Is Your Fire Alarm System Fully Operational?

Your fire alarm system is intended to protect you, your business, and your assets, but just because it looks like it’s working properly doesn’t mean it is. Some impairments cannot be noticed without proper inspection. Dust, dirt, and improper maintenance procedures can compromise the operation of your fire alarm, so it is essential that you inspect, maintain, and test your fire alarm system to keep it at optimal performance.

The number one question you’re probably asking right now is, “How often should these things be done?” Fire alarm system inspections by certified inspectors are required by law for businesses annually; however, several things must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. For fire alarm systems unmonitored for alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals, the fuses, interfaced equipment, lamps and LEDs, and the primary power supply must be visually inspected weekly. For fire alarm systems monitored for alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals, the fuses, interfaced equipment, lamps and LEDs, and the primary power supply must be inspected initially and annually. Lead-acid and primary dry cell batteries must be checked monthly, while nickel-cadmium and sealed lead-acid batteries must be inspected semiannually. Control unit trouble signals must be visually inspected weekly, along with fiber-optic cable connections, emergency voice/alarm communications equipment and remote annunciators. Additionally, initiating devices such as fire alarm boxes, heat detectors, radiant energy fire detectors, smoke detectors, supervisory signal devices, and waterflow devices must be visually inspected weekly, according to the NFPA 72.

Your next question may be, “How often should my fire alarm and its components be tested by a certified professional?” For building systems connected to a supervising station, the functions, fuses, interfaced equipment, lamps and LEDs, primary power supply, and transponders must be tested annually, but if the building system is not connected to a supervising station, these components must be tested quarterly. A battery charger test for lead-acid type batteries, nickel-cadmium type batteries, and sealed lead-acid type batteries must be tested annually. A discharge test must be done semi-annually on lead-acid type batteries, and annually for nickel-cadmium type batteries and sealed lead-acid type batteries. Specific gravity tests must be done semi-annually for lead-acid type batteries, and a load voltage test for nickel-cadmium type and sealed lead-acid type batteries must be done semi-annually. For primary type dry cell batteries, a load voltage test must be completed monthly. Fiber-optic cable powers, control unit trouble signals, emergency voice/alarm communications equipment, and remote annunciators must be tested annually. Heat detectors, fire alarm boxes, and system smoke detectors must be tested annually. Radiant energy fire detectors and waterflow devices must be tested semi-annually, and supervisory signal devices must be tested monthly.

Once a Certified Professional finishes your inspection proper documentation is necessary. An inspection tag shall be attached to each fire protection system near the main control panel, or other such appropriate and visible location as determined by the fire code official. The annual inspection tag shall contain the following information:

  • The individual performing the work and the State Fire Marshal installer certification number(s)
  • Date of Test
  • Results of inspection and test
  • Deficiencies or impairments noted

Records of all system inspections, tests, and maintenance required by the referenced standards shall be maintained on the premises for a minimum of 3 years (unless otherwise provided for by law or regulation) and shall be copied to the fire code official upon request.

These standards are the minimum requirements. Each fire alarm system is created differently, thus it will require different inspections and tests. Your insurance company and/or Accrediting Agency may also require additional inspections and tests. This information may be overwhelming; however, it is important to ensure your fire alarm and all of its components are working properly to prevent fires from damaging your business and to protect you and your assets. This is only for your safety and the safety of your business.