Fire Alarm Testing – Who’s Responsible for What?
It’s a long standing urban myth that the responsibility for fire alarm checks are down to the maintenance company you employ to carry out maintenance on your fire alarm system.
No matter how diligent and attentive your fire alarm company is, and no matter whether they turn up quarterly or six monthly to test things, you will not be compliant with British Standard 5839 all the time you are not doing a weekly test of your system.
In real terms, that’s usually no more than about 20 minutes of your time each week, to potentially save life. That’s really not so much to ask, or to do.
Fire Alarm Testing You Should Do
Each day, you should do a visual check of the fire alarm control panel. There should, typically, be one green light on the system display, and little else – on certain control panels you’ll see a little screen with installer and system information.
If you see any amber lights, or anything on the display which indicates a fault, then you should call your fire alarm maintenance company right away as this usually means a fault is present, or devices have been “disabled” – that is temporarily removed from use in the system.
Every week fire alarm testing should be carried out by activating a manual call point. This will set the fire alarm off, and people should be aware of the test beforehand (this is why it makes sense to do the check at the same time and day each week). You should ask people to ensure they can hear the fire alarm, and that it sounds just like it usually does. You should also make it clear that this is the ONLY time they should hear the alarm system, and any other time it goes off, they should evacuate the building immediately.
Carry out the fire alarm checks using a different manual call point each week. In this way you will get to ensure that all parts of the system are working. If you do the check and nothing happens, call your fire alarm maintenance company right away – do not leave it, as fire will not wait should it break out.
It is possible to have the fire alarm company come in to do weekly checks too – our company offers this facility to its customers, for example, though the cost of doing so means that your maintenance agreement will be much more expensive due to us being on site every week. This service generally works best for multi-tenanted buildings, HMOS, and other split responsibility sites.
Fire Alarm Testing the Fire Company Does
Each quarter, or six months, the fire alarm maintenance team will attend. During their visit, they will do similar fire alarm checks to the ones you do, but also much more too. They will test automatic detection like smoke detectors, heat detectors, and so on. They will test any interfaces the fire alarm is connected to such as those controlling lifts, air conditioning, heavy plant, media systems, and so on.
They will also test system wiring, power, back-up power, system programming, and a full check of system compliance in respect of the installation itself, and how it works within the building as it currently exists. An important part of what the fire alarm company does is about the limitation of false alarms from the fire alarm. After all, it should only ever go into alarm for one reason other than testing.
Fire alarm systems are both complex and simple at the same time. What appears simply to be a box and a number of points around the building has behind it a technically complex and involved system of wiring and connections which must work in a certain way for compliance. Legislation also plays a big part – the wiring must meet certain standards, must be installed a particular way, and must have certain qualities. Programming of the system needs to meet certain conditions too – what happens when a device fails, or a fault appears?
Your fire alarm system is designed to fail stage by stage – not all at once. No compliant fire alarm system in the UK should simply stop working, beyond a catastrophic control panel fault. For example, if the mains supply fails, back-up batteries should power the system for a minimum period of 72 hours, complete with up to 30 minutes of full alarm time.
If a smoke detector fails, the system should show the fault but not prevent the remainder of the system from working properly. This should happen right down to the very last smoke detector connected.
The idea is redundancy. Even where part of the system fails, the alarm system should continue to function in a limited manner with the remainder of the system.
Ultimately, all this complexity should be hidden away, leaving a fire alarm that is
- Easy to use
- Protecting you constantly
- Correctly designed and installed
- Meets the requirements of the British Standard (5839)
- Meets the requirements of your fire risk assessment
- Provides the earliest warning of fire in your building
- Can reasonably be assumed to be working properly
Fire Alarm Checks and Advice from Professionals
Fire alarm companies such as AFSS Ltd can always help and advise you about your fire alarm system at every stage. Our friendly, professional teams are on hand to help no matter what issue you face.
Give AFSS a call today or fill in our easy contact form to speak to us about Fire Alarm Checks. We’re always happy to help.