It is essential to have your fire alarm system regularly maintained to ensure that it is fully operational and working to its full capacity.
The maintenance work should be carried out at least twice a year and overseen by a ‘competent person’ with specialist knowledge of fire alarms and smoke detectors.
The designated ‘responsible person’ in your organisation is in charge of choosing the ‘competent person’ to maintain the fire alarm system - and of ensuring the competent person has the relevant knowledge and experience to carry out the maintenance work to a high standard.
Who Is ‘The Responsible Person’?
The ‘responsible person’ is defined as the person who is in control of the company or premises - for example, it could be the owner, employer, landlord, or occupier.
There may be more than one 'responsible person' in your organisation. If so, you are all required to take equal responsibility, communicate, and work together effectively in order to meet the fire safety regulations.
As part of your responsibility, you are required to carry out regular risk assessments and record evidence of the steps you have taken to mitigate the identified risks.
The Requirements Of A ‘Competent Person’
The competent person should:
Understand the legal requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and BS 5839
Understand and be able to identify fire alarm system grades and categories
Understand the different types of fire alarms and how they operate
Be familiar with the makes and models of fire alarm system
It’s not enough for you to just hire a fire alarm professional for twice-yearly maintenance. As the user of the fire alarm system, your organisation is also required to test the fire alarms weekly and monthly, to ensure they are in working order.
The Weekly Tests
You should test one manual call point (MCP) and one smoke detector each week, on rotation, continuing this process until all the MCPs and smoke detectors on your premises have been tested.
You should inform your staff about the routine tests and carry out the tests on the same day each week to enable your occupants to identify a test as opposed to a real alarm.
The results of the tests should be recorded in a system logbook, and you should report and resolve any identified faults immediately.
The Monthly Tests
Each month, you will also need to check your fire alarms’ backup power systems, including the batteries and generators. This helps to ensure that the power supply to your devices is uninterrupted, preventing alarm system failures.
These tests should also be documented in the system logbook, with steps being taken to resolve any identified issues.
When Should Fire Alarm Maintenance Be Carried Out?
The BS 5839: fire detection & alarm systems for buildings advises that all detectors, call points, panels, and circuits must be tested every six months by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire alarm systems and smoke detectors. However, properties that are larger or higher risk may need to carry out testing more regularly.
If any issues are identified during the tests, you should immediately contact an expert to arrange an alarm system maintenance appointment.
In addition, you should also carry out maintenance on your fire alarms whenever there are signs of damage, deterioration, or malfunctions. This should be arranged immediately when the issues arise.
Signs That Your Fire Alarm System Needs Maintenance
There may be some signals that your fire alarm system requires maintenance. These include:
The alarm system failing to sound when appropriate
Wear and tear to call points, panels, and detectors
Sensors moving or developing blockages
Strange noises or continuous beeping
Damaged wiring or loose connections
Repeated false alarms
What Does Fire Alarm System Maintenance Involve?
Your fire alarm system maintenance professional will inspect the overall condition of your system.
This includes checking that your alarm system sounds correctly and at an audible volume, and ensuring that the link to the Alarm Receiving Centre is secure, if your organisation uses fire alarm monitoring services.
The Consequences Of Failing To Regularly Maintain Your Fire Alarm
Having a poorly maintained fire alarm system exposes your organisation to several risks, which include:
An increase in false fire alarm signals, which could disrupt your routine operations
In certain circumstances (for example, repeated false alarms) your local fire services may impose fines, or scale back their response when attending callouts to your premises
Other networked safety systems such as sprinkler systems, emergency lighting, fire doors, and lifts may fail to activate during a fire outbreak
Severe injury to staff – or even lives list - in the event of a fire
An increased risk of faults or malfunctions
The responsible person(s) may also be subject to legal repercussions, including unlimited fines for severe breaches and even prison sentences of up to two years.
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