What is a Fire Alarm Inspection?
A fire alarm system detects fire and warns people of fire. Because it detects fire, the fire alarm system will also close doors and shut down air systems. To help control a possible fire and smoke, and to help people escape the fire, it will also control other systems, like the elevators and some fire suppression systems.
There is a problem, though. The fire alarm system is electronic, and given enough time, all electronic systems start to fail, one part at a time. Because parts of any system fail or degrade over time, fire alarm systems have to be tested to make sure all of the fire alarm system has stayed in good working order. Anything that is discovered not to be in good working order can then be fixed.
Overall Inspection and Performance Testing
A fire alarm system is made up of many individual parts, all working together. Failure of any individual part means that the systems may not detect a fire, or it may not warn people of fire before it’s too late.
A performance test of a fire alarm system is a test of each individual device that detects or warns of fire, and a test of the fire alarm system as a whole.
In the inspection:
- Each device that detects fire (like pull stations, smoke detectors, and heat detectors) is tested, one at a time, to make sure it works as it was designed to detect.
- Each device that warns people (like horns, speakers, strobes) is activated to make sure it works as it was designed to warn.
- Each control panel is checked out to make sure that if activated, it will automatically turn on or turn off what it was designed to turn on or off.
- Each Power Supply is tested to make sure that if it is needed, it will provide power.
- All Standby Batteries are checked for service dates and tested to make sure that if the building loses utility power, they provide the needed power.
- The whole system is activated as if there was a fire, and tested to make sure it will warn people, and that it will call the monitoring company.
How Often Should a Fire Alarm Be Tested?
First off, a fire alarm system is designed to detect fire and warn people of fire. The system isn’t installed just because the law says it’s supposed to be installed; it’s put in place to save lives and protect property. However, it’s also an electronic system, and as time goes on, as with any electronic system, parts of the system start to fail.
The purpose of inspecting the fire alarm system is to find anything that has started to fail, and fix it before a fire does break out. To find anything failing and fix the fire alarm system and so it will continue to detect fires and warn people, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has determined that at least once a year, an inspection of the fire alarm system should be performed.
Sometimes, a grace period can be allowed between inspections. However, if the annual (once a year) inspections are performed in February, the annual inspections should always be performed in February. The same with inspections performed in May, or any other month of the year.
Why Fire Alarm Inspections are Needed
To make sure the fire alarm system is working at all times to detect fire and warn people of fire, fire alarm inspections are needed. To make sure it completely works, each device is tested and to make sure the entire system works, the system as a whole is tested. To find failures and fix them in a reasonable time, the inspections are performed at least once a year.
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