Commercial Fire Alarms: Don’t Forget Maintenance and Annual Inspections
Commercial fire alarms represent a large investment in the safety of a company’s employees, customers and business assets. You rely on your fire alarm to protect human life and health while also ensuring your facility, equipment and stock are as safe as possible from the dangers of fire. Like any mechanical or electrical system, however, fire alarm performance can degrade over time, creating the possibility that the alarm won’t sound when needed. To maintain the reliability and dependability of commercial fire alarms, regular maintenance and annual inspections by qualified personnel are necessary.
Reasons to have fire alarm maintenance and inspections
- General protection: Fires can have devastating effects on a business, even if discovered and extinguished early. Smoke damage, water damage from the fire department or internal sprinkler system and the direct effects of flames can cause major interruptions in business operations. In the very worst cases, fires can cause injuries and loss of life. To prevent these serious, even catastrophic results, it’s necessary to have a fully functional and reliable fire alarm system.
- Insurance requirements: Your insurance company will most likely require you to have regular maintenance and inspections performed, usually on an annual basis. If you don’t have proof of maintenance and inspection, you could invalidate your insurance policy. If this happens, your insurance company may reject any claims you make.
- Liability: Without proof of regular inspections and maintenance by competent experts, you may also be subject to various types of legal liability if a fire causes injury or loss of life or property.
- State and local requirements: Local and state authorities will likely require annual inspection of commercial fire alarms. The alarm system must be maintained in accordance with local codes and ordinances, which could include such broader standards as the Life Safety Code/NFPA 25/NFPA 72, published by the National Fire Protection Association.
Sources of problems with fire alarms
Fire alarm problems can develop from both natural and human-inspired sources, such as:
- Accumulated dust, dirt or other contamination
- Incorrect or improper maintenance performed by unqualified personnel
- Damage during building remodeling, expansion or repairs
- Wiring or component damage from animals or insects
- Electrical voltage surges or fluctuations
- Moisture or humidity accumulations
- Temperature fluctuations
- Vandalism or mistreatment of system and components
- Simple age, wear and deterioration
Age considerations for commercial fire alarms
Fire alarms should be inspected by a qualified and licensed inspector at least every year, no matter what the system’s age. However, the older the system, the more care needs to be taken with annual inspections and periodic maintenance. Older systems may need maintenance more frequently than just annually.
- Under five years old: This would be considered a relatively new system, and as such, it should still be in good condition. Annual maintenance and inspection will keep it working well.
- Five to 10 years old: Use and environmental factors are going to have an effect on systems within this age range. However, by taking good care of the system, it should continue to work well.
- 10 to 15 years old: This is about the mid-range of useful age for commercial fire alarms. At this point, they require more attention to maintenance and careful assessment of performance.
- 15 to 20 years old: At this point, the system will be showing its age and may need maintenance more often than annually.
- Over 20 years old: After 20 years, commercial fire alarms are likely past their useful lifespan. A well-maintained system may still be functional, but will require diligent attention to maintenance and inspection to keep it running. At 20 years, it’s time to start planning for a fire alarm system replacement.
The goal of Sobieski Commercial is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information about the importance of commercial fire alarm maintenance and inspections and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
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