Morley-IAS scores a winner at Fulham Football Club

3rd July 2009

The oldest of London’s first class football clubs, Fulham first saw the light of day as long ago as 1879 and in the intervening years has been home to such footballing‘greats’ as England captain Johnny Haynes and 1966 World Cup winner, George Cohen.

Fulham Football ClubHowever, in recent years following the Taylor Report into ground safety it had become clear that the Club's Craven Cottage ground could no longer continue in its existing guise and Fulham would either have to move or extensively develop the current site. Several sets of proposals were rejected by the Local Authority before the Club finally achieved planning approval in November 2003.

After two years ‘in the wilderness' therefore, sharing Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground in North London, Fulham returned home to play Premiership football again at the start of the 2004‐5 season.

"A key aspect of bringing our ground up to current FA standards was the need to provide adequate fire safety protection," recalls stadium manager,Dave Piggott. At the same time, the new fire system had to accommodate a number of major changes as part of the £8 million development. These included building two all‐seaterstands and the addition of extensive catering and hospitality facilities.
At the same time however, it also had to maintain full protection for Fulham's unique wooden Stevenage Road stand, which was subject to a Heritage Order and so could not be replaced.

Open protocol

Fulham approached existing specialist fire safety contractor, Fire Alarm Solutions (FAS), to develop a bespoke system with sufficient capacity to protect the new larger stadium and capable of meeting the Club's unique safety requirements.

"Firstly, the proposed solution had to be fully addressable," confirms FAS technical director, Andy Brunning. "Equally, as the existing system was running on an Apollo protocol, it was also essential that the replacement was open‐protocol."

FAS recommended a Morley‐IAS by Honeywell ZX5E control panel plus repeater, with four loops -one per stand -to provide the increased number of zones required. At the same time, the four stands were completely rewired, using Apollo's XP95 range of fire detectors. In addition, the environmental restrictions placed on the Stevenage Road stand required detectors to be placed under the seating and linked to a separate sprinkler system.

Easy to use

"The ZX5e is an intelligent, open protocol fire alarm control panel, designed around proven and reliable microprocessor technology," confirms Keith Minster, UK & Ireland sales manager, Morley‐IAS Fire Systems. "This simple approach offers a modular, scalable platform ideal for protecting leisure facilities such as football stadia and other sporting arenas."

The ZXecontrol panel forms the heart of the fire detection system. A steel enclosure contains all the required components -microprocessor, power supply plus a clear liquid crystal display (LCD), system status indicator and the control buttons that are the user interface.

"A quick glance enables users to assess the condition of the fire alarm system," says Minster. "Alarm and Fault conditions are highlighted by LEDs and supported by enhanced text descriptions in the LCD display. Clearly‐labelled buttons allow users manipulate the system quickly, providing both audible and tactile feedback that the operation has been successfully completed and user passwords also prevent accidental operation."

"All this adds up to a fire protection system which is both highly robust and easy to use -absolutely critical on match days when we can have up to 22,000 people at the ground," says Piggott.

Throughout the week, Piggott and his team rely on sirens and sounders from the system itself to raise the alarm. On match days however, the Morley‐IAS central control panel highlights the precise source of any issue and stewards are immediately dispatched to verify the cause, in order for an appropriate response to be determined.

"With over 200 fire and safety stewards employed purely for match days, what Morley‐IAS offers is an easy‐to‐use and read client‐facing panel ‐enabling us to meet stringent FA requirements regarding detection, warning and evacuation and providing a safe environment for spectators and staff alike."

Rapid installation

With planning permission delayed until November, Fulham was under intense pressure to complete construction in time for the first pre‐season friendly match against Watford in July 2004. Morley and FAS played their full part in ensuring that the Club met this tight schedule, with installation, commissioning and testing rapidly completed in order to secure the required FA safety certificate.

"Another key advantage of Morley‐IAS panels is that they are easy and quick to install," says FAS' Brunning. "Once fixed on the wall, with the loops plugged in and the panel programmed, they do exactly what they are meant to do, simply and reliably."

The system has proved trouble‐free in its first season and further developments are taking place to enhance fire safety protection still further. Throughout, FAS has also been delighted with the support provided by the Morley‐IAS team which, says Brunning, has been "expert, flexible and responsive?."

For his part, Piggott has also been equally happy with the responsiveness and proactive approach of FAS: "Without doubt, Morley‐IAS and FAS offer a premier fire safety solution for this Premiership club," he concludes.