The LWF Blog

Facilities Management – Checking of Fire Alarm Systems – Part 22

November 3, 2016 4:13 pm

In this blog series for those who work in Facilities Management and who have a responsibility for fire safety, we have been looking at fire alarm systems and the associated control equipment and in last week’s blog, how this is dealt with through BS 7273:1-4. We established that the interfaces between the fire alarm system and other procedures which should take place if a fire starts are many and that BS 7273 provides the standards which oversee those operations.


In today’s blog, we’re moving away from that particular British Standard to another – BS 5839:1, which deals specifically with the testing and checking of the fire alarm system which must be undertaken ‘in-house’ and in addition to the servicing undertaken by your chosen maintenance organisation.


BS 5839:1 lays out a system of checks which take place on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, as laid out below:


Daily – The display or Control and Indicating Equipment (CIE) should be checked on a daily basis to ensure that no faults are reported on the system.


Weekly – Each manual call point must be tested, and so once per week, during normal working hours, a manual call point should be chosen for testing by triggering the alarm via that point. Each week a different call point is to be chosen so that they are all tested over a period of time. The sounders will start but should be permitted to sound for not more than one minute. In premises where some employees do not work during normal testing hours, a once a month test should be carried out during their working hours so as to ensure their familiarity with the sound of the alarm.


Monthly – In cases where an automatic emergency generator is a part of the standby power supply, this should be tested on a monthly basis to ensure it is ready in case of a fire situation. On a monthly basis, therefore, operate the generator by simulating mains power failure and allow it to run on load for at least an hour. In the rare cases where vented batteries are used as a backup power supply, these should be checked and where required, the electrolyte should be topped up, in addition to a quarterly check by a person suitably competent.


Periodically – Not all checks to the system can be carried out by a person without specialist expertise. Servicing should take place at least once every six months, although quarterly service contracts are more commonplace, by a specialist contractor or your own in-house specialist where the business is large enough to sustain such a position.


There are other checks you can undertake as you make your way around the premises. Routine safety inspections to check that manual call points are unobstructed, that there is a clear space around fire alarm detector heads so that any smoke or hot gases reaches the detector quickly.


If there are any changes to the building either in terms of layout or expansion, changes to partitions etc., then the placing of call points, detectors and sounders must be re-visited to ensure they service the needs of the building and its occupants.


In our next blog, we will begin to look at Voice Alarm Systems and their use in the modern world of fire safety. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.


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