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Fire Safety - Maintenance of Protection Systems
In general all commercial/public buildings in the UK will incorporate some form of active fire protection system.
Having been installed and appropriately commissioned, these systems are designed to operate in a desired manner, ensuring both the building and its occupants are protected. Unfortunately as with all electrical and mechanical systems, failure is possible.
To reduce the likelihood of failure, all fire protection systems must be subject to regular checks, testing and maintenance. These actions ensure the system is working correctly and any items that are subject to failure, through ‘wear and tear’ etc can be identified and appropriate remedial action taken.
The reason for reducing the likelihood of failure, is the matter of consequence. It is likely that most (if not all) of the fire safety systems installed in the UK have been installed as life safety installations, i.e. they protect life. Therefore, failure of such a system could ultimately lead to injuries or even death.
It is not the intention of this bulletin to detail every code requirement for system checks, but to provide an overview of the most common requirements in typical buildings.
Many fire safety installations require daily, weekly and monthly checks. The general rule is that the more frequent the check, the less involved or intrusive it is. For example, the daily check on a fire alarm system involves a visual check on the fire alarm panel(s), to ensure correct operation, i.e. no faults are indicated. Similarly, with emergency lighting systems, does each unit appear to be working correctly, do any units appear damaged.
With a lower frequency, comes a more intrusive, involved form of testing. These tests are typically on a weekly / monthly basis and are normally performed by in-house staff / facilities management. The most common basic test of a system we should all be aware of, is the weekly fire alarm test. This test is performed to ensure that the manual call points are sending a signal to the fire alarm panel. This test also ensures that the sounders are working correctly and allows the occupants an opportunity to report any audibility issues as well as becoming familiar with the sound of the alarm.
A less common system, but equally important (if installed) is a sprinkler system. This will be subjected to weekly tests, which ensures the basic operation of the system, pumps and water supply. This will often be an insurance requirement as failure to meet the insurer’s maintenance checks may invalidate the insurance policy.
Servicing & Maintenance
With most installations, there will be a periodic requirement to service a system, similar to a car. This tends to be a more involved process and may require replacement of parts. Most standards require this to be carried out by an appropriately trained engineer accredited with the appropriate qualifications. Servicing should pick up any technical system faults and can also be used for planned maintenance, when a component is identified as nearing the end of its useable life, servicing will take appropriate action to ensure its replacement prior to failure.
Servicing of systems tends to be less frequent, for example, monthly quarterly or even annually. This can depend on the system as well as other factors such as the risk group of the building and the size of the installation.
The fire safety protection systems installed in buildings are, in the norm, primarily there to protect life. We must be mindful of the importance of these systems when we test and maintain them as their failure could have catastrophic results.
If you would like to know more – or would like to arrange an appointment with one of our senior fire safety advisers – simply call Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.