Building on the foundation of a great relationship
“From the outset, we were confident that Fire Safety Services could offer us the service that we needed. Having experienced the utter devastation that a fire can wreak, Bedford School places a high priority on choosing the right supplier for our fire safety needs“
“Over the past 15 years, we’ve always been impressed by the proactive attitude that FSS takes with our ongoing refurbishment programme and I can honestly say that we consider them an invaluable member of our wider team.”
Steve Pocock – Bursar, Bedford School
Bedford School, whom we have worked with for over 15 years is steeped in history having been founded by Royal Charter back in 1552. It is a thriving independent boarding and day school for boys situated on the edge of Bedford town centre. Boys can join Bedford School at age 7 when they enter the Prep School, moving to the Upper School at 13 until they complete their studies at 18. The school’s philosophy is based on delivering a well-grounded, ambitious education, built on four pillars of integrity, responsibility, curiosity and endeavour.
Bedford School is no stranger to the devastating effects of fire. In March 1979, most of the school building was destroyed by fire leaving a brick shell in its wake. Amazingly, the school continued to function from 22 temporary huts until the restored main building was unveiled in the autumn of 1981.
Building on the foundations of a great relationship
Our relationship began in 2002 when a new Fire Safety Services recruit – Adam Gillespie, one of our highly-valued systems managers – introduced us to Bedford School. Adam’s history with the school goes all the way back to the 1980s; their bond was so strong that when he came to work at Fire Safety Services, in our Bedford head office, the school were more than happy to follow and signed a fire safety services contract with us.
Over the last 15 years, we’ve provided Bedford School with an excellent quality of service and the school freely admit that they couldn’t be happier with our working relationship. We are responsible for providing all fire alarm and fire extinguisher related services including fire alarm installations, and the service and maintenance of alarms, extinguishers and signage.
The ‘Great Fire’ as staff and students refer to the blaze of 1979 has left its mark on the school. They appreciate only too well the importance of having adequate fire cover in place and the benefit of working with a reputable, third party accredited fire safety supplier like us. We have the necessary skills and experience to ensure the school is kept safe 24/7 and, importantly, is legally compliant with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
We understand the complex needs of a large school
The school sits on a considerable swathe of land in Bedfordshire, amounting to around 50 acres. It also houses 27 blocks of varying types and sizes including 18 boarding houses and study centres.
It’s been a busy time for the school who have an active refurbishment programme in place – understandable, given the age of the buildings – which means that we’ve taken care of 10 fire alarm installations in the past 7 years.
The reduction of false alarms was also a key objective for the school who wanted to avoid the obvious disruption to teaching that these alarms caused. Our work has helped contribute to a sharp decline in these events, particularly in the school canteen which was particularly susceptible.
Many organisations opt for linked fire alarm systems which is logical given the speed at which fire can spread. However, in the case of Bedford School, we recommended an approach where all fire alarm systems installed in the school work independently. The benefit of this is that due to the sheer size of the site, linked fire alarms would be incredibly disruptive to buildings that are not connected to one another and therefore not at risk. The school’s system works well – if a fire incident is detected by a fire alarm system it will simply activate in the appropriate area or block; this isolates the incident while still providing the necessary protection.
There are many other factors that need to be considered when choosing a fire alarm system for a school. These include purpose, building structure and current legislation, among others.
What types of fire alarm systems are available?
Once you and your fire safety services supplier have determined the category of fire alarm systems required, you can then decide on the most appropriate type of fire alarm system available.
There are four main categories:
- Analogue addressable
- Wireless systems
How we select the best systems for Bedford School
In our work with Bedford School, we have installed full addressable Gent fire systems with new wireless EMS systems. Because of the aged building structure, installing cables would cause too much damage and repair to guarantee compartmentation would be costly. Find out more about compartmentation and what you need to consider.
A recent installation carried out in the school’s new boarding house required the highest level of fire alarm cover – an L1 system – for the boarders who inhabit the house.
Meanwhile, in the science block, we have installed an L2 system while the rest of the school buildings are mainly either covered by L2 and L3 systems.
All fire alarm systems installed at the school are part of a phased refurbishment programme and are sourced from Gent, a high-end fire alarm manufacturer. Fire Safety Services is part of the Gent network of approved installers.
A busy school isn’t without its challenges, though…
Over the years we have been working with Bedford School, there have been more than a few technical challenges! Here are a couple of examples:
- Two years ago, we were asked to review the existing fire alarm system in the canteen, which had many long-term faults and was in dire need of a thorough assessment. We recommended a new fire alarm installation with an upgraded system supplied by Gent. Due the high technical ability of our technicians and intelligence of the Gent system, we were able to identify and rectify the issues which had been caused by poor quality equipment and cabling.
- The library block is home to specialist and historic archive materials and, with this in mind, needed specialist and protective fire safety cover. We recommended and installed an air sampling system. This involves a detector which is much like a vacuum cleaner screwed to the wall. It sucks air from the protected environment via purpose built aspirating pipes and fittings and samples the quality of air passing through the detection laser chamber. If smoke particles are present then the unit will trigger the main fire alarm system.
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