How to Know When Your Fire Alarms Need Maintenance
Many people wonder how often a fire alarm should be tested, inspected, and maintained. The obvious answer is that it should be tested regularly. But how regular is regular, and what are the legal requirements around fire alarm testing and maintenance?
It’s important to understand that fire alarm testing and inspection (servicing) are two different things. Testing is a simple procedure that should be carried out weekly in commercial properties. Weekly testing is more like a “spot check”. Its objective is to quickly check that the fire alarm is operational and discover any problems.
On the other hand, inspection or fire alarm servicing thoroughly examines the entire fire alarm system. The guidance says that a fire alarm needs to be inspected every six months, and sometimes more often.
Here is everything you need to know about your fire alarm and why you need to test and inspect it.
What are the fire alarm maintenance legal requirements?
Under Article 17 of the 2005 Fire Order Safety Act, the actual fire alarm testing and other fire alarm tests and maintenance must be carried out by the person who installed the commercial fire alarm systems. This needs to be done to ensure the alarm system is fully operational.
The person responsible for carrying out the fire alarm test does have some discretion to nominate someone else to carry out the fire alarm test. This other person must have authority and sufficient knowledge about alarms and fire safety to carry out the test. They should also be able to predict and identify any faults and issues.
According to the regulations, every effort must be made to keep the system in good working condition, test it periodically, and ensure that the person doing the maintenance and testing is qualified.
In some situations, they must be certified and approved under industry standards to test and maintain the entire fire alarm system. It must be a competent and responsible person.
UK fire alarm regulations only require that your fire alarm system be “adequately maintained.” However, the government advises adhering to British Standard BS 5839. This states that a fire alarm system must be inspected by a competent person at least every six months.
It’s advised to have a quarterly service performed if you work out of a large space. This is because there are numerous additional components to your fire alarm system and, thus, more potential points of failure.
Why fire alarms need maintenance
Maintenance can easily be done by the owner or by a fire alarm servicing company. You must carry out a fire alarm test and do routine maintenance for two main reasons. Firstly, to ensure that the alarm system is able to alert all occupants in any event of a fire to prevent the loss of life. And secondly, to avoid any false alarms.
The second reason is because there are a large number of fire brigade call-outs due to false alarms. This results in significant financial outlay and, more crucially, may mean that the fire brigade is instead occupied when a genuine emergency occurs. To encourage companies to better maintain their alarms, the fire department has recently instituted fees for call-outs at locations with a high incidence of false alarms.
It is a regulatory requirement to have a fully operational fire alarm system on all premises that require them. This is why they should be regularly tested. Problems can then be identified in the early stages and you can ensure that your alarm system is always fully functional. Plus, it is protection in case of an emergency.
So, how often should fire alarms be maintained? The minute you see any warning signs from the system. Maintenance every few months is also important, even if you don’t see any warning signs. This allows you to avoid problems before they occur.
Who can check fire alarms?
A fire alarm’s testing is often something the building’s occupant can do, according to official regulations. This could be the FSO’s (fire safety officer) designated person or another responsible person they’ve chosen, such as a property manager. Both will require straightforward directions on how to get this done.
It should be done by a competent person who is specialised, and BAFE SP203-1 approved.
Signs to look out for
Periodic inspection is crucial for the whole system and the fire alarm panel. And when should fire alarms be inspected? At least every six months!
There are also some signs you can look out for that will tell you that your system needs maintenance. However, you should be testing your system regularly, so it should not even get to the point where there are warning signs.
Your alarm is beeping continuously
Beeping is an obvious sign that the fire alarm needs to be checked. This may mean that the batteries need to be replaced, but it may also mean that a part is defective. You will need to replace the batteries, and if the beeping continues, you need to call in a professional.
Your alarm is making strange noises
You can test the alarm using the outside button. This button should ring. If you hear low or erratic sounds, then you should get it repaired and serviced.
Your alarm isn’t making any sound at all
If there was recently a fire drill or an actual fire and the alarm did not go off, you should be worried. It means your alarm is not working properly; you’ll need to book a maintenance appointment. It may be a quick repair or a brand-new installation.
It feels like too long since your last maintenance appointment
You won’t know what condition the alarm is in without regular maintenance. Testing the system will tell you everything you need to know. Be responsible and arrange regular safety checks.
What should fire alarm maintenance include?
The UK fire alarm regulations require someone reliable and responsible for installing and servicing the fire alarm system. They must focus on the sound, condition, and connection during the inspection.
This means checking the overall condition of the alarm and if it is working adequately. This includes if it has an audible sound, and inspecting the link going to the Alarm Receiving Centre. Routine checks of fire alarm systems require a biannual follow-up and weekly inspections. The following must be looked at:
- Devices: Inspect connected devices like the detectors and sensors to ensure there are no obstructions or damages.
- Control panels: Ensure all signals are received and visual status/display LEDs are lit.
- Call points: Test the manual call point/s and ensure the alarm can be heard.
- Batteries: Ensure the backup batteries can power the system in a power cut.
- Voice alarms: Test connection between Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) and the users.
- Break glass: All call points need to be visible and easily accessible.
- Reporting: Should meticulously record each test performed during the fire alarm maintenance by a qualified individual as proof of legal compliance. This is crucial as all points, dates, and tests must be properly documented.
- Building works: To perform a visual evaluation of any structural alterations to the building and neighbouring structures that might impact safety.
When it comes to testing and inspecting fire alarms for maintenance, it’s important to get this right because it directly impacts the safety of everyone in the building.
A professional should check the system every few months for adequate fire detection and safety protocols. This ensures that everything is working correctly for fire detection and that you are protected.
Now that you know the importance of testing the system, we hope you have your next maintenance appointment scheduled and booked! Contact MCFP for maintenance or your next alarm installation.