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Testing and maintaining your automatic fire alarm system

To ensure reliability an agreement should be made with manufacturers, suppliers or other competent contractors for regular servicing. The name and telephone number of the servicing organisation should be prominently displayed by the indicating equipment.

It is the responsibility of the occupier of the premises to ensure that proper instructions are obtained from the supplier or installer regarding routine attention and test procedures. The following is a general guide to the routine to be adopted to ensure the continued good operation of the system. 

The routine may vary with the use of the premises.  For example, equipment installed in corrosive or dirty environmental conditions will need to be checked more thoroughly and at more frequent intervals than in clean and dry situations. In such instances, the recommendations of the supplier or installer should be followed.

Daily attention by the user

A check should be made every day to ascertain that:

  • the panel indicates normal operation. If not, that any fault indicated is recorded and is receiving urgent attention
  • any fault warning recorded the previous day has received attention

Weekly attention by the user

The following tests should be made every week to ensure that the system is capable of operating under alarm conditions:

  • At least one manual call point should be operated to test the ability of the fire alarm control panel to receive a signal and sound the alarm and to ensure that the fire alarm signal is received at any alarm receiving centre to which fire alarms signals may be transmitted. It is not necessary to confirm that all fire alarm sounder circuits operate correctly at the time of the test. A different manual call point should be used at the time of every weekly test so that all manual call points in the premises are tested in rotation over a period of time.
  • The duration of the sounding of the fire alarm signal should not exceed one minute at the time of the weekly test, so that, in the event of a fire at the time of the weekly test, occupants will be warned by the prolonged operation of the fire alarm sounders.
  • Fire doors fitted with automatic releases and any other active fire measures triggered by the alarm system should be checked that they are operating efficiently.
  • An entry should be made in the Log Book quoting the particular manual call point that has been used to initiate the test. Any defect should also be recorded in the Log Book and reported to the responsible person, and action taken to correct it.
  • If the operation of the alarm sounders and/or the transmission of the alarm signal has been prevented by disconnection, then a further test should be carried out to prove the final reinstatement of the sounders, and if permissible, the alarm transmission circuits.       
  • The weekly test should be carried out at approximately the same time each week and occupants should be instructed to report any instance of poor alarm audibility. In premises in which some employees only work during hours other than that at which the fire alarms are tested, an additional test(s) should be carried out at least once a month to ensure familiarity of these employees with the fire alarm signal.

Monthly attention by the user

The following tests should be made every month to ensure that the system is capable of operating under alarm conditions.

  • If an automatically started emergency generator is used as part of the standby power supply for the fire detection and alarm system, it should be started up once a month by simulation of a failure of the normal supply and operated on-load for at least one hour. At the end of the test, the fuel tanks should be left filled and the oil and coolant levels should be checked and topped up if necessary.
  • If vented batteries are used as a standby power supply, a visual inspection of the batteries and their connections should be made to ensure that they are in good condition. Action should be taken to rectify any defect including low electrolyte level.

Periodic inspection and Test by a competent person

Periodic inspection and servicing needs to be carried out by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire detection and alarm systems, including knowledge of the causes of false alarms, sufficient information regarding the system, and adequate access to spares.

The inspection and servicing is to be carried out in accordance with the maintenance recommendations described in British Standard 5839 Part 1.

The recommended period between successive inspection and servicing visits should not exceed 6 months and, in accordance with recommendations of the above British Standard, a contract between the responsible person and the competent person/servicing agent must be in place to make sure an agreement for emergency call out to deal with any fault or damage that happens to the system. The agreement should be such that, on a 24 hour basis, a technician of the maintenance organisation can normally attend the premises within 8 hours of a call from the user.

Competent person

This is a person in employment with the manufacturer, supplier or competent contractor.  This may also include a responsible person who has suitable experience of electrical equipment and who has special training with the manufacturer, supplier or installer to deal with simple servicing but not necessarily in employment with the above.

Does the Fire and Rescue Service have to be notified when a fire alarm test / fire drill takes place?

If your automatic fire alarm system is monitored by an independent monitoring company who would contact us whenever your fire alarm is activated, then we need to know before you carry out the drill.  If it is not, there is no need to contact us, although you may wish to advise your neighbours to prevent them from calling us.  

Action by the responsible person after any fire, whether automatically detected or not

It is the responsibility of the responsible person to ensure that the following tests are carried out as soon as possible after a fire and before normal use of the area is resumed:

  • a simulated test should be carried out on each trigger device that may have been affected by the fire.  This test should be carried out so as to simulate fire conditions.  Smoke detectors should be tested by smoke or other aerosol to the detector and heat detectors by the application of warm air or gas. Each fire alarm sounder should be tested
  • any defect should be recorded and reported to the responsible person, and action taken to correct it
  • a check should be made of the state of the battery and charger
  • the servicing organisation should carry out a further check for damage to the system, particularly any parts in which damage might be hidden, such as buried cables. The extent of a fire may necessitate a more comprehensive check of the system
  • if the fire was not detected by the system or detection occurred in the late stages of the fire, the reasons should be investigated and if necessary considerations given to system modifications to prevent repetition

On completion of the work a certificate of testing should be given to the responsible person. 

Action to be taken by the responsible person after any false alarm

  • False alarms can be a major hazard to any fire alarm system since they lead to a loss of confidence in the system. It is important that any alarm from the system is treated as an alarm of fire until it can be proved to be false, rather than being treated as false until proved to be a fire.
  • Where an alarm has been found to be false the following immediate actions should be taken by the responsible person or persons to whom they have delegated this duty:
  • where possible, identify the particular detector or call point which has operated. It is important that the detectors are examined before the system is reset
  • where possible, establish the cause of the false alarm.  If only a general location can be established then a record should be kept of any events or activities in the area immediately prior to the alarm
  • record the false alarm and inform the organisation responsible for servicing
  • if one detector or group of detectors gives repeated false alarms then the organisation responsible for servicing should be informed and required to investigate
  • if repeated false alarms occur, the organisation responsible for servicing should be informed and required to investigate.

Action by the responsible person following a fault

If a fault has been shown to exist, whether by the system’s own monitoring or by any other method, then the responsible person should ensure that the following actions are taken:

  • determining the area affected by the fault and decide whether special action (such as fire investigation) is needed in that area
  • if possible, determine the reason for the fault, or note the activities immediately prior to the fault in the area affected
  • record the fault, inform the organisation responsible for servicing and arrange for repair
  • Provision is made in our fire safety log books for recording all of the above.

Information about fire safety log books

Extra fire alarm testing certificate sheet

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