The LWF Blog

Facilities Management | Upkeep of fire protection systems

March 11, 2014 11:31 am

Most commercial or residential block buildings in the UK will have some form of fire protection system installed. It can be active (alarm systems, sprinklers, automatic smoke ventilation etc.) or it can be passive (compartmentation, fire doors etc.)

Although it is important that passive fire protection is maintained, this can usually be accomplished by simply checking at regular intervals that it has not been altered or interfered with in any way, or replacing a fire door if it should get damaged, for example. 

Active fire protection systems rely on electrical and mechanical systems and, by their very nature, are inclined to ‘go wrong’. Regular checks are required on all active fire protection systems to ensure they remain operational and accurate. These checks form an essential part of the duties of the responsible person and should be entered into the fire risk assessment and fire safety log book as they are completed.

While it would not be practical to list all the relevant codes relating to individual systems here, it is possible to give an overview of the types of task that should be undertaken to ensure continued life protection of the building occupiers.

Frequency of system checks and tests

Daily or weekly checks of a system are often simply a visual check. This means that you look at the fire alarm panel, for example, and check that the correct lights are lit and that no errors are showing. In the case of sprinkler systems or emergency lighting, a visual check for damage or changes that might affect operation may be all that is required this frequently.

Testing of active fire protection systems may take place weekly or monthly.  A fire alarm system must be tested for accurate signal and sound level on a regular basis. It is, of course, important that it is heard either throughout the building, or in the relevant parts in the case of a phased evacuation policy. This test may be carried out by the responsible person within the building or a member of the facilities management team.

In the case of a sprinkler system installation, regular tests must be carried out in order to ensure it is working and to satisfy insurance requirements. These tests should be carried out by someone technically capable and might be a facility manager or an outside contractor.

System servicing

In addition to the regular checks and tests required to keep your active fire protection systems running as they were intended to, it is essential to adhere to the strict system servicing schedule. Servicing of the systems will include a full test and, in much the same way as car servicing, will require the replacement of some parts of the system on a regular basis and before they reach the end of their product life span.

System servicing should only be undertaken by a qualified technician or engineer. The frequency of the servicing will have been laid out at installation of the system and in cases where a building system has been ‘inherited’ from the previous owner, and the timetable is not known, a fire engineer will be able to assist in implementing a servicing and maintenance plan for the building.

If you would be interested in knowing more about fire safety system maintenance and fire protection for your building, please contact Peter Gyere on 0208 668 8663.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy established in1986, with experience in the development of fire engineered technology and the application of fire safety standards including fire engineered techniques.

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