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How Often Should Fire Alarms Be Inspected?

View of fire alarm in parking garage next to stair level 5 sign.

Are you having the fire alarms at your business inspected frequently enough for safety, legal considerations, and liability? You may be surprised if you haven’t put much thought into it, as many businesses can go dangerously long periods of time between inspections without realizing their mistake. Today, we’ll discuss the recommended frequency for inspections, along with the why, the how, and what you should do if problems do crop up.  

Let’s begin with a simple question:

How often should businesses have fire alarms inspected?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests that fire alarm systems should be inspected a minimum of once a year. Ideally, this doesn’t mean testing in January of one year and December of the next, but rather inspections with no more than twelve months in between them. This is frequent enough to catch most serious problems early, before they develop to the point that they could prove catastrophic in the event of a fire.

Of course, the inspections we’re talking about go beyond the normal testing of fire alarms which you should be performing on a much more regular basis, such as monthly smoke detector tests. You really want to look into the recommendations of manufacturers, regulatory bodies, insurers, and other relevant agencies for testing schedules on the separate components of your fire safety systems.

If any of your more frequent tests reveal a problem in a particular component, you should probably move up your full system inspection just to be safe.

Why do my fire alarms need to be inspected?

Any complex system is prone to degradation over time, and this is a system that absolutely cannot be fixed once you notice the problem like an air conditioner or light system. It only takes one or two points of failure to turn your cutting-edge fire alarm system completely useless in an emergency, which is why testing every component at least once a year is critical.

If every component works, for example, but the warning sounds for a part of your building don’t go off, it could very easily lead to deaths.  

What’s the process for a fire alarm inspection?

Your annual fire alarm system inspection should test each component in the chain of devices which make up the system. This includes testing:

  • The devices which detect fires, like smoke detectors and heat detectors
  • The devices which warn people, such as horns, sirens, or strobes
  • The control panels which allow for manual and automated management of systems in the event of an emergency
  • Power supplies your system relies upon
  • Backup power sources

In addition to the testing of individual components, you’ll need to activate your entire system as if an actual fire had occurred, to ensure the system does what it should and notifies your monitoring company.

The goal is to identify anything at all that could even potentially lead to a failure of your fire safety systems in the event of a real fire. Fire alarms are an area where you don’t want to believe everything will probably work; you just need them to work, guaranteed, every time.

How can I learn more about fire alarm inspections for my business?

It’s ideal to leave your fire alarm system inspections in the hands of experienced professionals if possible; they’re more likely to spot subtler problems and be able to produce solutions without major expense.

To learn more about fire alarm inspection, contact Kauffman Co. today at (713) 893-1090 or contact us online.

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