What Does Commercial Fire Alarm Inspection and Maintenance Entail?
Fire alarm inspection and maintenance is a priority for every commercial facility manager. However, it can be a challenge to maintain a fire alarm system. By definition, it’s activated only infrequently—either during scheduled tests or when an actual life- or property-threatening fire occurs. Keeping up with silent failures or incremental breakdowns that may occur requires vigilance and adherence to strict standards of fire alarm inspection and maintenance.
Maintenance Through The Years
One of the first steps to take during a fire alarm inspection and maintenance routine is to determine the system’s age and its history of maintenance, repairs and replacement. These should be included in the maintenance records of any commercial facility, as well as fire safety inspection reports and property sales documents if building ownership has changed hands. Generally speaking, the younger the system is, the less it has been exposed to factors that influence degradation and disrepair.
Five Years or Less
Defects discovered in relatively new systems—installed five years ago or less—may have been built-in from the start, like an installation that doesn’t meet industry standards. These might include errors such as improper grounding or inconsistent voltage. Immediately instituting a program of regularly scheduled inspections and tests will probably reveal these obvious problems.
Five to 10 Years
Once a fire alarm system passes the five year mark, age-related glitches may begin to manifest. Certain parts exposed to wear will perform marginally as will some electronics. Environmental issues like dust, exposure to moisture and temperature variations will take their toll on components and wiring. These may manifest as sporadic failures during testing or increased frequency of nuisance false alarms. 10 to 15 Years Fire alarm systems in the older category between 10 and 15 years can still be kept online.
However, this is largely determined by the existence of regular, skilled fire alarm inspection and maintenance. If the system has a history of neglected maintenance and monitoring, failures in the above categories can be more frequent and widespread. Over 20 Years Once a fire alarm has passed 20 years, the system and its individual components have exceeded their design life.
While it may still function during testing, whether it will operate reliably in an actual fire emergency is considered questionable. Only a rigorous program of frequent testing to identify and replace marginal components can justify keeping a system of this age online. In addition, the expense of doing so may ultimately prove to be prohibitive compared to the cost of upgrading to a new fire alarm system.
The Five Essentials
The basics of fire alarm maintenance can be reduced to five essential steps:
- Regularly test and calibrate heat, flame and smoke detectors to comply with manufacturer’s recommendations. Knowledge of both the theory and application of sensors, as well as the manufacturer’s specs and industry standards is required.
- Run fire scenario simulations to test the annunciators in the system. Maintenance personnel need to have the training and familiarity with the specific system to subject it to definitive tests designed to reveal incipient failures.
- Adjust proper sensitivity. This entails knowledge of the system parameters, plus a familiarity with the particulars of the building environment where the system is installed, as well as some knowledge of the theory of fire detection.
- Proper coordination with the fire department to verify the link to their system. Fire departments generally apply locally standardized procedures for this and maintenance personnel should be acquainted with these.
- Verify the state of the backup battery system. Check it for corrosion or other degradation and service as necessary. Determine the expiration date of the battery and schedule replacement as required.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information about fire alarm inspection and maintenance and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!