, however a well-designed beam detector will still be designed to distinguish between unwanted obscuration (such as a bird breaking the beam) and a genuine fire condition. Unfortunately, mist, steam and dust can all obscure a beam in a similar way to smoke which can potentially cause a false alarm, therefore the installer will need to adjust the sensitivity of the beam detector to suit the environment in which it is being installed.

Warehouses and other areas that suffer from extreme changes in temperature, can pose particular problems; for example, a beam detector is susceptible to condensation and so in addition to regular cleaning, an anti-fogging kit may be required. Also, as the building expands and contracts with the differences in temperature, the beam may need re-aligning. This isn’t a problem with many modern beam detectors as they can automatically re-align themselves, however in an area that is regularly used for an activity such as welding, you will need to turn the auto-alignment function off as it will struggle to re-align due to the welding smoke.

Where a large volume is to be covered and high sensitivity is required, an aspirating system could be a viable second option. Air sampling systems consist of lengths of pipe with strategically placed sampling holes along its length. An air impeller is then used to draw air along the pipe from the sampling holes and through the detector measuring chamber. Most high sensitivity aspirating detectors use the obscuration method, and when a pre-defined density of smoke appears in the chamber, the system will go into alarm.

In most instances an aspirating system is set up using absolute scaling, whereby the system assumes that the normal environment has zero amount of smoke pollution. The sensitivity can then be set; for example, 0.05% obscuration per meter would be highly sensitive, which would be ideal for clean rooms and computer rooms etc. However, if you have a slightly more polluted environment, relative scaling might be more suitable. Relative scaling allows you to establish a pollution scale relative to the background level of pollution. ‘Zero’ would be defined as the average background level of pollution. This therefore means that aspirating systems can be used in less traditional environments, such as warehouses.

Again, when using aspirating systems, there are some potential issues to bear in mind; for example, dilution can be a potential problem if the pipe design has not been carefully considered. For example, if the detector only draws smoke in through 1 out of 10 sample holes, the density of smoke may be diluted so much that it fails to go into alarm. Other issues include; dirt building up in the sample pipes, moisture problems and air flow faults.

aspirating 1

Dirt can build up in the pipes due to the continuous air flow, therefore they need to be cleaned regularly. This can be tricky if you have long or intricate pipe work, and often you will require a high pressure cleaning system to ensure it is done properly.

Aspirating systems are also susceptible to moisture, you may therefore need a moisture trap and a heater box (should the environment necessitate it).

A change in air pressure (in an aircraft hangar for example) can lead to an air flow fault. The installer will therefore need to position the exhaust inside the sample area, but make sure that the detector is outside the area prone to pressure change.

aspirating 4

Ok, so let’s consider price point. Aspirating systems are designed to provide maximum performance on the assumption that the customer will be willing to pay more. So, if you require high performance, high reliability, and stability, then it is worthwhile investing in an aspirating system.

Beam detectors are less expensive, and if using a reflective beam detector instead of a transmitter and a receiver, costs are significantly reduced again.

Of course, ultimately, it depends on the environment; we are not saying that beam detectors and aspirating systems are completely interchangeable; they’re not! It’s just important to understand the scope and application of the different technology available!

For more information about Hochiki’s high sensitivity aspirating system, FIRElink, please click here.

For more information about Hochiki’s FIREbeam please click here.

08/07/2016 / Graham Lowe

Firex Review 2016

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In 2014, Firex International moved from the NEC in Birmingham to the ExCeL in London, and it’s fair to say that the move has caused some controversy within the UK’s fire industry!

UBM, the exhibition organisers, explained that the key reasons for the relocation were to make the show more accessible to international visitors and to move manufacturers and distributers closer to the end user. Having analysed our own data captured during the past 4 shows, we are able to reveal that; in 2013 (the final year in Birmingham) 26% of our visitors were from overseas, and in 2014 (the first year in London) we saw a huge increase with 44% of visitors from overseas. However, the novelty of London was short lived and the number of overseas visitors plummeted to 29% in 2015 and only rose slightly to 32% in 2016.

With regards to reaching end users; in 2014 and 2015 we gained a number of new contacts from the construction, retail, healthcare and public sectors, however in 2016 there was a noticeable reduction in the number of end users we saw. However, we were pleased with the number of electrical installers, facilities companies and security companies we met this year. In fact, the cross over from the security show (IFSEC) was particularly good; 45% of our visitors came from the security sector, which highlights the fact that so many security companies are now branching into fire safety.

We mustn’t forget that alongside the move to London, came the shift from a biennial exhibition to an annual exhibition which has also sparked some interesting debate. The fire industry is notoriously slow moving and so some companies are struggling to justify the expense of exhibiting at Firex every year. You might have noticed that some exhibitors have therefore decided to take the ‘one year on, one year off’ approach, whilst other exhibitors have decided to drastically reduce the size of their stand.

So how does this reflect on visitor numbers? Generally, we were pleased with both the number and quality of visitors to Firex, and have seen an increase in visitor numbers year on year for the past 3 years. It is however, probably worth noting that this year there was a substantial dip in visitors on day 3, but this could have been, in part, due to the flooding seen across the South East that morning which disturbed both rail and road networks.

Before moving to London, UBM were keen to highlight the fact that, being the capital city, London would carry its own allure. This is certainly true; with the London Eye, Tower Bridge, The O2 and many other landmarks so close to the ExCeL it is certainly something that exhibitors can take advantage of when entertaining guests; and so we did! This year, on the Wednesday evening, we took some of our customers over to the O2 via the Emirates Cable Cars, to enjoy an evening of music, food, drink and networking. We also took this opportunity to award 14 trophies in recognition of the tremendous sales growth seen by a number of our customers this year. The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and a number of photos can be found on our Twitter page.

What are our plans for next year? Next year we are considering mixing things up a little; maybe changing the size, position and design of our stand completely! We currently have lots of ideas bouncing around, so watch this space!

31/05/2016 / Graham Lowe

BIM and Fire Safety: What progress has been made?

BIM-DOWNLIGHTER-ANGLE1Five years ago, the Cabinet Office announced their requirement for fully collaborative 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM) to be used for all centrally procured projects by April 2016. Having now passed that deadline, it might be shocking to learn that, according to the NBS National BIM Report 2016, only 54% of UK respondents are aware and currently using BIM.

In 2011, the Cabinet Office’s Construction Strategy Report suggested that many companies already had the capability of working in a fully collaborative 3D environment but a lack of compatible systems, standards and protocols was preventing wide spread adoption. Five years on and with the BIM framework now fully established, reports are finding that many businesses are still struggling to justify the investment in resources.

It could be argued that the fire safety industry is one of those sectors that have been particularly slow to adopt BIM; however Hochiki Europe is prepared to lead the way.

In 2014, we realised that in order for us to continue supplying fire detection equipment into centrally procured government projects, we would need to take a closer look at BIM. It soon became apparent that in order to satisfy the requirements of BIM level 2, we as a manufacturer, would need to create 3D objects with a specific set of parameters for all of our products. We began by speaking to a number of BIM consultants who all gave us some great advice, but we also needed some feedback from our customers.

At the tail end of 2014, we ran a survey asking installers three questions; are they aware of BIM? Are they using BIM? And if so, which 3D CAD software are they using? The results were as expected; 53% had never heard of BIM and only 8% were currently using BIM. However of those 8%, it appeared that Autodesk Revit was the most popular 3D CAD software. At the beginning of 2015, we took the plunge and commissioned Excitech to produce 20 Hochiki BIM objects, from both our fire detection and emergency lighting ranges, for the Autodesk Revit platform.

In June 2015, we become the UK’s first independent fire detection manufacturer to provide BIM components for the NBS National BIM library. The number of Hochiki downloads has been increasing month on month, which is a really positive reflection on the fire industry’s response to BIM. What’s more, at the tail end of 2015, we asked installers the same questions that we had back in 2014, and we were pleased to see that 17% were now fully aware and using BIM (9% increase), and the number of installers who had never heard of BIM dropped to 30% (22% decrease).

Hochiki Europe recognises that the BIM framework will help to improve collaboration across the construction sector, increase efficiency and a reduce costs; and this is something we are keen to champion. As a manufacturer, we need to support our customers by helping them to understand how and what BIM objects are used for. In recognition of this and almost one year since the release of our own BIM Objects, we decided to hold a webinar entitled ‘BIM: What you need to know for today and tomorrow’ co-presented with our BIM consultancy, Excitech. We invited installers, consultants, specifiers, architects and anyone else who might be interested in understanding the concept of BIM and how it is now impacting the fire industry. The event was a huge success with over 100 registrants; another sign that the fire industry is beginning to embrace BIM.

In order to support the fire industry further, Hochiki also has a presence on the FIA’s newly formed BIM steering group, designed to aid the adoption of BIM across the fire industry.

Since the release of our BIM objects, we have begun working with a number of customers on centrally procured projects; the largest being London’s University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH). We look forward to working with other customers within the BIM Level 2 framework.

For more information about Hochiki, or to download the BIM objects, please visit

08/02/2016 / Graham Lowe


LHDC Group Shot 1

Regardless of the nature of your building, or what it is used for, having the right fire safety and emergency lighting equipment in place is imperative to make sure the people using the property are safe.

However, when your facility covers a vast, enclosed area, – like a tunnel, multi-storey car park, or even a large factory – ensuring optimum life safety throughout the property becomes a challenge using traditional equipment.

Every section of such a large space needs to be monitored to maximise the chances of identifying a fire, and allow the people responsible for life safety to act to minimise damage to the building and the threat to occupants’ well-being. A large number of conventional smoke and heat detection products would be needed to achieve the right level of coverage which, for the largest open areas, could be prohibitively expensive.

It can also be difficult to monitor environments like food processing lines or recycling plants effectively with standard systems. Large amounts of dust or vapour in the air, for example, can cause issues for conventional smoke or heat beam detectors, leading to false alarms or masking safety issues. Debris can also build up between components in conveyors and other mechanical equipment on a production line, causing excess heat and friction that can trigger a fire. This can happen anywhere along the line, making it vital that the best possible monitoring is in place.

In large office buildings, meanwhile, the long trays of cabling hidden away inside walls and cupboards can also be tricky to keep an eye on. Any damage to a section of cabling could lead to a fire that could easily spread through service ducts, unless building managers are alerted to the incident in time.

So what can the managers of these structures do to ensure their facility has the best possible fire safety monitoring in place?

Well, this is where Linear Heat Detection solutions can help. Consisting of a length of heat-sensing cable installed throughout the space in question, Linear Heat Detection systems can provide early indication of a fire or overheating anywhere along the cable. Not only are they able to trigger alarms for hot spots occurring on small sections of the cable, the products are able to identify the location of a fire to within a one metre section.

There are many Linear Heat Detection systems available to building managers, including a newly-launched range from Hochiki Europe. There are conventional systems, for example, that are designed to trigger an alarm once a hot spot reaches a set temperature, making them ideal for use in sensitive environments where excess heat could trigger a serious fire.

Analogue addressable equipment, on the other hand, features an electrical controller that monitors fluctuations in heat along the cable, sounding an alert when temperatures on a particular section indicate a fire.

Every building and structure is different, so it’s important that building managers ensure they have installed the best possible equipment for their facility’s requirements. A Linear Heat Detection system is a highly reliable and cost-effective solution for a host of infra-structure types, from long enclosed spaces, challenging, dusty environments and conveyor systems.

Talking with life safety experts can help managers identify the most appropriate technology for their needs. If you need more information on choosing the right Linear Heat Detection equipment, you can contact Hochiki Europe on 0044 (0)1634 266 566, or email

Alternatively, you can find out more about our Linear Heat Detection systems here.

25/01/2016 / Graham Lowe

The Cost of False Alarms

false_alarms_infographicWe’ve talked in previous blogs about the issue of false alarms in commercial and public buildings. Over the last 15 years, the number of unnecessary fire alerts in the UK has more than halved, but false alarms remain a problem.

It was recently reported that Fire and Rescue Service crews in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, for example, attended nearly 500 unwanted fire alarms in 2015, while Carryduff fire station in Northern Ireland was called to 160 false alerts, representing 70 per cent and 50 per cent of call-outs respectively.

These levels of unnecessary alerts have ramifications for both fire services and businesses. Not only do false alarms distract fire and rescue teams from attending genuine incidents, they can cost businesses significant amounts of money from lost worker productivity and, in some cases, fines.

The infographic to the right highlights some shocking false alarm statistics; it also offers plenty of advice to help you cut the risk of false alarms across your premises.

Click the image to view a larger version of the infographic or click here.

Hochiki also offer a free false alarms whitepaper, download it here.

23/12/2015 / Graham Lowe


With the New Year now upon us, it’s time to reflect on some of the key developments affecting the life safety industry over the last year, as well as look forward to what we can expect from 2016.


A busy calendar

Perhaps the biggest event in the industry calendar in 2015 was FIREX International. One of Europe’s largest tradeshows for the fire safety and emergency lighting sector, FIREX brought together manufacturers and specifiers to discuss the latest industry topics and issues.


Hochiki Europe was on hand at the event to meet customers and explore ways to further improve best practice in the industry. Our team members explained to visitors the impetus behind our campaign to champion transparency in the life safety supply chain. We also showcased some of our latest product innovations, which were added to the National BIM Library.


Training and installation

The publication of studies by Hochiki Europe saw the industry spotlight fall on the two key issues of installer training and system installation.


The first report, in July, found that almost half of European fire safety equipment installers are not familiar with the latest fire and emergency lighting legislation. With more than two thirds of respondents saying they look to manufacturers specifically to help them understand regulations, the study provided a stark reminder to life safety manufacturers that they need to support installers to comply with legislation through specialist training.


In October, Hochiki Europe’s second study revealed that more than half of European businesses are risking the welfare of building occupants by failing to adjust their life safety technology when refurbishing space to accommodate changes in use. In response to the findings, we created a handy five-step guide to support businesses to make sure their fire safety and emergency lighting equipment is fit for the current needs of their premises.

Looking ahead

But what does 2016 hold? Even at this early stage, it looks as if the New Year will be as fast-moving as 2015 has been.


With the construction industry still growing, albeit more slowly than the start of 2015, building specifiers will require innovative fire safety and emergency lighting technology capable of meeting the particular needs of their new developments. Enhanced functionality will be a key feature of any new equipment, to make it even easier for the people in charge of maintaining a building’s life safety systems to look after them and keep them in optimum working condition.


The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) will also continue to increase, as the deadline for the Government’s 2016 Level 2 targets approaches. Hochiki Europe already provides BIM components for our fire and emergency lighting products – the first life safety system manufacturer to do so. Education and training for specifiers will be key to ensure the industry enjoys the full benefits of BIM.


Finally, the subject of emergency lighting remains high on the agenda, with the possibility that regulations will be updated in the New Year. Whatever changes take place though, life safety system manufacturers will be monitoring closely for any news on new legislation to ensure both their technology and their training support continue to help installers and building owners meet regulatory requirements.


What key trends do you think will affect the life safety sector in 2016?