Fire alarms are a crucial part of a building's fire safety system. They are designed to warn building occupants when smoke or fire is detected, decreasing the risk of injuries and fatalities.
Like all fire safety systems in residential or commercial premises, fire alarms need to be maintained properly to comply with Australian Standards. Understanding how often a fire alarm should be serviced is an important part of meeting your obligations.
Why are fire alarms important in commercial and residential properties?
Fire alarms are an important part of a building's fire detection system. They give building occupants prompt warning in case of a fire emergency. Working fire alarms improve evacuations, help reduce the case of injury and increase survival rates.
Systems that are not properly maintained may cause false alarms and fines. Ensuring that your fire safety systems are in good working order and compliant with all relevant regulations will ensure you are prepared for an emergency.
How often should a fire alarm be serviced?
Commercial fire alarm systems should be tested as often as weekly to ensure they are in working order. A professional fire alarm inspection and service should be carried out every 6-12 months, depending on state and local legislation. Large buildings with complex systems may require servicing every quarter.
Who is responsible for servicing fire alarms?
The responsibility of maintaining fire safety standards in the workplace usually falls on the building owner or manager or the business owner. Manufacturers of fire safety systems also share some responsibility for making sure equipment and systems are not faulty.
Every workplace should have a fire safety procedure which outlines what to do in a fire emergency, how often to train staff in fire safety and how often to service equipment.
Responsibilities should also be clearly outlined. For example, employees may be required to store hazardous chemicals properly. A competent person should be responsible for ensuring servicing and certifications are up to date. Fire wardens should be designated to help direct and manage people in case of an emergency.
In privately owned homes, the owner is responsible for ensuring fire safety standards are met, including fire alarm servicing. Occupants of the home may be responsible for some smoke alarm maintenance such as cleaning, battery replacement and notifying the owner of any repairs that need doing.
What does fire alarm testing involve?
Weekly tests can be carried out by a responsible person in the workplace, although for large workplaces a fire servicing company may be hired in to perform testing and maintenance.
Testing involves activating a fire alarm, confirming that it sounds and that the fire alarm panel receives the signal. All tests should be properly documented and problems should be reported immediately for repair.
Preventing false alarms
A significant proportion of automatic fire alarms raised are false alarms where there is no fire emergency. False alarms are a poor use of resources and can cause complacency, impacting emergency response effort to a genuine alarm.
Building owners and managers are charged a fine for false alarms.
Understanding how often a fire alarm should be serviced and complying with the guidelines can help prevent false alarms. Working smoke alarms that are maintained properly are less likely to raise a false alarm.
What other fire safety systems do you need?
Depending on the type of building or business operation, you may be required to have a range of other fire safety systems in place to protect lives and minimize damage to the building in case of a fire emergency.
These may include:
Fire doors and windows
Fire rated doors and windows are designed to resist the spread of fire and smoke and compartmentalize buildings for safer evacuation.
Fire doors should remain closed at all times, or have automatic closing capabilities. They should have the correct signage and certification. Fire rated windows and doors need to be installed and serviced by an accredited person.
Fire and smoke curtains
Fire and smoke curtains are used to compartmentalize a building and prevent the spread of fire and smoke. In their inactivated state, they are stored in a head box above an opening. When signaled by a smoke, heat or fire alarm system, they descend from the box and provide a fire resistant barrier.
Fire and smoke curtains should be installed and maintained by an accredited person.
Fire stopping materials
In order to maintain the fire resistance levels in the walls and floors of a building, fire stopping materials should be used. These may include things like fire pillows, batts, cable coating, ductwork protection, joint sealing systems and high performance boards.
All materials should be tested to the relevant Australian Standards to ensure they comply.
Talk to Australian Fire Control about improving fire safety in your workplace
Australian Fire Control specializes in a wide range of fire safety systems including fire rated doors and windows, smoke curtains and baffles and fire stopping materials. We can also assist with compliance auditing and AS1851 maintenance.
Call our friendly team today to see how we can assist.