Dos and don’ts

As a specialist Fire Alarm CAD company that has been creating fire alarm zone plans for over a decade, we have seen our fair share of compliant and non-compliant zone plans.

The British Standard for zone plans can be found in BS5839-1:2017, which states a zone plan is, and the division into zones, should be sited next to each CIE”.

Sounds complicated right? We’ll make it simple; here are 5 common mistakes made with fire alarm zone plans that you should avoid.

1. Wrong Orientation

One common error is the zone plan orientation. Some prefer the front of the building at the bottom, however, the correct orientation should be as you are reading the zone plan. This is usually the same as looking at the CIE (Control and Indicating Equipment), as the zone plan is usually adjacent to the control panel on the same wall.

For example, the plan on the left clearly displays a door to the right of the person standing in front of the zone plan (the ‘You Are Here‘ marker), while the plan on the right is upside down.

For every CIE in the building, a zone plan should be sited next to each, with the appropriate ‘You Are‘ Here marker.

2. Out of Date Building Plan

Like other forms of fire safety documentation, zone plans need to be kept up to date. References to offices, spaces, and zone descriptions need to be accurate, especially if any changes have been made to the building which can affect the search distance. If plans aren’t up to date, update ASAP!

An out-of-date zone plan which doesn’t match the building layout is non-compliant.

3. Lack of Building Detail

Unfortunately, a lack of detail is a regular occurrence for many zone plans. A zone plan should show in full detail the building layout, it should not be a block plan. A lack of detail could potentially make the search distance greater than it actually is, confusing the fire and rescue services and staff or visitors to the building.

If you look at the two plans, you will clearly see the left plan has the positions of all doors, stairs and separate rooms. . This lack of detail could raise the difficulty for the fire services locating the fire, as well as visitors and staff finding the quickest and safest exit.

4. A Zone List instead of a Zone Plan


As stated above, a zone plan is “a diagrammatic representation of the building showing at least the building entrances, the main circulation areas and the division into zones, should be sited next to each CIE”.

A list alone wouldn’t satisfy this.

Even with good descriptions, someone unfamiliar with the building wouldn’t necessarily know where these areas are or their extent.

5. No zone plan

Clients have various reasons for not having a zone plan; they have an addressable system that gives a text description of the device in the alarm, a zone list is used instead, there’s only one zone so is a zone plan really needed? Etc.

BS5839-1:2017 clearly states a “diagrammatic representation of the building”, which doesn’t preclude addressable systems. In fact, all addressable systems should display the zone as the primary indication of an alarm, see BS5839-1:2017 13.2.4 (a), and therefore the zone plan is just as important.

This also doesn’t preclude systems of just one zone; the zone plan shows the extent of the building covered by the system and the main circulation areas to search for the event of an alarm.

That’s our list of 5 common mistakes made with fire alarm zone plans! What common mistakes have you seen with zone plans? Let us know in the comments below.

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