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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Detection & Fire Alarms – Part 209

July 10, 2023 12:57 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 208, LWF continued looking at BS 7273 codes of practice from BS 7273-4. In part 209, we begin to look at the checks that should be performed on fire alarm systems.

Most business and property management personnel are aware that the fire alarm system installed in a building requires servicing by a maintenance organisation. However, that is not the only responsibility in terms of effective maintenance of the fire detection and alarm system. BS 5839-1 lays out recommendations for checks that should be carried out on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Daily checks on the fire alarm system:

Each day, the control and indicating equipment (CIE) should be checked to ensure there are no faults on the system and that it is operational.

Weekly checks on the fire alarm system:

Manual call points on the system must be tested in rotation on a once-weekly basis during normal working hours. This means that a different manual call point will be activated each week and over time, all the call points are checked in rotation. Sounders should operate for a minimum of 5 seconds, but not longer than 60 seconds, allowing all persons to acknowledge the alarm sound, but not mistake it for an evacuation.

In buildings where there are shifts and some workers may only be in the building at night, a test should be undertaken once a month during these hours to ensure they are familiar with the sound of the fire alarm signal.

It should be noted that these tests are not evacuation drills, which would be visited as part of the fire safety management processes for the organisation. These tests are simply designed to test the fire alarm system is working satisfactorily.

Monthly checks on the fire alarm system:

Monthly checks pertain to the supply of standby power. When an automatic emergency generator is used, it should be operated on a monthly basis by simulation of mains power failure and allowed to run for at least one hour.

In cases where vented batteries are used as a backup power supply, which would be a rarity, these should be checked and the electrolyte topped up as necessary. Additionally, if vented batteries are used, they should be subject to a quarterly check by a competent person.

Most modern fire alarm systems utilise batteries that are housed within the fire alarm panel. Should a power fault occur, this will be displayed on the panel.

Periodical checks on the fire alarm system:

A competent person should check the entire installation on a periodic basis. Unless the organisation has an in-house engineer with relevant knowledge, an outside specialist contractor should be brought in to service the system. Service visits should be at least every six months, but quarterly servicing is commonplace.

Routine safety inspections should ensure access to manual call points is not obstructed and that there is a clear space around detector heads. The siting of call points, detectors and sounders must remain appropriate following any changes to layout, partitioning or use of the building.


In part 210 of this series, LWF will begin to discuss voice alarm systems. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 35 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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