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How Often Should A Fire Alarm System Be Tested?

We are often asked by customers "How Often Should A Fire Alarm System Be Tested?".  The British Standard associated with fire alarm systems gives some recommendations as to when and how often a fire alarm system should be tested.  This article outlines these recommendations to users and persons responsible for fire alarm systems.

Fire Alarm System Testing

BS5839 recognises that although modern fire alarm systems incorporate a high degree of monitoring, so that faults are indicated at the control panel position, it is still necessary for a responsible person nominated by the user to ensure that fault indications at the panel are identified for appropriate action.  It is also impertitive for a regular test to be carried out to ensure that there has not been any major failure of the entire system, or significant part of the system.

How Often Should The User Test Their Fire Alarm System?

BS5839 recommends that the user / responsible person for the fire system tests their fire alarm system on a weekly basis.  The recommendations of the standard are as follows:-

  1. Every week, a manual call point should be operated during normal working hours.  It should be confirmed that the control equipment (fire alarm panel) is capable of processing a fire alarm signal and providing an output to fire alarm sounders installed on the system, and if applicable to ensure that the fire alarm signal is correctly received at any fire alarm receiving centre to which fire alarm signals are transmitted.  It is not necessary to confirm that all fire alarm sounder circuits operate correctly at this time of the test.
  2. The British Standard recommends that the weekly test carried out by the user should be carried out at approximately the same time each week.  Instructions to occupants should then be that they should report any instances of poor audibility of the fire alarm sounders.  In systems with staged alarms that incorporate an 'Alert' and 'Evacuate' alarm signal, the two signals should be operated, where praticable, sequentially in order they would occur at the time of a real fire event (i.e. 'Alert' and then 'Evacuate').
  3. In premises in which some employees only work during hours other than at which the fire alarm system is normally tested, an additional test(s) should be carried out at least once a month to ensure familiarity of these employees with the fire alarm system singal(s).
  4. A different manual call point on the system should be used at the time of every weekly test, so that all manual call points within the building are tested in rotation over a prolonged period.  There is no maximum limit for this period (e.g. in a system with 150 manual call points, the user will test each call point every 150 weeks). The result of the weekly test and identity of the manual call point should be recorded in the system log book.
  5. The duration for which any fire alarm signal is given at the time of the weekly test by the user should not normally exceed one minute, so that, in the event of a fire at the time of the weekly test, occupants will be warned by the prolonged operation of the fire alarm devices.
  6. Voice alarm systems should be tested weekly in accordance with the recommnedations of BS5839-8.

Recommendations For Monthly Attention By The User Of The Fire Alarm System

Each month BS5839 makes the following recommendations upon the monthly attention on a fire alarm systems each month if applicable.

  1. If an automatically started emergency generator is used as part of the standby power supply of a fire alarm system, it should be started up once each month by simulation of failure of the normal power supply and operated on-load for at least one hour.  The test should be carried out in accordance with the instructions of the generator manufacturer, including instructions on the load that should be operated.  At the end of the test, the fuel tanks should be left filled, and the oil and coolant levels should be checked and topped up if necessary.
  2. If vented batteries are used as a standby power supply, a visual inspection of the batteries and their connections should be made to ensure that they are in good condiction.  Action should be taken to rectify any defect, including low electrolyte level.

Note:  Care should be taken to ensure that any person undertaking these monthly tasks is competent to do so safely and has the relevant technical knowledge and training.

Posted: 2nd July 2013

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