How regularly should a commercial fire alarm system be maintained?

February 24th, 2017

The primary objective of installing a commercial fire alarm system is to alert all relevant parties (any persons in the building) when safety or security is compromised. Ensuring it is working effectively is not only a legal requirement, it could be a matter of life or death.

Even if your comercial fire alarm system is installed with a EN 54-2 approved analogue addressable control panel which performs automatic testing of circuits and component parts, there are further manual inspections which must be carried out in accordance with the recommendations set out in BS 5839 Part 1–2013.

These inspections include those that must be carried out by the ‘user’ which will normally fall under the remit of the ‘responsible individual’, and inspections and maintenance that must be completed by a ‘competent’ person, which is usually a trained engineer.

Weekly testing by the ‘user’

The intention is to ensure that one manual call point (MCP) and one smoke detector is tested each week on a rotating basis until all MCPs and detectors have been tested. There is no time limit within which all devices must be tested. e.g. if a building has 70 MCP’s it can take up to 70 weeks to test all call points.

The aim of this weekly test is to confirm that these devices are operating effectively and that signals are being received by the control panel.

The ideal is that this is done on the same day and time each week such that occupants in the building recognise the length of test alarm sounding and are able to distinguish between a test and real alarm and only evacuate the building when the fire alarm continues to sound. If the business operates shifts, additional tests will need to be scheduled. An important aspect of this test is to ensure people in all locations can hear the alarm.

The results of this weekly test and the location of the device that has been tested is then recorded in the system log book. Any faults should be reported and rectified immediately.

Monthly testing by the ‘user’

The recommendation is that the operation of back up power systems such as generators or batteries are checked monthly. This should include fluid and coolant levels.

Again, the result of these tests should be recorded in the system log book.

Inspection and servicing by a competent person

The recommendations set out in BS 5839-1 2013 state that a commercial fire alarm system is to be subject to periodic inspection and servicing so that faults are identified, preventive measures can be taken to ensure the continued reliability of the system, false alarm problems are identified and suitably addressed, and the user is made aware of any changes to the building that affect the protection afforded by the system.

The aim is that even if the fire alarm and its component devices are automatically monitored by a control panel, unless proven unnecessary by the manufacturer, all call points, panels, detectors and circuitry is inspected once within a 12 month period.

BS 5839-1 2013 also states that this periodic inspection and servicing should be carried out by a ‘competent’ person with specialist knowledge of fire detection and commercial fire alarm systems, including knowledge of the causes of false alarms, sufficient information regarding the system, and adequate access to spares.

Whilst the new EN16763 standard is about to make clear exactly what is meant ‘competent’ there is currently no definition. Obviously Tecserv would always  recommend that the ‘competent person’ is a trained engineer from a BAFE certified company.

The competent person will have a comprehensive check list of areas they must inspect in accordance with fire safety regulations such as the RRO 2005 safety order. During these inspections, the engineer will also review the following:

  • Inspect the log book to check for reported incidents
  • Carry out a visual inspection of the building to assess if any changes impact the risk assessments. e.g. structural changes and occupancy.
  • Over the course of course of each agreed inspection visit over a 12 month period, ensure the effective operation of all devices as per his checklist.

The stipulation that all equipment must be inspected once every 12 months does not necessarily mean all work can be done during one single site inspection.

The frequency of visit by your engineer will be determined by other factors as outlined during your fire risk assessment. These factors will include a number of key considerations such as building size and use, occupancy numbers and frequency, and the complexities and lay out of the fire alarm system you have installed.

Consequently, the frequency and number fire maintenance inspections that need to be carried out by the competent individual may vary. Albeit quarterly or six monthly inspections are the normal practice.

If you would like more information on commercial fire alarm systems, please complete the enquiry form or download our free fire safety checklist.