The amended Part B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations offers new improvements to fire safety guidance to ensure high-rise residential buildings are made safer in England, as part of a wider package of reforms. A significant change to Part B is that is now a mandatory requirement to fit an evacuation alert system in new buildings 18m and above. To comply, an evacuation alert system must conform with BS 8629:2019, the BSI code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of evacuation alert systems for use by fire and rescue services (FRS) in buildings containing flats. With the fire sector keen to comply with the new amendments, here is guidance on some of the industry’s questions.

Q: What building height requires an evacuation alert system to be installed?

A: BS 8629 applies to any height of building and when published the code of practice stated that the requirement for an evacuation alert system should be determined by the risk assessment. Since its publication the amended Part B of the Building Regulations also makes it a mandatory requirement for new residential developments over 18m to incorporate an evacuation alert system.

Q: Should each flat in a building have a detection system conforming to BS 5839 part 6 (Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings) as well as the evacuation alert system?

A: An evacuation alert system is required in addition to the fire detection measures as required in Approved Document B.

Q: The BS 8629 code of practice states you should check with your local fire and rescue services (FRS) before implementing an evacuation alert system. How many FRSs have had operational training with these systems?

A: The code of practice was written by the FRS, so FRS do not require training from individual product manufacturers, every system should work the same. Most FRS want an understanding of these systems before using them and Advanced is working with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to accelerate this learning.

Q: When designing/installing the evacuation alert system, does providing inbuilt or ‘add-on’ facilities for the hard of hearing cover every flat as part of the specification?

A: No, the evacuation alert system just needs to be capable of being adapted for the hard of hearing. This is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and the needs of the resident will not be known at the design stage and may change over time.

Q: As in the case of BS 5839, is it acceptable to agree (by all parties) variations on the evacuation alert system installation certificate?

A: Yes, the variation process is the same for BS 8629 as BS 5839 part 1.

Q: Should a high-rise residential building still have fire detection in communal areas as well as the evacuation alert system in each flat?

A: Most ‘stay-put’ blocks do not have a communal fire alarm, which is why the evacuation alert system is beneficial to residents and the FRS.

Q: How does the government decision to drop the Building Safety Manager affect BS 8629?

A: It does not affect the standard for buildings under 18m where the need for an evacuation alert system to comply with BS 8629 will come from the risk assessment. For taller buildings, to comply with the new Building Regulations, an evacuation alert system is mandatory.

Q: In order to maintain the evacuation alert system, does a contractor have to be SP207 BAFE approved or would SP203 be acceptable?

A: BAFE SP207 is designed to review the process needed for an evacuation alert system, while SP203 is aimed at the fire alarm. Always use companies with accreditation in the area they are working in.

Q: What is the maintenance and service cycle for evacuation alert systems – does it require each sounder to sound within individual flats?

A: Sounders need to be tested every 12 months in a flat. However, access is not required as the tester can listen outside the door while each sounder is turned on.

Q: Should a current fire alarm system be replaced with just an evacuation alert system? A fire in a building might have developed significantly by the time someone arrives to activate the evacuation alert system.

A: If the building has been designed for ‘stay-put’ and is up to the relevant building code, the evacuation strategy is for the residents to stay in their flats unless instructed to leave by the FRS. Where effective fire compartmentation is present, the fire should not have had the chance to spread significantly before the FRS arrives to assess the situation.

Q: Will override keys for the fire service be across the board or will different companies have different override keys, creating an issue for the FRS?

A: Each FRS will have an override key for their area and that key is carried on each appliance. Each premises will then have a key to access its own control panel.

Q: If blocks of flats with a ‘stay-put’ policy have detection in the common area that is not linked to the flats, what advice should be given as the detection will only operate when the common area has smoke present?

A: The provision of AFDs (automatic fire detectors) in the common parts of a residential high-rise is not within the scope of the requirements for BS 8628 and should be qualified within the fire strategy, with a fire risk assessment. The whole purpose of avoiding false alarms and creating confidence among occupants is key to the use of an evacuation system by the FRS in the event of a fire situation. So, there should be no AFD within the building other than the qualified provision of devices for an AOV (automatic opening vent) system.

Q: What is the potential impact of a typical fire risk assessor (FRA) being involved in the specification/consultation process in relation to their professional indemnity insurance?

A: The participation of the FRA in the design and implementation of a fire strategy that will include an evacuation alert system is key. There are currently 15 certified providers on the SP207 register, and only a very small number who are both SP205 and SP207 certified. It is essential that a fully integrated strategy and the participation of all the stakeholders is provided – including the insurance provider, FRA, BCO and the freeholder.

Q: As concerns raised about wireless systems relate to access to flats to replace batteries every three years, are there similar concerns relating to annual maintenance of a wired system?

A: Radio-based evacuation alert systems require battery replacement to remain compliant. It is therefore essential that the building management and the Responsible Person have a clear plan in place to facilitate access. The requirements for effective maintenance of the system must be communicated to/discussed with all residents so that they understand the vital importance of permitting access to ensure a fully working system at all times.

Q: What is the current provision to train operational firefighters in the use of evacuation alert systems?

A: There are ongoing discussions with both the NFCC and the Fire Service College (Capita) about training on the issues of high-rise residential buildings and BS 8629 applications and training is available to those FRS who want it. Advanced is happy to support any regional FRS groups who would like to discuss this.

Q: Do third-party certification bodies hold any responsibilities or liability in case of a breach of the scope of the certification?

A: BAFE and the independent certification bodies ask for all deviations or variations from the scope to be fully documented and validated within a modification certificate. This should be co-signed by all the interested parties, especially the FRS and the insurance provider. All non-compliance issues in fire and life safety provision have been a mandatory disclosure to the client’s insurance provider since 2018.

An evacuation alert system is vital to help fire and rescue services inform residents of a change in evacuation strategy during an incident. This gives fire and rescue services an additional tool to use on the ground, alongside existing methods of evacuation. With evacuation alert systems becoming mandatory in new residential high-rise buildings over 18m from December 2022 it is vital the fire industry is familiar with BS 8629.

At Advanced we are committed to creating a safer future and are here to answer your questions on evacuation alert systems. We offer a CPD on the BS 8629 Code of Practice. For further information on Advanced’s EvacGo Evacuation Alert System, to reserve a place on their CPD on evacuation planning and the BS 8629 Code of Practice visit:; email:; or tel: 0345 894 7000.