Being knowledgeable about fire alarm maintenance and how to test a fire alarm, can vastly improve how fire-safe your domestic or commercial building is. Your fire safety systems and fire alarms need to be regularly tested and maintained, to ensure they function properly in case an emergency does occur.
Not only could this save lives, but there are also various British standards and regulations that your building needs to adhere to. To learn more about how to maintain your fire alarms and what to do if you find a fault, read our advice below.
What Are the Building Safety Laws Around Maintaining Fire Alarms?
In order to comply with the British Standard BS 5839, all fire alarms need to have a maintenance contract, to ensure that they are maintained. This ensures that there are no faults and they function correctly, so everyone who is within the building can be safe in case a fire does occur.
Currently, the British Standard says that fire alarms have to be tested twice per year, although this is only applicable to any fire alarm systems that have been installed during 2002, or at a later date. For older fire alarms, you need to adhere to the previous maintenance and safety standards that were in place when they were installed.
For these older systems, quarterly testing is usually what is needed, so make sure you know when your fire alarm system was installed and what safety standards you need to comply with.
However, it is currently recommended that all systems that are backed up by batteries should be tested quarterly. This means you will not be held accountable legally if you don’t test your battery back up, although to make sure your building is as safe as possible, you should certainly follow this guidance.
Different Types of Fire Alarms System
Conventional fire alarm
Each conventional fire alarm is connected to the system via its own wire. These systems are usually made up of zones, each with its own manually operated call points or automatic detection devices.
Wireless Fire Alarm
Unlike conventional alarm systems, wireless fire alarms have all the same part except wires, as they use radio signals to communicate messages to the control panel
Addressable Fire Alarm
Addressable alarms can identify any device within the system, enabling you to know exactly where the problem is, whether it be a manual call point or a detector
Analogue Fire Alarm
Analogue fire alarms can identify particular detectors and tell you exactly where the problem is. These systems also monitor the heat and contamination levels of each fire alarm.
Popular Problems to Look Out For
Incorrectly Positioned Fire Alarms
Areas that have a lot of dust or grease don’t make great locations for fire alarms. These layers of dirt can interfere with how it functions, often making them go off when it isn’t necessary, so consider the kind of environment and places you place the detectors.
Faulty Batteries in Devices
Whether you manage a small domestic property or a large commercial building, you need to ensure that your fire alarms have batteries and that they are working properly. This can easily be tested by pressing the button on battery fire alarms, to test that it is working.
For larger commercial buildings, there will usually be a backup electricity supply in case the main electricity isn’t working. Make sure you check to see that the backup battery system is working, as this needs to be relied upon in case a fire risk does occur.
Unevenly Distributed Fire Alarms
Different types of buildings will require fire alarms to be distributed in various ways. An even distribution of fire alarms means that if there is a fire, it is more likely to sound and enable people to evacuate.
This hugely depends on the function of the building and its layout though. If your building has winding corridors, various floors and houses many people, you will need more fire alarms. If you manage a large open space, such as a warehouse, you can probably space your fire alarms further apart.
Fire Alarm Maintenance Checklists
To make sure that you are maintaining your fire alarms, check out the below checklist. Methodically going through these points can give you an accurate indicator as to whether your fire alarms are working properly.
Watch out for some of the popular problems that professionals find with fire alarms too, as they can also be a good indicator of things that you need to change. Here is a checklist you should go through, in order to maintain fire safety and ensure your fire alarms are up to scratch, in the building you own or manage.
Check the Status of the Control Panel
The control panel has all the information you need and will indicate if something isn’t functioning properly, or there is a fire. You can usually see on a visual display, or communicated through the LED lights which light up.
Check There Is No Damage
You can do this simply by looking at all of your fire alarms, call points and control panel. Go around your building and look to see if casings are intact, there are no protruding wires and it is still secured to walls or ceilings correctly.
Test Alarms Weekly
Undertaking a fire alarm test will let you know that all of your equipment is working correctly. If your fire alarms work this indicates they will work successfully if a fire does occur. Checking how all parts of the system appear on the control panel also indicates that each part is communicating and messages are being received too.
Record Any Issues and Contact a Professional
If you do find that there is an issue when carrying out this maintenance checklist for testing fire alarms, make sure you record it. This is the proper way to follow safety regulations and will ensure that the problem is addressed.
You can then easily communicate any issues when you hire a professional to come out and take a look. This can be very helpful if the problem does end up being a more complex issue and can let them know where they need to start when filing your fire alarm system.
What to Do If You Detect a Problem With Your Fire Alarm Systems
When carrying out your regular checks, you might discover that there is an issue with the system and if you do, you will need to arrange for a professional to come out and take a look. Fire alarm servicing is a must as if there is a fault with the control panel or wiring, this will need to be safely rectified to ensure your building stays safe and in line with regulations.