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02/09/2013 / Graham Lowe

Don’t pay the price for short-term thinking

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In this blog Andy Dickinson, Hochiki Europe’s business development manager, explains why a fire detection system should be considered a long-term investment in which total cost of ownership (TCO) is a key consideration.

Given its vital role in protecting people and property, it is a constant source of amazement, frustration and disappointment to me just how many people fail to give the selection of life safety equipment the consideration it deserves. This is particularly apparent when it comes to purchasing a fire detection system, with a misguided focus on initial price rather than the long-term costs associated with it.

In the context of squeezed budgets and the prevalence of a ‘maximum value with minimum financial outlay’ approach to all aspects of building services procurement, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. However, the fact is that a failure to consider a fire detection system’s total cost of ownership (TCO) could well lead to significant unplanned expense in the future.

The fire detection sector is incredibly competitive and there is no shortage of choice. For the uninitiated, deciphering the marketing and technical jargon can prove a bewildering process and this is why, almost by default, customers often compare products by looking at the purchase prices alone. Although this is in some ways understandable, this will undoubtedly have financial repercussions, as maintenance, servicing, breakdown charges and product replacement costs can be many times higher than the initial investment alone.

A fire detection system needs ongoing maintenance to ensure that it functions correctly and minimises the likelihood of unwanted alarms. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) imposes a requirement to minimise unwanted fire alarms and suggests having a fire detection system checked and maintained every six months. Guidance on maintaining a system, together with advice on reducing unwanted alarms, can be found in BS 5839 Part 1.

As part of a maintenance regime, regular cleaning is crucial to a fire detector’s correct operation. With some detector designs it is possible to simply and quickly dismantle the detector, remove the chamber and clean or replace it on-site. However, this should only be done where the manufacturer can guarantee that once the detector has been reassembled and put back in the system it will automatically recalibrate itself – a simple feature designed to save money.

However, in some situations replacing a device will be necessary – something that should be considered in the context of TCO. The costs associated with various manufacturers’ products can vary considerably and it is always advisable to look at their warranties. For example, Hochiki Europe currently offers a three-year warranty on its fire detector heads, eliminating the need for additional costs during this timeframe. Not all manufacturers are quite as transparent though.

It is important to remember that the TCO argument extends way beyond the cost to an individual business – it also impacts the wider society. The latest figures estimate the cost to commerce and industry of dealing with unwanted alarms to be around £1bn a year and, what’s more, The Chief Fire Officers’ Association is pressing for further measures that are likely to mean a reduced level of response for premises that have a poor alarm history.

Some are even advocating more drastic measures. The London Fire Brigade has released details of the top five worst property types for false and unwanted alarms and identified how much it would have recouped if its proposed cost recovery scheme was already in place. The total bill could be as much as £1.3m a year and as part of its Draft Fifth London Safety Plan, which has just finished its consultation period, it suggests recovering the cost from those responsible for the fire detection systems where fire-fighters are unnecessarily called out 10 times or more in a 12 month period.

The good news is that reputable and forward thinking fire detection system manufacturers and installers are able to offer a wide range of information and advice on how to minimise long-term costs and reduce unwanted alarms. Taking the extra time to assess a fire detection system’s TCO is clearly a worthwhile exercise that will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run.

3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. a1keyservice / Oct 5 2013 6:08 pm

    Reblogged this on a1keyservice.

  2. newborn / Sep 21 2014 10:24 pm

    Very good blog post. I definitely love this site. Stick
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  1. STEP BY STEP SYSTEM SELECTION | Hochiki Europe Talking Heads

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