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Fire Alarm Maintenance Legal Requirements

Fire alarms are an integral part of safety and rightfully so. If left undetected, fires have the power to spread so fast and so quick, wreaking havoc on both human lives and property.

Appropriate fire alarms are a legal requirement for all businesses in the UK, especially if the establishment is large, stores high-risk substances such as chemicals, and undertakes high-risk activities such as cooking.

However, it is not enough to simply install good quality fire alarms and smoke detectors. According to the law, you must regularly maintain and test them too.

A properly maintained fire alarm not just keeps people and property safe but can also significantly reduce the number of false alarms that may occur in the system.

Read on to find out all about the legal requirements related to fire alarm maintenance, how it is carried out, and by whom:

THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

When it comes to fire safety, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) is the main legislation that covers all aspects including proper installation, maintenance, and testing.

Fire safety in the UK was previously covered by several different laws, the main ones being the Fire Precautions Act 1961 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997/1999.

It was later decided to simplify the legislation leading to the creation of the RRO, which works as a guideline for fire and rescue authorities in addition to assessing negligence.

Expanding on the RRO, the British Standard: BS 5839 recommends that you must have your premises, facilities, and equipment, including your fire alarms, regularly maintained by a competent person at least twice a year.

A competent person is someone who has sufficient technical knowledge, understands the different types of fire alarms and how they work, is familiar with the makes and models, and has a good understanding of the legal requirements including the RRO and the BS 5839.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FIRE SAFETY?

You are responsible for fire safety for your business if you are the owner, employer, landlord, occupier, or anyone in a controlling position.

There may be more than one responsible person and, if that is the case, you need to work together and take on equal responsibility in meeting the safety regulations.

As a responsible person, you must undertake a thorough risk assessment of your premises which includes:

  • Identifying the potential hazards,
  • Identifying those at risk,
  • Evaluating the extent of risk and removing it,
  • Recording the findings and preparing an action plan, and
  • Reviewing and updating the assessment as necessary.

The purpose of the fire risk assessment is to understand a property’s unique fire safety requirements and take the necessary steps to counteract the issue.

It includes training occupants, staff members, and employees, conducting fire drills and making evacuation plans, and installing and maintaining fire safety equipment such as portable multi-purpose fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, fire hose reels, emergency lighting, and fire alarm systems.

Negligence in fire safety and the inability to install and maintain an efficient fire alarm system has proven to have led to serious damages and legal consequences with the responsible person(s) having to pay heavy fines and face a prison sentence.

A poorly maintained system may not just include legal action but may also lead to loss of life, loss of business revenue, the inability to work from a fire-damaged workplace, and a tarnished reputation in the industry for ignoring basic safety measures.

WHEN SHOULD A FIRE ALARM SYSTEM BE MAINTAINED?

The main objective of a fire alarm system is to detect the earliest signs of a fire and alert the occupants of the building so that they can take the necessary action without wasting any time.

The efficiency of a fire alarm system isn’t just a legal requirement but could also be a matter of life and death, which is why it is very important to take the appropriate safety measures that include installing and maintaining a state-of-the-art fire detection system.

Two types of inspections must be carried out: inspections carried out by the users of the system which fall under the responsibility of the responsible person(s), and inspections and maintenance checks carried out by a competent person, who is usually a trained engineer.

The user tests are carried out on a weekly and monthly basis, whereas the more detailed inspections carried out by the trained engineers are done a minimum of two times each year.

Weekly testing by the user

This weekly test aims to ensure that all the devices and components of the fire alarm system are working effectively, that there is no issue with the signals being received by the control panel, and every person in the building can hear the alarm.

During this test, one manual call point (MCP) and one smoke detector is tested every week on a rotating basis until all the MCPs and detectors have been tested.

There is no time limit for the devices to be tested and if a building has 70 MCPs, it can take up to 70 weeks to test all the devices.

The best practice is to conduct the tests on the same day every week so that the occupants of the building may familiarise themselves with it and can differentiate between a test and an actual alarm.

The results of the tests, including the location of each device being tested, are recorded into a system logbook and any faults are reported and rectified immediately.

Monthly testing by the user

While the MCPs and smoke detectors are checked every week, it is recommended to check the backup power systems such as the batteries and generators every month to ensure uninterrupted power supply.

The tests include checking the fluid and coolant levels, the results for which are again recorded in the system logbook to review and take necessary action.

Testing and maintenance by a competent person

According to legal requirements, a commercial fire alarm system must be subject to periodic testing and inspections so that faults can be identified and preventive measures can be taken to ensure continued reliability on the system.

BS 5839 states that all the detectors, call points, panels, and circuits must be tested every six months by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire alarm systems and smoke detectors.

The duration, however, isn’t set in stone and may vary as outlined during a fire risk assessment and is dependent on the size and complexity of the system.

For large and high-risk properties, it might be best to have the system serviced every four months instead of the recommended six.

Also, if you feel like your system is showing signs of damage or deterioration, it is advised to have a professional look at the issue ASAP and fix it before it affects the efficiency of the system.

During the professional testing and maintenance, a trained engineer follows a fire alarm maintenance checklist and inspects the logbook for all reported incidents, carries out a visual inspection of the building and the system for any obvious signs of damage and deterioration, and conducts a thorough inspection of all the devices and components.

WHAT SHOULD FIRE ALARM MAINTENANCE INCLUDE?

According to the UK fire alarm regulations, someone competent and reliable must be chosen to install and service your fire alarm. They require that the competent person(s) must:

  • Understand the various types of fire alarm systems and be familiar with all the different models,
  • Be able to identify the grades and categories of fire alarm systems, and
  • Have a good knowledge and understanding of the British Standard BS 5839.

As discussed above, in addition to having a professional inspect your system, it is equally important for you, as the responsible person, to conduct your own checks and tests to ensure all the components are working effectively.

During an inspection special attention must be given to three main areas of the fire alarm that include the condition, sound, and connection.

These involve checking the overall condition of the system and if it is suitable or not, checking whether the alarm makes an audible sound since that is an integral part of the system, and checking the link to the Alarm Receiving Centre in case of professional fire alarm monitoring services.

The best way to ensure that all the components are covered during your weekly and monthly checks is to create a schedule in the form of a maintenance checklist.

Routine fire alarm maintenance checks must include six-month follow-ups by a competent individual and weekly and monthly inspections conducted by the users that include the following:

  • Control panels – to see if the signals are being received and the visual display/status LED’s are still lit up.
  • Devices – to check connected devices such as sensors and detectors for damage and obstructions.
  • Call points – to test all the manual call points and ensure that the alarm can be heard from every corner of the building.
  • Voice alarms – to check the connection between the users and the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) to avoid unwanted call outs or loss of communication.
  • Batteries – to ensure that in the event of a power failure, the backup batteries will power the system.
  • Break glass – to make sure that all call points are accessible and not hidden behind something to avoid delays in announcing a fire.
  • Building works – to conduct a visual inspection of any structural changes in the building, as well as nearby buildings, that may affect safety.
  • Reporting – to carefully document all the tests during fire alarm maintenance conducted by a competent person to serve as evidence of legal compliance.

Reporting is an essential part of fire alarm maintenance and the logbook must be kept up-to-date. In addition to the tests and inspections, the following must be documented as well:

  • The date, time, duration, and cause of each fire alarm trigger,
  • Any faults found and action taken to rectify them,
  • The date and time of any disconnections,
  • The date and time any alterations were made, and
  • Any evacuation drills conducted using the fire alarm system.

FIRE ALARM MAINTENANCE COSTS

On average, a maintenance visit would cost you around £125-£200+, however, the charges may differ if you have a maintenance contract.

Maintenance contracts are contracts between the security company and the fire alarm owner that ensure the system will be looked after and all its servicing needs will be taken care of, leaving you, the owner and user, carefree and at ease.

A maintenance contract will put you and your system on top priority in case of an unexpected fault and also during emergency callouts.

The duration of the contract, the price, and other details may vary between contracts and companies and you may set up a custom maintenance contract as per your requirements and budget.

Some maintenance contracts also include professional fire alarm monitoring services for added security and protection.

Fire alarm repair is another service closely attached to maintenance and, depending on the nature of the fault, this could cost you around £92.

CONTACT CALDER SECURITY

Businesses are required by the law to conduct a fire risk assessment and have an appropriate well-maintained fire detection system in place.

At Calder Security, we offer you a comprehensive solution for all your business’s fire safety needs and guarantee the best service in all of Yorkshire and beyond. Our services include:

The proper installation of a fire alarm system is just as important as the quality of the system itself. It is a complex task requiring expertise in the field.

We understand that every business is different and the specification of the system depends on several factors including the type of building, the nature of the business, and the number of employees and staff.

We can help you cut through all that and advise you on the best fire detection system for your business that complies with British Standards, HSE, Building Regulations, and Fire Officer Guidelines.

We install only high-quality equipment from our trusted suppliers and all our systems comply with business insurance terms.

It is not enough to simply have a fire alarm system installed on your commercial premises. The law states that it must be maintained properly and, depending on many factors, this can be anything up to 3 times per year.

We understand fire regulations and provide professional maintenance checks and reminders for when the checks are due to help you stay compliant with the law.

We work fast to restore your fire alarm system to excellent condition and always strive to meet your expectations.

Fast response to an activated fire alarm can make all the difference in minimising risk to life and property, and fire alarm monitoring does that by adding an extra layer of safety to the system.

Knowing that experts at an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) are looking out for your safety and taking the necessary steps to ensure that safety remains intact in the event of a fire is a very reassuring thought.

We offer various levels of monitoring via a 24-hour monitoring centre using Dualcom and BT Redcare signalling, which is the most secure alarm monitoring system and the largest supplier of intelligent alarm signalling services in the UK.

Fire alarm monitoring does not only significantly minimise the seriousness of the situation through fast action, but also reduces your insurance premiums.

As per the law, if a fire alarm system becomes faulty, it is mandatory to get it repaired quickly and professionally. The inability to do so can leave you, your staff, your property, and all of its assets in a vulnerable state.

A faulty fire alarm can result in false alarms or, in a worst-case scenario, prevent it from triggering at all in the event of a fire.

Our engineers are highly skilled and can restore your system to full working order in one visit. We offer a 24-hour call-out service for customers and can also repair fire alarms not installed by us thanks to our extensive knowledge and experience.

Contact us here or call us today free on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our experts right away and have your fire alarms installed and maintained according to the standards set by the UK government.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash