The Importance of Testing Fire Alarms Weekly
Skilled staff and state-of-the-art equipment are brilliant for any workplace. However, a high-quality, reliable fire alarm system is arguably the most important thing you can do to protect and enhance the productivity of your business.
There are an array of fire alarm systems on the market nowadays. We go into a lot more detail on these on our dedicated Fire Alarms page. However, the two main categories of fire alarm systems to be aware of are manual and automatic fire alarms.
Manual fire alarms require individuals to manually trigger the alarm via a call point after detecting a fire. Many call points should be fitted around the building to ensure that individuals are always within close proximity of and able to activate an alarm system, allowing them to alert their colleagues in the event of a fire.
On the other hand, automatic fire alarms are built to detect heat, smoke and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – each being key indicators that a fire is currently burning or about to break out. They are connected to a series of alarms dotted throughout the premises (heat alarms, smoke alarms and CO2 detectors primarily) which feed back to a main control panel. In the event of any one alarm being activated, the fire safety system will automatically sound; alerting occupants within the premises to the outbreak of a fire and providing them with enough time to evacuate the building via planned escape routes and seek safety.
However, regardless of whichever fire alarm system you have installed within your premises, there is one vital common denominator that you must take into consideration: regular testing.
Fire Alarm Testing: The Legal Side
Fire alarms should be tested on a regular basis. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is a manual for staying legally compliant when it comes to all things fire safety. Within it, it states a number of regulations for fire alarm testing, inspection and maintenance.
Your fire alarm system should be tested on a bi-annual or quarterly (depending on the size of your premises) basis by a trained and compliant ‘Responsible Person’ or technicians such as ourselves, in line with BS5839-1:2017. These checks involve a labour-intensive and thorough inspection of your fire alarms and fire safety equipment in order to detect any major or minor faults within the system and have them rapidly rectified by certified specialists. Similarly, your system should undergo annual fire alarm servicing to ensure proper functionality of your alarm system. These checks include all your different fire alarms and detectors, call points, firefighting equipment, risk assessments and evacuation procedures.
However, your fire alarms should also be tested daily and weekly for maximum efficiency and to minimise the risk of any life-threatening malfunctions within your fire alarm system. Daily checks primarily involve the Responsible Person just having to visually inspect the equipment for any signs of damage or faults, but this still needs to be logged accordingly in a log book. Weekly checks require slightly more in-depth inspection.
Weekly Testing To-Do List
As well as testing your escape routes, firefighting equipment (fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems etc.) and fire evacuation procedures, your fire alarm system needs to be checked weekly. This is so that you are acting in accordance with the aforementioned Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO), but more importantly so that your systems are safe, functioning and able to offer rapid detection and notification of a fire – and by extension, prevent a life-threatening fire emergency.
All testing should be conducted by a competent person (or Responsible Person as stated in the RRFSO). This refers to either the owner of the business residing in the premises, the individual in charge of the building or the owner of the premises itself if they are separate from the business.
When conducting your weekly fire alarm testing, you should first notify your employees (and anyone else operating or residing within the building) that a fire alarm check is going to take place. Try to keep your alarm testing to the same day and time each week to minimise confusion or panic. For improved safety, conduct the tests on a day when people are operating as normal within the building and make sure that the alarm sounds (as opposed to gets muted!). Although people may find this frustrating, it makes testing much more effective as it simulates a real-life scenario.
Secondly, make sure that you trigger different call points during each test. In the event of a real fire, you never know which call point may need to be triggered in order to alert the rest of the building to an emergency. Therefore, it’s no good testing the same call point every week. By triggering different call points, you can assess whether the alarm system is wired correctly and check that each alarm is connected to the main fire alarm panel.
After you’ve tested your fire alarm system, it’s imperative that you log your findings – particularly any faults that you’ve detected – in the appropriate log book. Your insurance company or an enforcement officer can ask to see this log book at any time, and if it’s not filled out correctly it can result in hefty fines and enforcement.
Should you detect any faults with the system, you are obligated to seek out specialist maintenance services, such as those provided by MCFP, to further inspect and repair the issue.
Why Testing Your Fire Alarms Weekly is So Important
It’s the Law
As previously stated, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the principal set of guidelines to follow when it comes to commercial fire safety procedures. This legislation covers everything from reducing the risk of a fire breaking out on your particular premises to appropriate inspection and maintenance of fire safety equipment. Regular fire alarm testing is included in this law as one of the fundamental guidelines for fire safety. If you are found to be in breach of any of these regulations, the consequences can be catastrophic and costly. As well as fines (which can now be made unlimited under new government guidelines), you and your business could be given amendment, enforcement and/or prohibition notices and punished accordingly under the law. Therefore, it really is worth your while to conduct your weekly fire alarm testing!
It Detects Potentially Dangerous Faults
Just imagine the destruction that could potentially be caused if a fire broke out and you hadn’t checked whether your alarms are working properly, if at all. Just like any piece of equipment, fire alarms can degrade for a number of reasons: age (particularly if older than 10 years), dust/dirt/water entering the alarms, general wear and tear, maltreatment, faulty installation or even rodents chewing away at wires. Having your fire alarms and alarm systems tested on a weekly basis ensures the detection of any minor and/or major faults before they become life-threatening. This allows you to seek out essential repair and maintenance to your system from qualified service providers, such as our BAFE-registered MCFP technicians, which ensures the safety and efficiency of your system.
It Maintains and Enhances Safety
Carrying on from the previous point, weekly inspection and testing of your fire alarms both maintains and drastically enhances the safety of your building, team and all others on the premises. There’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t want this for their workplace.
Yes, there may be up-front costs associated with weekly testing of your alarms; taking the responsible person away from their other duties may reduce productivity that day, and inspection may lead to opening up an expensive can of worms regarding repairs and fault-fixing that hasn’t been budgeted for. However, that’s nothing compared to the drastic costs associated with repairing or replacing destroyed equipment, rebuilding the premises, paying out bank-breaking fines and coping with loss of earnings if your building burns down in a fire – not to mention the emotional, mental and physical cost should anyone be injured or killed during the fire.
Insurers Require It
In the event of a fire and subsequent damage claims, most insurers will not pay out on a claim if you cannot prove that all the necessary precautions were taken to prevent the fire. This includes regular fire alarm testing, which is why conducting testing and keeping an accurate, up-to-date logbook is absolutely essential.
It Prevents False Alarms
Nobody likes having their day disrupted by a false triggering of a fire alarm. False alarms are disruptive and frustrating for anyone residing or operating within your building. They’re also expensive, as they prevent normal operations for a few hours, reduce productivity and can even result in fines if your workplace has a certain number of false alarms in a year. As well as ensuring fire alarm maintenance, weekly fire alarm testing helps keep your system in tip-top condition which ultimately helps to prevent false alarms.
Need help or advice regarding testing your fire alarm system or essential repairs and maintenance? Contact our friendly team of highly-skilled, BAFE-registered technicians today to receive a free quote and find out how we can support you.