Gent Technology Aces the Exam at Fircroft College

Fircroft College of Adult Education recently found themselves in urgent need of a new fire safety system for their historic building. They called in specialists from Bradford-based Kings Secure Technologies to design a solution that would meet their specific requirements, as well as comply with the latest standards.

Fircroft is a residential college in Selly Oak, Birmingham. Founded in 1909 by George Cadbury Jr, the College is based in the Cadbury family’s former home, a beautiful Edwardian building set in six acres of gardens. The original house has been extended as the College expanded, with successive builds made to the fire safety system over the years.

After a panel failure rendered the legacy system irreparable, the college needed a replacement urgently. Based on the results of a full site survey, Kings’ Fire Executive, Marlon Chattoo, put together a proposal to convert the previous zonal system to a fully addressable solution, using the latest Vigilon Plus technology from Gent.

The first priority was speed: it was imperative to have the new system up and running before the start of term (in under 5 weeks). Unfortunately, however, there were no existing drawings to work with. Meanwhile, the new system design needed to take into account the age of the structure, as well as the fact that it is a protected building.

It was also an important opportunity to bring equipment into line with L2 category regulations - ensuring significantly higher levels of detection, as well as with The Equality Act – using VADs to safeguard students with hearing or visual impairments.

With support from the college and a dedicated team of engineers, a basic operational system (Compact Plus) was installed in under 3 days and a full system upgrade in less than 5 weeks – all while ensuring minimal disruption to the running of the college.

The new system – using one 6-loop Gent Vigilon Plus panel, two 2-loop Compact Plus and two repeater panels – has been custom-designed for the building, giving Fircroft a multitude of benefits. Firstly, it is fully addressable, allowing them to immediately pinpoint the exact device that has been activated. This makes it significantly easier for staff to identify fire activations, and with a single control panel they are able to more easily understand exactly what is going on, where and when.

James Spink, Head of Fire for Kings, a Honeywell Gent Approved System Integrator (SI), said: “Installation was challenging due to the complex layout of the building, and the need to preserve its structure. This meant reutilising existing cabling embedded in the walls where possible, as well as finding new cable routes to avoid drilling. Given these challenges, the Gent range of products made the install much easier - with VAD coverage mirroring detector coverage we didn’t have to do a separate VAD design”.

The system was purpose-built around the college’s existing procedures and policies. Additional safety features include gas shut-off and automatic door closers to prevent spread of fire. Thanks to this upgrade, false alarms have been virtually eliminated and the site fully redrawn, giving the client full as-fitted drawings upon completion. In a recent external audit by NSI, the installation was declared “satisfactory” and fit for purpose for the college and accommodation block.

Kings Secure Technologies is one of over 90 independent fire specialists around the UK and Ireland who work as part of the Gent 24 Approved Network.