HMO Fire Alarms

Mar 21, 2024 | Fire Safety

In a recent video spotted on social media where a control panel is being damaged because of a false alarm in a HMO we’ve popped our expert opinion into a blog so you can understand more about the standards and functionality of your fire alarm.  HMOs is that if the fire detection systems are not installed to BS5839 Part 1 which requires correct placement and types of detectors to prevent false alarms things like this happen. It’s also all about the communication. If the people living in the HMO don’t know what will trigger the detectors (burnt pizza in this case perhaps?) or how to operate the control panel then they will take matters into their own hands.

The Importance of Correct Placement and Types of Detectors According to BS5839 Part 1 for HMO Fire Alarms

Fire safety is paramount in any building, be it residential, commercial, or industrial. Detecting fires early on can mean the difference between a manageable situation and a catastrophic one. BS5839 Part 1 provides guidelines for the correct placement and types of detectors to mitigate false alarms and ensure effective fire detection.

BS5839 Part 1, published by the British Standards Institution (BSI), outlines recommendations for the design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in non-domestic premises. It emphasises the importance of selecting suitable detectors and placing them strategically to maximise their effectiveness while minimising false alarms.

One of the key aspects addressed by BS5839 Part 1 is the correct placement of detectors. Various factors such as the layout of the building, the nature of occupancy, and potential fire hazards must be taken into consideration when determining the placement of detectors. Detectors should be located where smoke or heat is likely to first be detected in the event of a fire, such as near sources of ignition, in escape routes, and in areas with high-risk equipment or materials.

The standard provides guidance on the types of detectors that should be used in different environments. These include smoke detectors, heat detectors, multi-sensor detectors, and flame detectors, each designed to detect specific indicators of fire. By selecting the appropriate type of detector based on the characteristics of the environment, false alarms can be minimised while ensuring reliable fire detection.

Mitigating false alarms is a crucial aspect of fire safety. False alarms not only disrupt normal operations but can also lead to complacency and reduced responsiveness to genuine alarms. Incorrect placement of detectors, as well as the use of unsuitable detector types, can contribute to false alarms. Adhering to the recommendations set forth in BS5839 Part 1 helps reduce the likelihood of false alarms, enhancing the overall effectiveness of fire detection systems and stopping situations like in the video.

What’s the legislation for a HMO fire alarms?

The legislation governing fire safety in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) is stringent and critical for ensuring the safety of residents. The Housing Act 2004, along with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, sets out specific requirements for fire alarms in HMOs. According to these regulations, landlords of HMOs are obligated to install and maintain appropriate fire detection and alarm systems. This includes the provision of smoke detectors, heat detectors, or multi-sensor detectors, depending on the layout and occupancy of the property.

Furthermore, the legislation mandates that fire alarms in HMOs must be interconnected, ensuring that when one alarm is triggered, all occupants are alerted promptly throughout the premises. This interconnected system enhances the chances of early detection and swift evacuation in the event of a fire, reducing the risk of injury or loss of life. Regular testing, inspection, and maintenance of fire alarm systems are also required by law, ensuring their continued reliability and effectiveness in protecting the occupants of HMOs from the devastating effects of fire. Compliance with these regulations is not just a legal obligation for landlords but a crucial responsibility towards safeguarding the lives and well-being of tenants in shared accommodation.

Communication with occupants

Communicating effectively with students in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) about fire alarms is essential for ensuring their safety and understanding of emergency procedures. Here are some best practices:

Clear Written Instructions on the HMO fire alarm

Provide clear written instructions about what to do in the event of a fire alarm. These instructions should be prominently displayed in common areas such as hallways, kitchens, and living rooms, as well as in individual bedrooms. Use simple language and include step-by-step guidance on evacuation procedures, including the nearest fire exits and assembly points.

Orientation Session

Conduct an orientation session for new tenants to familiarise them with the property’s fire alarm system and emergency procedures. This session can include a demonstration of how to operate the fire alarm, the location of fire extinguishers, and a walkthrough of evacuation routes. You can provide a video on YouTube.

Regular Fire Drills

Schedule regular fire drills to practice evacuation procedures with all tenants. This helps reinforce the importance of responding quickly and calmly to a fire alarm and ensures that everyone knows what to do in a real emergency. Provide feedback and address any questions or concerns raised during the drills.

Digital Communication

Utilise digital communication channels such as email, text messages, or a dedicated online platform to remind students about fire safety practices and upcoming fire drills. This allows you to reach students quickly and efficiently, especially in situations where immediate action is required.

Resident Meetings

Organise regular meetings with residents to discuss fire safety issues, address any maintenance concerns related to the fire alarm system, and reinforce the importance of adhering to safety protocols. Encourage open communication and feedback from tenants to promote a culture of safety and collaboration.

Emergency Contact Information

Ensure that all tenants have access to emergency contact information for the landlord or property manager, as well as local fire and rescue services. Encourage students to report any faults or malfunctions with the fire alarm system immediately to facilitate prompt maintenance and repairs.

By implementing these communication strategies, landlords or property managers can effectively educate and empower students living in an HMO to respond appropriately to fire alarms and prioritize their safety in the event of an emergency.

Using monitoring for HMO fire alarms

Implementing fire monitoring for alarms in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a proactive approach to enhancing fire safety and ensuring the well-being of occupants. Here’s how fire monitoring systems can be utilized effectively in an HMO:

  1. Early Detection: Fire monitoring systems utilise sensors and detectors strategically placed throughout the property to detect signs of fire, such as smoke or heat, at the earliest possible stage. This early detection is crucial in HMOs where multiple tenants may be living in close proximity, as it provides valuable time for evacuation and emergency response.
  2. Remote Monitoring: Many modern fire monitoring systems offer remote monitoring capabilities, allowing landlords or property managers to monitor the status of the system in real-time from a centralised location. This enables swift identification of any issues or malfunctions with the fire alarm system, ensuring prompt maintenance and repairs to keep the system operational at all times.
  3. Integration with Alarm Systems: Fire monitoring systems can be integrated with alarm systems to automatically trigger alerts and notifications in the event of a fire or other emergency. This ensures that all occupants are promptly alerted to the danger, even if they are not in the immediate vicinity of the fire alarm.
  4. 24/7 Monitoring Service: Some fire monitoring systems come with 24/7 monitoring services provided by professional monitoring centres. These centres are staffed by trained operators who can quickly assess incoming alerts, verify the presence of a fire, and dispatch emergency services if necessary. This additional layer of support can be invaluable in ensuring a rapid and coordinated response to emergencies in an HMO.
  5. Compliance with Regulations: Utilising fire monitoring systems can help landlords or property managers ensure compliance with fire safety regulations governing HMOs. By investing in state-of-the-art monitoring technology and adhering to industry standards, they demonstrate a commitment to the safety and well-being of their tenants, reducing the risk of legal liabilities and penalties.

Our final words are about getting this all right so you are not continually forking out on new control panels like this landlord will have to do after the brick attack it’s suffered. Let’s hope there is no fire on this property between now and the fix.

So if you’re a HMO owner and don’t want to be forking out for new control panels on a regular basis then give us a call (0800 2455645) or you can email us too (