Case study

Wireless Fire Alarm System Installed at Temporary Theatre in Dartford

  • 22nd Mar 2024

As a longtime maintenance provider for Trafalgar Theatres at their Orchard Theatre site in Dartford, Blake Fire & Security and Cygnus' distributor Illumino Ignis (Kent) Ltd (IIKL) were approached for a solution to a unique problem: Satisfying the stringent fire safety requirements of their new temporary venue to hold 1,091 audience members, while the main Orchard Theatre was closed due to RAAC works.

With a very short turnaround of a week, Blake Fire & Security and IIKL instantly knew that the Cygnus EN 54 certified, fully wireless SmartNet-Pro fire detection and alarm system would be a perfect fit for the venue. It provides an aesthetically pleasing solution and quick installation, with full EN 54 and BS5839 Part 1 compliance, while also allowing the right cause and effects for the theatre operation.

Designed to deliver a reliable and safe solution, the SmartNet-Pro range’s wireless network features patented Cygnus technology and is run by battery powered radio devices as part of a robust, self-forming and self-healing mesh network, giving a minimum of two communication paths to each wireless device for maximum reliability.

“We have worked with Cygnus and the SmartNet-Pro system previously and knew it would be ideal for this unique project. SmartNet-Pro is 100% wireless as well as being robust and reliable, it was exactly what we needed for the complexities of this project. We also knew we could rely on the Cygnus team to help deliver the project in a timely and efficient way.”

Rory Foster

Fire Safety Systems Manager

Blake Fire & Security Systems

Given the nature of the venue, the fire alarm system needed to have some advanced features to give the theatre control of the system. The Blake Fire & Security and IIKL team were required to consider these factors when creating the system:

  • Smoke Machines being used during the performances.

A function of the SmartNet-Pro panel allowed us to program a function on button on the control panel to isolate the smoke elements of the detectors in the auditorium during performances (Show Mode), while keeping the Heat elements of the detectors functioning as normal.

  • Heating pipes with hot air being blown throughout the site

By utilising the Cygnus SmartNet-Pro Combi Smoke/Heat A1R detectors, we were able to only have the smoke detection parts active for devices in the stream of the hot air, to avoid A1R false alarms.

  • The costly effect of a false alarm and evacuating the venue during a performance.

By having a 30 second initial delay, and a 2.5-minute investigation delay, we satisfied both the Fire Service and the Theatre by allowing the theatre staff to assess the cause of alarm before evacuating the venue, without leaving too long without the fire alarm activating if no one responded.

  • The combustible nature of the building, being mostly dressed in linen throughout.

Additional smoke detectors were installed on the edges of the linen draped ceilings at the request of the local fire authority, with high sensitivity smoke and heat detection to raise the alarm extremely quickly if the linen was likely to become compromised by a fire.

After a free site survey and design service, Blake Fire & Security and IIKL provided the specification and design to the theatre who then got the design signed off by the local council and local fire authority. Working closely with the theatre and local council, amendments and additions were made to the design, so the whole process was taken care of without any design surprises at the end of the project.

The SmartNet-Pro system of 65 devices was installed in a day, with another day allowed for testing and demonstrations; using rods and Unistrut fixings to fix detectors into positions where wired detectors would not feasibly be able to be installed.

The fire alarm panel was installed by the stage door, so that the stage door staff could hear when an activation has occurred, and then decide on whether to initiate the investigation delay.

As with all Blake Fire & Security and IIKL installations, a framed Zone Plan and As Fitted Drawing were fitted by the Control Panel, to give the Theatre Staff and Fire Brigade instant knowledge of the building, and where the Fire Alarm activation has occurred.

All members of the Stage Door crew were trained by Blake Fire & Security and IIKL in the operation of the system including all the advanced functions like the delays and “Show Mode”. The system was demonstrated to the crew, so they knew what the alarm sounded like, and how to react when the panel buzzer activates.

Rods with the detectors mounted onto them were clamped onto the trusses for the lighting, giving high level detection in the auditorium where it was not possible to fix to the black linen ceiling. These detectors were then programmed on the SmartNet-Pro system to be Heat Only when the system is in “Show Mode” to prevent unwanted alarms from special effect smoke used during performances.

Ensuring all exits including stage exits were covered by Manual Call Points which would instantly evacuate the building without delay was imperative to allow occupants and staff in the venue to feel safe in the knowledge that if a person identifies a real fire, the fire alarm can be raised instantly at any exit from the building.

The ceilings in the Front of House have heating tubes running through, so combi detectors were mounted to the side of this, just below the linen ceiling using rods clamped to the metal structure above the linen. Extra smoke detection was installed along the low-level edges of the linen ceilings, on L Brackets, so that a fire could be detected quickly before the linen ceilings catch alight. These detectors were supplementary to the main detection along the apex of the ceilings. Given the nature of the ceilings, conventional wiring methods would not have been possible without a very unsightly installation, so the wireless nature of the Cygnus SmartNet-Pro system was an obvious choice.

Following the completion of the installation, commissioning, and testing Blake Fire & Security and IIKL issued the O&M Manual with all certificates and drawings required for Building Control to sign off the system and deem the venue safe to open to the public.

Blake Fire & Security and IIKL will provide ongoing maintenance of the system to ensure the system is kept up to date and compliant.

SmartNet-Pro is the world’s first 100% wireless, EN 54 certified and BS 5839 compliant fire detection and alarm system while the new SmartNet-100 is ideal for small to medium sized projects, where the scalability of SmartNet-Pro is not required. Cygnus was thrilled to support the project by provision of a complete SmartNet-Pro system to guarantee the fire safety requirements were met.


For further information

Further details on Blake Fire & Security Systems are available here. For more information visit here.