Having a functional fire alarm system is essential for all properties; whether it’s in a domestic, commercial or industrial setting, a fire alarm can save lives in the event of a fire.
Fire alarms are instrumental in immediately (and in all areas of the building simultaneously) informing all occupants of a fire, ensuring that everyone can evacuate safely and without risk to themselves or others.
Your fire alarm system should undergo routine maintenance in order to ensure it is fully functioning at all times, so our team here at Fire Action have compiled some pointers on what to look out for during your fire alarm maintenance, including a fire alarm maintenance checklist to use in your own premises.
Fire Alarm Statistics 2015 – 2016
Did you know?
There were 528,700 incidents attended by fire and rescue services in England 2015/16.
40% of these were false alarms, so you need to ensure your fire alarm system is well maintained and working well.
Different Types & Categories of Alarm Systems
There are a variety of fire alarm systems (varying in complexity and features) available to suit a range of premises, and your needs may differ depending on the property, its use, size, and the number of occupants.
- Conventional Fire Alarm System: A conventional fire alarm system is made up of a number of call points and detectors which are wired to the fire alarm control panel in zones.
- Addressable Fire Alarm Systems: An addressable fire alarm system has a control panel that can determine exactly which detector or call point has initiated the alarm through a wired detection circuit.
- Analogue Addressable Fire Alarm Systems: There are many types of analogue addressable fire alarm system which are determined by the type of protocol which they use.
- Wireless Fire Alarm System: Wireless fire alarm systems use secure, licence-free radio communications to interconnect sensors and devices with the controllers.
Our fully qualified surveyors can visit your site to conduct a thorough assessment to establish your needs, ensuring that your premises are fitted with the system most suited to you.
Fire Alarm Testing Procedures & Legal Requirements
Complying with the law is vital to avoid fines or other legal troubles. The government have outlined their legal expectations of companies in terms of fire alarm installation and maintenance, and this is covered in the legislation entitled Fire Alarm Testing: Regulations & Requirements 5839-1:2002.
One of the key points is the regular testing of fire safety equipment, and this includes your fire alarms. Another useful document to brush up on your fire safety knowledge is the NFPA 72, which covers all aspects of fire alarm installation, inspection and maintenance.
Common problems to look for include:
It’s vital to ensure that you replace your fire alarm’s batteries as and when required to keep it functional. If you have a more complex system for a commercial building, you should have backup batteries that are also kept in fully operational order should there be a power outage in the instance of a fire.
This will ensure that should the mains supply fail, the standby batteries have sufficient capacity and charge to sustain the system and generate an alarm tone.
Poorly positioned detectors
Your detection devices should not be placed in any areas that are overly dusty, smoky or greasy. Detectors installed in improper locations will mean that they are triggered accidentally, causing unwanted and false alarms, and unnecessary panic to those in the building.
If you are located in a large commercial building or industrial premises, you will need to ensure that enough detectors are installed in order for all persons within the property to be alerted to a fire in sufficient time to safely evacuate. The category of system you have will provide detection to suit the building’s occupancy level/risk level and size.
For example, a sleeping risk such as a hotel will have detectors in almost every room and along all of the escape corridors, whilst a small workshop may simply have a few manual call points and no detectors.
How to ensure the fire alarm is operational
One of the best fire alarm maintenance checks you can perform is weekly fire alarm tests. These are best done at a set time and day each week, with all staff reminded of the test (with visitors to the site notified as they arrive by signage or verbally) in order to avoid undue panic.
What’s more, a different call point should be tested each week, and you should simply rotate your way through the building until each one has been tested. This should be completed when the building is fully manned, as this is primarily a functionality test of all of the sounders within the building. Anyone who struggles to hear the fire alarm should be encouraged to report this to the responsible or competent person for the site.
Fire Alarm Inspection Requirements
Fire alarm system testing, inspection and maintenance are important requirements for any business, large or small. Legislation instructs that a competent person should inspect the building’s fire alarm system at least every six months.
Your essential fire alarm inspection checklist
In addition to the biannual inspection from a competent person, it’s also important you conduct your own regular checks. As a user, carrying out an inspection of all components of your fire alarm system on a weekly or monthly basis will enable you to quickly identify any parts that need the attention of an engineer e.g. a person of competence.
Routine checks should include:
- The visual display/status LED’s on the fire alarm control panel.
- The devices connected to the system should be checked visually, just to ensure there are no objects within 500mm of them, and that they haven’t suffered any damage.
- Weekly testing of all manual call points, rotating between them from week to week. This should be done during working hours to ensure the control panel and the sound are operating effectively.
- If there are any voice alarm systems, these should also be tested weekly. Please remember to notify your Alarm Receiving Centre before testing.
- Vented batteries, particularly if they are a part of the alarm backup system, should be inspected.
- Any problems experienced with the fire alarm system should be recorded in the logbook so that an engineer can investigate and remedy them in a timely manner.
- Ensuring the break glass call points are accessible; sometimes stock and other materials can be left in front of the call points making them difficult to access.
- A visual inspection of any structural changes.
- The log book should be easily accessible too. Any problems experienced with the fire alarm system should be recorded so that an engineer can investigate and remedy them in a timely manner.
- A competent person or organisation, such as Fire Action, should be brought in to conduct more thorough, detailed checks on your fire alarm systems. This should be done every 6 months.
Our team here at Fire Action can provide expert fire alarm maintenance to a range of properties, ensuring that your systems remain in top working order. For more advice about your fire alarm systems and their maintenance, simply contact us today and we’ll be happy to help – we are based in the Kent region.