Fire alarms are integral to safety measures in residential and commercial establishments. However, you can’t just have them installed and forget about them. Routine inspection and testing needs to be carried out to ensure that the fire alarm system is operating as intendedon a quarterly basis, and that your establishment remains compliant with regulations such as Ireland’s Fire Services Acts 1981 & 2003. Let’s delve into what the process entails.
The different devices that the alarm system is composed of are looked into. These include:
– Initiating devices
Here the focus is on the components needed to activate the fire alarm. They can be manual (such as buttons, pull stations and break glass stations) – and these are typically installed where the building’s occupants can access them in the event of an emergency; or automatic, which range from flame and smoke detectors, to new innovations like camera systems using artificial intelligence and video-based fire detection.
– Notification devices
They are the devices that alert the building’s occupants of the fire, usually by sound or visual means, like the siren, bell or horn systems that work with a strobe or a flashing red light.
– The fire alarm panel
This is the part that monitors the input from the initiating devices and the output from the notification devices, while ensuring that the integrity of the system is maintained for accurate information to be relayed.
– Building safety interfaces
What’s the condition of the interfaces in the building that help the people to evacuate during a fire? This cuts across the board, from emergency lighting to ventilation systems.
The sensitivity of the system is also inspected, to ensure that it is within the operating parameters of the manufacturer. Other components that should be assessed include the power supply to the alarm system – both the primary source and the backup, to ensure that you will still receive the warnings in the event of a simultaneous fire breakout and power failure.
● Commissioning test
Carried out immediately after the installation of the alarm system, this test is required to ensure that all components are working. It’s typically done once after setup, but is also recommended before the premises gets occupied, and after renovations have been carried out in the building.
● Quarterly Maintenance test
This is a routine test where the technicians come in to assess the different components of the alarm system to ensure that they are working properly. They can be handled by the same company that handled the installation, such as with the certified Service Maintenance contract agreements from AMSL. For buildings where there are less than 20 devices combined, bi-annual maintenance is acceptable. Quarterly certification of maintenance will be provided by AMSL Group for contracted customers.
● Annual test
This is a routine test that will include Bell/Sounder testing to ensure the building will achieve the required decibel levels as laid out in the current standards and codes of practice. Annual certification of maintenance will be provided by AMSL Group for contracted customers.
● Sensitivity Test
The test is done within a year after the fire alarm system is installed, with the main focus being ensuring that the initiating devices get activated within the ranges stipulated by the manufacturer. The personnel carrying out the test use metering devices and a heat element or aerosol smoke to trigger the activation, assessing whether this occurs within the manufacturer’s limits. The readings from the metering device are compared with the ranges and ratings that are stated by the manufacturer for that system.
After scheduling the inspection, you will need to inform your monitoring agency that there will be a test being carried out, as well as the timings involved. This is because they will still receive the alerts, but you don’t want them responding and sending over the emergency teams. They will still log the signals they receive, but you will avoid inconveniencing them.
You may also want to weigh what approach will be best when the notification devices are being inspected. Will they be tested simultaneously with the other component parts, and will it be during normal working hours? With the sirens, bells, horns and strobes going off, you want to schedule this at a time that will be least alarming for the occupants of the building. The flexible booking with AMSL allows you to schedule the test for the time that will be most convenient for your home or business premises.
Firstly, the technicians carrying out the test will notify you, with a detailed report of the devices that have failed. After this, corrective measures can be taken.
If it’s just a few devices that have failed the test – and if the technicians sent to the premises have the replacements needed at hand, then you can simply have them installed immediately. The new component will then be tested to ensure that it works.
With multiple device failure and where lots of equipment will have to be replaced, then you will get a report and quotation, and you can then make arrangements to have the issue resolved.
To be clear, the technician is only required to notify you which devices have failed the testing process. It will then be up to you, the owner, to decide when to take up the next corrective measures. However, when dealing with a professional service, you should be able to smoothly make arrangements for this from the same company.