Brexit, Morals and Finance


floppybootstomp

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Here’s a tale that kind of involves Brexit, perhaps not in a political way. Bit of a long post but I’d appreciate any thoughts on the issue.

Myself and my work partner were recently called to a site, a school, that was rebuilt five years ago, mostly with new buildings replacing old though they retained one Victorian building. The school has a public address system part of which are six (2x100 watt) amplifiers. A total of 1200 watts which supply audio signals for microphone, class change pips and fire alarm to eight zones.

One of these amplifiers had failed and when it failed it sent out such a surge of high current it literally melted a great deal of the terminal blocks that connected the amplifiers to the loudspeaker line cables. In 34 years of working in this trade I’ve never seen anything like that before.

Four of the sites’ eight zones were not working following this failure and we got the whole site up and running but there are still earth-related faults on four of the zones. We’re going to go back and attempt to clear those faults, which could take a lot of leg work, we shall see.

We’ve also offered to provide a quote to replace the amplifier rack. We know that a large company has already quoted £30K to replace the rack and so we were lucky enough to have that as a guide.

Now this is where the Brexit/EEC involvement comes in, public address systems that integrate fire alarms – which would also include voice evacuation messages – are subject at the moment to European regulations and the number of this particular regulation is EN54.

Similar systems installed under the current British Standards BS5839 would not have to adhere to the following guidelines as laid out in European standard EN54:

1) The backup batteries be of a certain fireproof type and are connected to a monitoring system that detects their state and temperature.
2) The 24 volt charger power supply meets current European standards and is monitored for overheating and failure and is housed in a fireproof container..
3) An extra amplifier be installed that would take over up to four of the regular amplifiers should one or more fail.
4) The equipment rack be of a certain type and standard.
5) The equipment manufacturer install the rack and equipment and issue a commissioning certificate to verify this.
6) Each loudspeaker line be connected to a monitoring system that would detect faults such as short circuits.
7) A firemans microphone be installed adjacent to the fire alarm panel which would override all other audio signals using fire rated J CAT 45 cable.

There is more but those are the main items of regulation EN54 that would affect our installation.

Our quotation would integrate the firemans’ microphone, backup amplifier and the loudspeaker line monitoring but forego everything else listed above instead utilising the existing amplifier rack, batteries and charger and comes out at £16K. And at that price we would earn a very fair sum each.

Our quotation should we install everything adhering to current European regulations comes to £23K, still a lot more economical than the big boys quote but decidedly more expensive than our lower priced quote.

I’ve installed dozens of similar systems and in my experience whenever a fire officer inspects a site as long as they hear a fire alarm signal and they know the system works, they will be happy with that aspect of their inspection.

In other words our cheaper quotation would suffice and I’d feel comfortable with our cheaper installation. And probably after October 31st it would be acceptable to the lower British standards anyway.

What should be considered here, in my opinion, is the safety of the people who use the sites’ buildings and in this case it’s a school so it will be about 1000 children. All of those European regulations make sense and were only made to safeguard peoples’ lives but as can be seen safety costs money. Some people, particularly senior people, like to mock health and safety sneering at ‘elf & safetee’ and saying ‘in my time….’ blah blah blah but the gradual introduction of current Health and Safety laws have saved thousands of lives.

The school that needs the equipment would obviously be happier paying the lower price and myself as a company am able to beat a Corporate concerns’ quotation which could be argued makes the parting of the UK from the EEC advantageous to some small companies.

The question is – at what price? The safety of our children?

I fear this is one of those issues where many folk will be on one side of the fence or the other.
 
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EvanDavis

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For peace of mind I would do the £23K install at the higher EU standard. That way you have your ar*e covered when Brexit falls flat on its face again in October and for when you get that one fire inspector that does everything by the book.
 

Ian

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I suspect lots of the current EU legislation will end up being ported over for parity anyway, at least for the most part. So it may be that even after leaving the EU, the same laws will still apply. FWIW, if it's law at the moment and they've asked for a quote now, I'd give them the 23k one.
 

floppybootstomp

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I think, gentlemen, you may be missing one important point - giving a £23K quote doesn't guarantee we'd get the job, at that price the customer would seek quotes elsewhere and somebody would be bound to go in with a cheaper system not meeting EU spec.

The school balked at £30K (which is probably why they called us in) and claimed they couldn't afford it so £23K is still pricey for them.

The fact we've now enabled all areas with audio signals where before half the site was silent stands us in good stead with them.

On thinking about it I think I'll give them two quotes - 16 & 23 - and outline details of each and if they want us to carry out the work to make the choice themselves. And perhaps get them to sign a waiver acknowledging part of the existing system does not meet EU specs.

And it's just occurred to me - often when upgrading a fire alarm system existing equipment is acceptable, only the new parts of a system have to meet current spec - why didn't I think of that before?

I'll have to check this out more thoroughly.
 
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crazylegs

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Reading your tale Mr Flopp's and I have some advice

I did work in a large secondary school for over 8 years so have a little knowledge in this area..

I do know that a schools Bursar will always take the lowest quote from a tender, thats a given..
I think in this instance its worth putting in 2 seperate quotes and outline the reasons you have written here, the Bursar will receive both and will have to discuss with the headmaster/mistress of the school anyway, the Head will mostly always go for the more expensive safety quote EN54
The Bursar won't always agree but on most occasions will go with what the Head wants.

Hope you get the contract matey
 
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