What Is A Warning System?

Warning systems are designed to alert and evacuate building occupants in the event of an emergency. A building evacuation is typically conducted in accordance with a defined set of emergency response procedures.Loudspeakers or sounders are located throughout the premises.

There are two standard signals Alert and Evacuate which are either a tone or a tone with a voice message. These messages may also be configured to assist occupants in multi-lingual environments.

For all warning systems visual alarm devices (flashing lights) may be installed in areas where there are high ambient noise levels which would make audible alarms ineffective. Visual alarms are required in hearing impaired occupant designated areas.

Warning systems with loudspeakers may also be used for non-emergency purposes such as public address, or background music. The system automatically overrides these features in an emergency condition.

Why Do Buildings Have Warning Systems?

The Building Code of Australia volume 1 parts E1.5 and E2.2a detail the mandatory requirement for occupant warning systems to be provided in various classes of buildings. Parts E4.9 and G3.8 specify the classes of buildings that require emergency warning and intercom systems.

How Do I Operate A Warning System?

An emergency warning system is generally configured to be activated on an alarm signal by;
• An automatic fire sprinkler system; or
• A fire detection system; or
• A manual break glass point
Manual control of the system should only be undertaken by qualified people that have been trained in the use of the panel and understand how the system operation fits within the building evacuation procedures.
The basic occupant warning system utilising sounders will be incorporated into the building’s fire alarm panel and may not have any dedicated controls.

Maintenance, Inspection & Testing

Western Australia’s building legislation requires owners of Class 2 to Class 9 buildings (which includes residential apartments) to ensure the building’s firefighting services and equipment are maintained. This is to ensure that safety systems remain capable of performing to a standard not less than they were originally required and commissioned to achieve.

The Building Commission considers the adoption of Australian Standard AS1851-2012 Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment as good practice and a means for owners to ensure fire safety measures are serviced at regular frequencies to demonstrate suitable operation, and rectified or repaired if necessary to meet their regulatory obligation on maintenance.

AS1851 requires warning systems to be inspected monthly. There is an additional inspection and test checklist required to be undertaken yearly and five yearly.

Where Should Warning Devices Be Located?

Australian Standard AS1670.1 sets out requirements for the design, installation and commissioning of fire detection and alarm systems comprising components conforming to the requirements of the appropriate component Standards.

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