Fire Alarm Inspection & Testing
Fire & Life Safety America provides fire alarm system inspection and testing services for all brands of fire alarm systems based on the requirements of NFPA 72 including local requirements dictated by the AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction). Fire alarm inspection, testing and maintenance meeting the minimum requirements of the NFPA 72 standard are critically important to ensure fire alarm systems work as intended when called upon. These electronic systems suffer can be sensitive to common day use and just as any other building systems and FLSA’s standardized processes and procedures will increase the reliability of systems while helping owners to plan maintenance issues to reduce spend as opposed to dealing with more costly repairs that tend to pop up as emergency issues.
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Types of Commercial Fire Alarm Systems that FLSA service
Similar to fire sprinkler systems, there are different types and categories of fire alarm systems. Below is a list of different type of fire alarms and the functions they provide.
Conventional Fire Alarms
Conventional fire alarms are systems that consist of zones hardwired to the main fire control panel. These systems create the ability to allocate fire alarms per each section of the building. It also assists in monitoring if an alarm is not functioning properly. Conventional fire alarm systems are typically installed in small buildings such as small offices or retail stores. When in alarm the system will alarm individually when they detect smoke or heat.
Addressable Fire Alarms
Addressable fire alarm systems are also known as “intelligent or smart systems.” These fire alarms monitor the fire alarm components in a building. Addressable alarms allow you to choose between automatic and manual alarms. Each alarm installed in this system has its own address, which allows you to see which alarm is working and which are failing. Addressable fire alarms systems are more expensive because of the monitoring features. Addressable fire alarm systems are a typically required for large high-rise buildings, complexes and campuses. Addressable fire alarm systems can be customized in a variety of ways, including:
- Different devices having different alarm limits based on their location
- An annunciator panel in the front of the building to show precisely which devices or zones have been alarmed
- Ability to add zones to the existing network
Hybrid Fire Alarms
In some settings, a hybrid alarm system is beneficial. It combines the hardwired zone features of a conventional fire alarm system with the addressable loops of the addressable fire alarm systems into a single panel. This combination of technology can meet the needs of the building better than either the addressable or the conventional alarm systems.
Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Fire Alarms
The inspection, testing and maintenance requirements of fire alarms systems, including their initiating devices and notification appliances is found in Chapter 14 of the National Fire Protection Association’s Code NFPA 72. The purpose for these inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements is to ensure that the fire alarm system is operating properly in accordance with the design requirements.
Fire Alarm Visual Inspection Schedule
Visual inspections of fire alarm components are to be performed weekly, monthly, semi-annually, and/or annually in accordance with the schedules in table 14.3.1 of NFPA 72. These schedules can change depending on the local jurisdiction and the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Some of the most common visual inspections can include:
- All fire alarm devices and system components must be checked annually to ensure there are no modifications that would negatively impact system functionality
- Control equipment must be checked weekly to verify that the fire alarm system is in normal condition. This includes visually inspecting the fuses, LEDs, power supply, and checking for trouble signals.
- Duct detectors, heat detectors, and smoke detectors must be checked on a semiannual basis.
- Batteries must also be inspected on a monthly or semi-annual basis (depending on type) for possible corrosion or leakage.
Fire Alarm Testing Schedule
The proper testing of the fire alarm components when compared to visual inspections are scheduled to be performed less frequently. There are a few components that require semi-annual testing, but most of the components require testing annually according to table 126.96.36.199 of NFPA 72. Similar to the inspections, the testing schedule can change per the discretion of the local AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction. The test and inspection of the fire alarm components can include:
- Control equipment (fire control panel or annunciator) must be tested annually to verify correct receipt of alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals. All interfaced equipment must be operated or simulated to verify the signals are transmitted properly to the control unit.
- Fire alarm control unit trouble signals, both audible and visual, must be tested and verified annually.
- The secondary power supply (backup battery) must be tested by disconnecting all primary power supplies. Batteries must also be tested to verify the voltage level does not fall below the 2.05 volts per cell under load.
- Initiating devices (manual pull station or smoke detector) must be tested to ensure they operate according to design and transmit their signal to the control unit. In addition, smoke detectors must be tested and verified they operate correctly (both audibly and visually). Each detector should be tested for operation per using the manufacturer’s recommended test method.
- Alarm notification appliances (horns, strobes) must be tested and verified that they operate correctly audibly and visually.
- Many fire alarms systems are integrated with mass notification systems and other specialized components that also must be tested according to NFPA 72 guidelines.
Fire Alarm Maintenance Schedule
The maintenance of fire alarm systems is often overlooked if in the event a system is operating without a fire alarm panel that reports trouble signals or false alarms. If neglected this can become a problem. Without the proper fire alarm maintenance plan, small issues can lead to big issues and result in unnecessary repairs. Maintenance of fire alarm components should be conducted in accordance with the manufacturer’s published instructions. The frequency or schedule of maintenance is dependent on the type of equipment and environmental conditions. Cleaning of fire alarm system components is also dependent on the environment where the component is installed and according to manufacturer’s guidelines. If any component is replaced or repaired, testing may be required according to the AHJ or table 188.8.131.52 of NFPA 72.