Users of fire alarm
systems are legally obliged to ensure that their system is kept working,
tested and free from false alarms. Here are some tips that you will find
A fire alarm should be
tested once a week. Many people don't bother to do this, because they
feel that bells ringing are too disruptive or they are too busy : but it
is vitally important. Disruption can be kept to a minimum by carrying
out the test at the same time, on the same day each week. With a little
preparation, a test can be carried out swiftly and the disruption kept
to an absolute minimum.
Weekly Test - Place your
panel key in the activate controls keyswitch, turn the key in the
keyswitch on the control panel to activate the controls. Have your
logbook and callpoint test key ready. Go to a callpoint (breakglass) on
the first zone and insert the test key. The bells will now ring. DO NOT
PANIC. Take the test key out and return to the control panel. Note the
displays shown on the control panel. Fire in the zone you activated
should be shown. Power On should also be shown. No fault lights should
be shown. Now (ensuring the controls are still active), press Alarm
Silence. The bells will now stop, but the panel will still register an
alarm and the internal sounder will still be running. Enter your
findings in the logbook and press RESET. The system will now return to
normal. Turn the activate controls keyswitch to normal and REMOVE the
If any fault lights came
on during the test, or the system did not operate as it should, call a
fire alarm engineer to fix your system NOW.
request a CODRUS fire alarm engineer, click here.
Servicing your Fire Alarm
This is something that
should only be attempted by a fire alarm specialist. Do not be tempted
to use a general contractor, they will not have the specialist training,
equipment or insurance required. Servicing should only be carried out
once a contract is signed, to protect your insurance liability and to
comply with the Fire Officer and Insurance company's requirements.
Remember, you will be asked to produce the documentary evidence that the
system is covered by a service contract, that regular visits have been
done and that any repairs outstanding have been dealt with. Remember,
people's lives are at risk : safety first. A fire alarm specialist will
give you a service contract that not only gives you regular service
visits, but also gives you access to a 24 hour callout number so you can
get an engineer any time of the day or night (problems don't just happen
9 to 5, and you can't just turn a fire alarm off if it's making a funny
noise: they are permanently powered up and wired direct into the mains).
Want to know more about CODRUS service agreements ?. Click Here.
False alarms are the most
disruptive thing that can happen to a fire alarm user (short of a real
fire). They are infuriating and many people feel that the system is
malfunctioning, but this may not be the case. If you are experiencing
false alarms, you should accept some truths about the situation now, so
that you can better deal with the situation.
DO call your fire alarm
specialists the FIRST time you have a false alarm. Ask for a copy of
their false alarm procedure, by fax. TODAY.
FOLLOW the procedure to
the letter. Don't keep pressing buttons in the hope of "stopping the
ACCEPT that it may take
more than one engineer's visit to site to cure the cause of the false
Possible causes of false
alarms are diverse. False alarms can be caused by cooking, hoovering,
building works, laying carpet, lack of servicing, storm (thrip) flies,
interference from other electronic equipment, even welding in a nearby
building. Whatever the cause, you should deal with the problem the same
way : follow the false alarm procedure.
Your service provider
should give you a copy of their version of the procedure when you first
report a false alarm to them. If they don't have one (they don't have
one ?) please feel free to use the CODRUS false alarm procedure below.
What to do in the
event of a false alarm.
Always treat the alarm
as if it is a real fire. Don't assume it's a false alarm. Follow your
evacuation plan and only follow this guide if you have established
that it is a false alarm.
If you have established
that it is a false alarm, go to the control panel and activate the
Press the Silence
button. DO NOT PRESS RESET.
Make a note of the
lights that are lit on the panel.
Call your Fire Alarm
specialist and call an engineer to site urgently.
While you are waiting
for the engineer, the panel will still be making a noise, even though
the bells have stopped ringing. DO NOT be tempted to press any more
buttons. If you reset the system before the engineer arrives he will
have no way of identifying where the problem is, and you will still
have to pay for his trip !!.
Want to know more
about CODRUS service agreements ? Click here.
Why you need a Service
The main advantage of
having a service agreement with a fire alarm specialist, is that you can
call a qualified engineer to attend your system any time of the day or
night. This is particularly important when you have a building that
contains people who would be distressed if the bells rang continuously.
In healthcare sites, nursing homes, mental healthcare sites and hotels,
a constantly ringing fire alarm system can quickly become an intolerable
situation. Having a "handyman" you can call on won't help you at 3
O'clock in the morning, when you need the system silenced straight away.
With a service agreement you are given an emergency number which
puts you in contact with an "On Call" engineer out of hours and during
weekends and holidays. Once contacted, the engineer will attend site as
soon as possible to resolve your problem.
It is important to ensure
that you know where the emergency number is kept. Your fire alarm
specialist should provide you with the callout number when the contract
is started, and update you whenever it changes (it should change every
so often for security purposes). If you don't know your callout number,
contact your provider immediately. Don't be surprised if they refuse to
give you the number over the phone, but insist on sending you the
information by post or fax instead. This again is a security measure to
protect against releasing the number to people who don't have a
contract. Avoid companies that give mobile numbers as emergency callout
We, like many fire alarm
specialists, will not allow an engineer to work on your fire alarm
system unless you have a service agreement with us. We are happy to
provide you with a quote for a service agreement.
Click here to learn more.
Your fire extinguishers are key to
protecting the escape routes in your building. It is important that you
have the right type, the right size, in the right place and annually
serviced by a competent person. How do you know if you have the right
units in the right places ?. A competent person will tell you, but
always get more than one quote.
When considering which company you are going
to select to service your extinguishers, take care when getting a price.
The annual price can appear very little, but consider all the costs.
Some companies charge a set fee per extinguisher (or an attendance fee,
then a set fee per extinguisher), but you must check what this
includes. Some companies charge a low fee per extinguisher service
(say £2.50), but then charge you for every seal, tag, pin, label, o-ring
that they change, on top of that fee. Some companies charge a set fee
per extinguisher, which includes all those consumable parts (often £4 to
£5 per extinguisher), but this can often work out cheaper. Also check
the price of replacement extinguishers : prices can vary hugely from
company to company (a 9 ltr Water extinguisher can be £50 from one
company, or £150 from another).
You should inspect them monthly to ensure
they haven't been used or damaged. Your competent person will carry out
an Annual Service, at five years an Extended Service / Discharge Test on
waters, powders and foams and at 10 years carry out an Overhaul of CO2s.
With CO2s, you should know that it is
often cheaper to replace the extinguisher than have it overhauled
(you can end up paying for the overhaul which includes an overpressure
test, which if it fails you have to pay for, then buy a new one
anyway!). Always check the prices before authorising an overhaul.
With Waters, Foams and
Powders at the Five Year extended service, the thing to watch out for is
if your extinguisher has a plastic headcap (the assembly below
the handle). British Standards now require plastic headcaps to be
replaced at five years and this can result in a much larger bill than
you expect. Again, check the price before authorising, because it can be
cheaper to just buy a new extinguisher. Plastic headcaps can fail
because UV light weakens the plastic and when an extinguisher is set
off, the headcap can explode, injuring the user. For this reason (and
the five year cost), always insist any new extinguisher has a metal
to watch out for are plastic pins. Some manufacturers have a
plastic pin assembly that when pulled, breaks and cannot be reused. The
problem is that every year, the annual service includes a check of the
free operation of the mechanism, which means pulling the pin to check
the mechanism beneath the handle. If you have a plastic pin, this means
it has to be broken every year. Some companies will charge you for the
replacement plastic pin, every year. If the extinguisher has a metal
pin, however, this can be reused, so you don't have to pay for a new one
every year. When you consider that some companies say they only charge
£2.50 to service an extinguisher, they seem to forget to point out that
they are also going to charge you upto £5 to replace the plastic pin :
it soon adds up to a considerable cost. For this reason, always insist
that any new extinguisher is fitted with a metal pin, not plastic.
You should only allow competent persons to
service your extinguishers. How do you know if they are competent?. The
engineer must have a certificate proving they have completed the
appropriate training and passed the examination, and that it has been
passed within the last three years (they are retaken every three years).
This is the requirement under British Standard 5306. Remember, the
company may have any number of badges, membership of associations or
assorted schemes, but it is the qualification of the actual
engineer that matters.
People often have extinguishers in their
building, but don't have any staff trained how to use them. If
you use the wrong extinguisher on the wrong type of fire, you could be
injured or spread the fire further. Always include extinguisher use in
induction training and refresher training at 3 years, and keep a log of
who attended and when.
To protect yourself from
liability it is always a good idea to have a written statement in
your Health & Safety Policy or Fire Safety Policy to state that you
provide extinguishers in your property, but it is your policy that only
staff who have been trained should attempt to use them. While they are
available for anyone to use in an emergency, this should only be
attempted by someone with the appropriate training and therefore you
cannot be held responsible if damage or injury occurs if an extinguisher
is used inappropriately.
When should you use an extinguisher?.
This depends on your training and Fire Risk Assessment. We often teach
our customers that in the event of a fire, their priority is to evacuate
the building, not fight fires. In that situation, the only time you
would use an extinguisher is if a fire was blocking your escape route
and you had no option. This advice may or may not apply to you, but you
should always defer to what your training and Fire Risk Assessment