Updated Fire Safety Standard

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The SABS has recently published a revised version of SANS 10139, Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems in non-domestic premises which brings South Africa in line with fire safety standards similar to those in the United Kingdom and Europe. The standard provides recommendations for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in and around buildings, other than dwellings.

Published 3 May 2021, SANS 10139 is based on the British Standards BS5839-1, Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises. The British Standard (BS5839-1) was updated several years ago after fatalities occurred at an old age home in Lancashire that killed 14 elderly people.

This revised South African National Standards (SANS) comes at a time when the country witnessed two devastating fires. The wildfire that swept the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain and spread to the University of Cape Town, burning the historic campus library, and forcing the evacuation of students. Also the incident causing 700 patients to be evacuated from Johannesburg’s Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, after a fire blazed through parts of the medical facility in South Africa’s largest city.

It is crucial that a national set of guidelines and rules for the designers and installers of fire protection systems is provided for them to follow and uphold.

  • What has been revised in the national standard?
    Updated recommendations about the need for a fire detection system, variations from the standard, system components, detection zones, communication with the fire services, staged fire alarms, and manual call points.
  • Updated requirements for smoke detectors.
  • Updated requirements for spacing and placing of automatic fire detectors.
  • A commentary has been added with regard to a control and references the appropriate equipment.
  • A commentary has been added with regard to a control and references the appropriate equipment.
  • Updated measures to limit false alarm.
  • A commentary on inspection and servicing has been added.

Benefits of the revision

Laura Swart, Chairperson and Member of the SABS Technical Committee says, “The revision of SANS 10139 will benefit the fire protection industry as it clarifies all requirements and will ultimately eliminate the confusion experienced by the protection industry. This in turn, will result in a more effective use of the national standard, thus improving firefighting and improving the job of saving lives and preventing the loss of property. The standard also aims to mitigate the risk of failure of fire detection and fire alarm systems in and around buildings.”

She concludes, “The revision of the national standards was made possible by valuable collaboration with the Fire System Inspection Bureau (FSIB), the Fire Detection Installers Association (FDIA) and the South African insurance industry.

* The official title of the SABS Technical Committee is SABS/TC021/SC01, Fire safety – Fixed fire extinguishing systems

nils.flaatten@sabs.co.za