Fire alarm systems are usually incorporated into buildings to protect life and/or property. The most appropriate system will depend on the type of building, the ease of egress in an emergency and the type of occupancy.
Your fire-warning and/or detection system should be supervised by a named responsible person, and they should be provided enough authority and training to manage all aspects of the routine testing and scrutiny of the system. The control and indicating equipment should be checked at least every 24 hours to ensure there are no specific faults. All types of fire warning systems should be tested once a week. For electrical systems a manual call point should be activated (using a different call point for each successive test), usually by inserting a dedicated test key.
This will check that the control equipment can receive a signal and in turn, activating the warning alarms. Manual call points may be numbered to ensure they are sequentially tested. Testing and maintenance of the system should be carried out by a competent person. It is good practice to test the alarm at the same time each week, but additional tests may be required to ensure that staff or people present outside normal working hours are given the opportunity to hear the alarm.
Six-monthly servicing and preventive maintenance should be carried out by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire-warning and automatic detection systems. This task is normally fulfilled by entering a service contract with a specialist fire alarm company. It is good practice to record all tests, false alarms and any maintenance carried out in a logbook.
The fire alarm logbook is where all maintenance, tests and repairs can be recorded. It should always be kept on the premises, preferably near the fire control panel, and available for inspection by the FRS.
It should include:
- Dates and times of alarm activations including false and genuine activations
- Dates, times and types of faults and what action was taken
- Dates of tests carried out on the system
- Dates of servicing
- Dates and times of disconnection
- Any alterations to the system
All emergency lighting must be maintained and regularly tested in the same way as other emergency equipment. Each light should be identified and have a location identified for recordkeeping. A record log can then be kept of system tests, defects, any damage to the system and remedial action relating to each light. Most existing systems will need to be manually tested. However, some modern systems have self-testing facilities that reduce routine checks to a minimum.
The monthly test can be carried out by the responsible person and is a short functional test which ensures the lamp switches on and illuminates correctly. All fittings should be free from damage and clean. The test should be done using the secure device key, commonly called a fish key due to its shape. Switching off the main power supply to the lighting circuit, can be hazardous and should be avoided. Further information can be found in BS EN 50172 and BS 5366-8 or, by consulting a competent person.
Annual emergency lighting tests should be performed for the full duration of the emergency light (i.e., three hours). If the lamps do not last past the duration then they will fail the test and should be replaced. These tests will normally be performed by technicians during a fire alarm service, as this can be done while waiting for the lamps to complete the duration of test. Other considerations should include that the tests be performed during periods of lesser occupation.