In all commercial buildings, the fire alarm test must be carried out each week.
This is usually carried out by a designated person or the site’s ‘Responsible Person’.
The problem is that many people don’t feel confident enough with their fire alarm to put the system in ‘test’ and carry out the test.
This article will help you keep your testing efficient, unobtrusive and compliant with top 5 dos and don’ts, as well as a ‘top tip’ or two.
But before we dive in, we received a question from one of our clients about their weekly fire alarm test being too disruptive:
“Is there a way to carry out the weekly fire alarm test without having the sounders go off?”
The straight-up answer is: No. The sounders will go off if a call point is activated, even when the panel is in test. Remember, your fire alarm is designed to disrupt! The reason why we in the fire industry recommend testing at the same time on the same day each week is so that building occupants know to expect it at this time, and become accustomed to what their fire alarm sounds like; so if the alarm sounds outside of this time-frame, they know it’s their fire alarm and that it is not a test, but potentially a real fire.
There are, however, a few different things that can be done to minimise the disruption during a fire alarm test.
Have a member of your team help you out with the weekly tests. One person to activate the call point, then one person standing at the panel ready to reset it immediately once activated. This way the sounders won’t go off for too long.
The Top 5 Dos
1. If your system is being monitored (i.e. has an emergency response set up if the alarm activates), you will need to contact your ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre) to notify them that you will be carrying out this test so they know to put the system “on test” and then to take it “off test” following. Then request a report from your ARC to make sure they received the signal, demonstrating that the connection between the alarm system and them is still operational.
2. Do check that the panel has registered the correct zone has had a manual call point activation; this is why it is important to have your building’s zone chart next to your fire alarm panel.
3. You must ensure that you keep a written record of each test on site. The best way to do so is to record each test in a log book. Let us know if you would like us to send you one.
4. Your weekly fire alarm test must be carried out during working hours. Even though this could end up being a little disruptive to those in the building at the time, it’s important that every can hear it from all areas. If the alarm can’t be heard in all areas, this must be reported to your trusted maintenance provider. They should then carry out a decibel survey to ensure that all areas of the building are covered.
5. If any faults show up on the panel or there are any issues when testing, do report these to your trusted maintenance provider for immediate investigation.
Here’s our engineer, Paul, showing how to carry out a weekly fire alarm test on an Ampac panel:
The Top 5 Don’ts
You’ve got a handful of weekly fire alarm dos, but what about the don’ts that must be avoided?
1. Don’t get this mixed up with fire drills – these should still be carried out and for this, your building occupants must not be notified prior to the drill, as it’s to assess the efficiency and speed of evacuation proceedings.
2. When everyone knows a test is happening, don’t let anyone stick earplugs in; they must not alter their environment specifically for the test as this should be treated as a real-life simulation.
3. Don’t just test the same manual call point ever week; a different call point should be tested each week. If you have 10 call points on your site, you should have tested them all by the 10th week. Once they have all been tested, you start again and rotate to test them again.
Make a note of what manual call points you’ve tested; a simple way of keeping track of what you’ve tested is by using stickers and numbering each of the calling point, and then recording in your log book the number call point you tested, so you won’t be scratching your head the following week! We send these stickers out with our log books, let us know if you’d like any sent out.
4. Don’t mistake this test with your bi-annual maintenance service visit from your fire alarm maintenance provider. They should carry out a full test of the system during the year, along with a minor test. These tests will not only check the call points, but also the detectors, to ensure optimum functionality.
5. Don’t be the only person on your site that knows how to carry out a weekly fire alarm test. This way, when you are not in, a colleague can jump in and carry out the test as usual.
Remember to carry out the weekly test at the same time each week and inform your building’s occupants that the fire alarm is being tested, and that the sounders will go off for approximately 30 seconds. This way you team will be expecting this and will get used to it happening at the same time each week.
How can you react to something when you don’t know what it sounds like?
A fire alarm is designed to be disruptive and annoying so that when you hear it, you get up and move! It’s a life safety system that you are testing to ensure it will do its job effectively in the moment you need it most. If there is a fault and you are found not to have tested it every week (which is why keeping a record of it in your log book is important, as it is evidence you have tested it), you might not find out until the next maintenance visit, which could be up to 6 months away.
Fire alarms are an expensive investment within your building, and like everything, you need to maintain it and take care of it. You can’t leave it alone and expect it’ll perform for you when you need it. So, having a fire alarm maintenance contract in place with an accredited provider and carrying out your weekly testing are two fundamental ways to keep your commercial premises both safe and legal when it comes to fire safety.
Here’s another walk-through on carrying out your weekly fire alarm test on a Kentec panel:
If you have a building or buildings with multiple fire alarm panels networked together, ensure the panels are activated and that no faults are displaying across all panels.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to document your weekly test in your log book! This is your written evidence to demonstrate you’ve carried these out; should there ever be a fire and there be a suggestion of negligence of the system, you know you can prove you’ve done your testing.
If you still have questions about your weekly fire alarm test, feel free to get in touch. We are more than happy to help and offer our expertise and advice.
Some of our customers benefit from us coming in every week to do their weekly tests for them, albeit it is more cost-effective for someone on your site to do this. Whether you do this yourself or get a professional in, the important thing is you do have your fire alarm testing carried out weekly!
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