Annual fire alarm inspection: why do you need it?Mayara Pabst
If you have a fire alarm system in your house or business, you have probably already heard of testing you need to go through from time to time. An annual fire alarm inspection is required for every place that has such security measures installed. Considering its importance, understand how this testing works and find out when you need to do yours.
Who needs to do a fire alarm testing?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), you should check and test regularly all parts of any fire alarm system. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you only have smoke detectors installed in your kitchen or if you have a complex fire alarm system in your company building. All fire alarm units must be inspected.
Some parts require only visual inspection that you can do weekly, monthly, or semiannually. The most comprehensive testing, though, happens every year and requires the verification of all components in a system. It also involves any feature that you might need in the case of a fire emergency, like the stairs or emergency power.
How does an annual fire alarm inspection work?
The first thing you need to know is that the annual fire alarm inspection needs to be conducted by a certified company. Following this measure, you will be able to ensure that all your fire alarm parts are working according to the current safety standards.
Once you choose the company, you will be able to schedule your annual test and prepare for it. Depending on how complex your fire alarm system is, the inspection might take from 1 hour to days. During this period, the technicians will test every unit to ensure its efficiency and operation in any condition.
More than just triggering a fire alarm to check if horns and strobes are working, this inspection goes through all devices and might test even other systems integrated into the fire alarm system. See below the most important devices and features tested in the annual fire alarm inspection.
Fire alarm system
It includes the inspection of all devices in a fire alarm system, such as smoke detectors, heat detectors, pull stations, horns, strobes, and others. The technicians will test each equipment performance individually. Besides, they will also check specific components, like testing the batteries for corrosion or leakage.
The fire alarm control unit and its trouble signals, both audible and visual, also must be verified annually.
The use of emergency power also needs to be checked regularly. The use of backup batteries needs reviewing, since that during an emergency a power loss might occur. Additionally, emergency lights should work to orientate people on finding the nearest exit. The lights are usually connected to a generator, which also needs testing.
Central Monitoring Station (CMS)
The CMS is the monitoring company that warns you and the fire department in the event of a fire. Therefore, the connection between your fire alarm panel and the CMS should always be working perfectly.
Fire doors and fire escape
Fire doors are installed in strategic places to prevent the fire from spreading. These should be working properly in any circumstances, and the access to it needs to be free. Also, technicians will check fire escape routes, including external fire escape stairs.
Some buildings need to have a stair pressurization system that will stop the fire from spreading. This system sends pressurized air into the staircase, which helps to keep the path clear.
During an elevator recall test, smoke/heat detectors located in the elevator lobby will trigger. If the fire is on the first floor, for example, the elevator must go to one/two levels above. This regulation works according to AHJ requirements. If there is a fire on any other floor, though, the elevator must go to the first floor automatically, keeping the door open.
Gas detection and smoke control
Devices that detect gas and the amount of smoke in a specific area also should be tested. The smoke control system, for example, works by taking the smoke out of the building and sending fresh air into the inside. This measure is crucial, considering that the smoke can intoxicate people.
Some equipment doesn’t need annual testing but needs testing every five years. Some are the fire sprinkler system, standpipes, and fire pumps.
*Some States may require testing one of these systems less than five years. Make sure you check your State Fire Code and verify the period of testing for this equipment.
After inspecting all these features, the technician must submit the results to the local Fire Department for a sign-off. He also issues a report certifying the inspection.
If a technician finds any problem, he must schedule the repairs and a retest. For more details on what needs testing, you can check the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
Why should you do a fire alarm inspection/testing?
The most obvious reason to perform such testing is to ensure everyone’s safety. Several units form a complex fire alarm system, and every single one of them needs to be working perfectly for the entire system to work.
Besides that, some local governments already enforce the obligation of doing this annual test, like California, for example, with Regulation 4. In this case, if you have a business, you must do the inspection. Otherwise, you might have to close the doors.
The way each authority enforces this legislation changes from place to place, but the requirement for the annual fire alarm inspection applies to any business all over the country.
After evaluating the necessity of a fire alarm testing and hiring a certified company to do so, if you need any fire alarm replacement parts, you already know who you can count on. JEM Security has more than 7.000 fire alarm products, from the best brands in the country. Check our product list and find what you are looking for.