For companies aiming to safeguard their assets and people, functional fire protection is non-negotiable. A robust fire alarm system acts as the first line of automated defense against flames and smoke. However, these lifesaving systems are only as reliable as their upkeep. This brings us to a key question every business leader should consider: How often should a company test its fire alarm?
Like any commercial security solution, answering that question involves understanding many factors. Here we’ll dive into those facets, outline a general testing schedule, and provide insight into other fire detection and protection components that can further protect your business.
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Fire Alarm Types and Regulations
Before discussing the overall cadence for how often a company should test its fire alarm it’s important to note that alarms are broadly classified into two categories. Both types require regular testing to ensure they’re working properly—providing a safe environment and reducing instances of false alarms.
Manual Fire Alarm System—Manual systems require an individual to press the manual call point of the fire alarm; think of the classic ‘pull in case of fire’ boxes present in schools and other facilities. Once the ‘outstation’ has been activated, this is translated and registered on the fire alarm panel (aka master station). Manual call points need to be located on escape routes, fire exits, and in any areas deemed to be high risk.
Automatic Fire Detection Systems—These are automatically activated when a smoke or heat detector detects an active fire. These systems also include manual options for an individual to raise the alarm, which act identically to the manual fire detection system.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has published more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility of fire-related accidents. These codes represent consensus requirements and are administered by hundreds of Technical Committees and thousands of volunteers; NFPA codes are globally acknowledged as THE standard to follow for fire safety.
NFPA 72 is the specific code that regulates the testing requirements for a fire detection system, as it relates to the size and occupancy of the building. Depending on the specific system, inspections are required at different intervals—typically quarterly, semi-annually, and annually are the most common. Each inspection can involve several components:
- Each device (manual or automatic) is individually activated to ensure proper operation. If the alarm system is connected to sprinklers or fire curtains, these are also tested
- All horns, speakers, and strobe lights are examined for proper operation
- All backup power sources are checked
- The whole system is activated to ensure that the individual components perform together as designed
Ins and Outs of Inspections: Learn what to expect and how to prepare for a fire detection system inspection.
Frequency of Fire Alarm Testing
So, how often should a company test its fire alarm? The frequency of fire alarm testing can vary depending on the type of fire alarm system, the size of the building, and other factors. However, there are general guidelines that can help you determine how often your fire alarm system should be tested.
Weekly Visual Inspections
Perform a visual inspection of your fire alarm system every week. Visit the control panel and verify that it displays the correct status and that there are no fault or warning messages present. View all individual devices and ensure they’re not damaged, or blocked by debris or other obstructions. Check the battery backup as well.
Monthly Functional Tests
It’s recommended to conduct a monthly test of your fire alarm system. Activate each smoke detector, heat detector, and manual call point to ensure they are working correctly and signal the master station properly. You’ll also want to test the alarm sounders to make sure they’re audible in all parts of the building or facility.
Annual Professional Inspections
Schedule annual professional inspections of your fire alarm system. This inspection should be carried out by a qualified fire alarm engineer or technician. These professionals will perform an in-depth examination of your system, including testing individual components, assessing battery life, and checking that the entire system complies with current regulations and standards.
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Next Steps in Fire Detection Safety
Beyond meeting baseline regulatory standards and regularly testing fire detection systems, businesses should continually reevaluate and revisit fire detection effectiveness as their facility grows and changes.
- Have new equipment installations or floorplan reconfigurations impacted sensor visibility?
- Do spaces now contain different flammable materials influencing fire behavior?
- Is expanded occupancy outpacing notification system capacity for swift total evacuation?
Organizations should realign device layouts, sensitivity thresholds, alarm audio volumes, emergency exits, and response procedures to match the current environment. In addition, layering supplementary systems—like air sampling detectors, linear beam detectors, and sprinklers—with monitoring. These augment core alarm functions to provide added visibility and early warning. Analytics-enabled systems allow centralized monitoring companies to diagnose issues remotely as well.
How Often Should a Company Test its Fire Alarm? ProTech Provides the Answers You Need
The frequency of fire alarm testing is a crucial component of commercial security and safety. Companies must heed the regulatory and manufacturer’s notes, conduct routine tests, and orchestrate fire drills to elevate their preparedness. By integrating various systems and working with a trusted security partner any business can develop a strong fire detection plan to ensure the safety of its personnel, customers, and assets.
At ProTech Security, we’re always focused on giving businesses peace of mind through the implementation of custom-designed security solutions. With exceptional vendor partnerships that put the best technology of today within reach, we deliver critical safety and security services with a superior customer experience.
Connect with our team to learn more about fire detection systems and how we work to make your business a safer place.