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Ensuring Effective Fire Protection System Alarms: Procedures, Records, and Testing

Alarms are the first audible response to a fire emergency in any setting. They are the first step of a fire protection system before responding to a fire hazard.

The Vital Importance of Fire Alarm Systems

Fire alarms play a crucial role in protecting your property. They are often the first indicator that an emergency is occurring. Despite the various types and functions they have evolved into, their primary purpose remains unchanged: immediately alert everyone nearby to evacuate the area as quickly as possible, safeguarding both your employees and your property from potential fire damage. 

Here’s a better look at exactly why fire alarm systems are so crucial for your protection,

Insurance

When you own a business, you need to ensure that everything is under your control. This responsibility includes your expensive equipment, the building’s safety, employees, and technical system. 

One of the primary roles of a fire protection system is to ensure the protection of these systems and prevent any damage to them. However, fire can still cause some damage. This fundamental problem is why people take out insurance on their property and the well-being of their employees.

When insuring a business, insurers consider the safety of the infrastructure they protect. This safety factor can influence the premium. Installing a fire alarm system on your premises can significantly reduce the insurance premium and save business expenses.

Business

Your main space is where you get your work done, and there mustn’t be frequent disruptions that interrupt the flow of finishing your work. Otherwise, your work wouldn’t have the proper output it needs because distraction never improves anything.

Fire alarm systems can prevent elongated disruptions from taking too much of your time, providing quick intimation of an emergency, fast emergency exit routes, and an efficient clearing of any fire hazard within a short period.

Feasible and Affordable

Fire alarm systems are just one of the most expensive security systems you can buy with money. Compared to the value of commodities they protect, fire alarm system costs are minimal. A small investment in protecting your most valuable assets can go a long way if a fire hazard occurs, possibly damaging what you value the most.

Every business needs a different type of fire alarm system. Hence, these systems are flexible and accommodate the visions of various companies. They protect your system and meet your financial needs simultaneously.

Early Detection

Ensuring a fire doesn’t destroy your assets begins with detecting the hazard as quickly as possible. The faster the source is detected, the quicker it can be prevented from harming other assets.

Fire alarm systems identify these hazards as soon as they have the potential to become a problem. Immediate intimation of the alert can help people within the building evacuate quickly and spring into action against the source of the fire.

A faster response can save you a much lower revenue loss and, more importantly, help your employees get to safety quickly.

Your Most Valuable Asset

Your most critical resource is your employees, more than the value of your technical assets and operational devices. Ensuring their safety in a fire hazard is paramount because it makes your company grow.

Not only alarm systems but an overall structure for fire protection with emergency lighting, emergency exit routes, fire extinguishers, manual call points, sprinkler systems, and fire command centers are all needed best to maintain the level of security in an environment. 

Investigation and Causes

Fire alarm systems make false alarms frequently due to ill-maintenance of fire protection systems or malfunctions by the system, which can happen for particular reasons that we shall discuss below. It is vital to ensure that the fire department does not have to needlessly act upon a situation that does not need their attention. 

To prevent this, the fire department does not respond to regular calls that a fire alarm has gone off in someone’s office. They need verification, and following a specific process to ask for help so that firefighters are not in the wrong place at the wrong time is essential.

Of course, this does not mean people should ever risk their lives in such a situation. If the incident can be investigated safely, it should be done without risk, and a few critical steps need to be followed in the process. But even if there’s the slightest chance of some risk involved, then no steps should be taken to investigate, and the people should follow the exit evacuation procedures to a T.

Here are the steps you need to follow in case you need to investigate a potential fire hazard safely,

  1. Never look for the source of a hazard alone. Try to look for signs in pairs.

  2. Your fire alarm panel should have the necessary data to show you in which area the alarm has gone off in and where you need to go to investigate the problem.

  3. Always listen, smell, and look for signs of a fire hazard. Depending on the intensity of the situation, any of these signs can lead to a confirmation or confirm the problem on its own.

  4. If you come across a closed door during your search, wait to open it. Use the back of your hand to look for signs of heat on the door. Try reaching as high as the door is. If you do feel some heat on the door, do not open it.

  5. When looking for signs of a fire with another person, ensure that another personnel is at the fire alarm panel for accessible communication through phone or short-range radio frequencies.

  6. At any time, if you get a confirmation of a fire, immediately inform any other people still in the building and exit the premises at the closest fire emergency exit. Then, call in the incident to the fire station and state that not only a fire alarm has gone off, but an actual fire has been discovered after investigation.

Remember, these steps should be taken very carefully and only if the situation is absolutely safe to investigate. There should be no risk to life if it is not needed.

False Alarms

If the situation presents a false alarm, then it is essential to inform fire authorities that no immediate backup is needed at the premises. Along with this, there is a whole procedure of steps that should be followed, 

  1. Even if it is a false alarm, ensure the evacuation plans follow previous training sessions. Even if there is no danger, it is best to avoid confusion and let procedures occur as they should.

  2. Whoever is responsible for resetting the fire alarms must be verified and trained for the job. The fire alarm panel should have the contact information of the alarm system company if the resetting of the fire alarm service has been outsourced to someone else.

  3. Firefighters are not responsible for resetting your fire alarm system. You assume that responsibility when installing the system for your business or building.

  4. Any false alarm occurrence must be immediately reported to your premises manager so that frequent false alarms do not become a problem and the incident can be investigated further.

  5. Any external authority responsible for resetting your alarms should be able to do it within a specified time, or it may prove dangerous for your premises.

  6. The most important of these procedures is making an official record of your false alarm in your log book. Recording information on location and why it might have occurred is vital for rectifying the alarm and future system inspections by government authorities. 

Causes of False Alarms

It is relatively infrequent that false alarms occur for no specific reason, just malfunctions. A good number of events could have been the reason for a fire alarm going haywire. Here are a few important ones that can help you avoid having to go through a false alarm procedure,

Steam

In buildings with shower rooms, steam can build up and cause a large amount of build-up. Hence, it is essential to have a proper ventilation system for these rooms.

In addition, the escape of steam from the doors of these rooms could sometimes also cause a false incident, so there should be visual indications that those rooms need to be left open sometimes to ensure no build-up of steam.

Shower rooms cause steam, and many industrial processes can produce quite a lot of steam at very high temperatures. These devices and systems need proper steam rating systems with gauges to indicate when a system needs to be depressurized and when steam must be released.

Smoking

Cigarettes and smoking should only be allowed in specific areas and designated spots within a business environment. These areas are equipped with the correct set of detectors that are suitable for smoking rooms and do not transfer the risk of cigarette butts into environments that are susceptible to catching fire quickly.

Physical Work Causing Heat or Dust

When conducting heavy-duty work on your building, dust and heat are bound to build up, creating a dusty environment. These could easily cause a false alarm or, worse, cause alarm detectors to get clogged with dust and not work right.

So, when this type of work is being done, it is advisable to fit some temporary covers on your alarm detectors so they don’t get affected. These temporary covers can only be fitted in by authorized personnel who can remove them as soon as the other work is over.

A practical alternative to this situation is having a few manual call points with a glass break mechanism if workers notice a fire hazard during this extra work.

Cooking Fumes

Cooking stations are similar to shower rooms. They can generate a lot of heat due to the actual use of fire, smoke from cooking oils, and improper ventilation. 

Extraction fans and proper smoke ventilation systems can prevent an overbuild of smoke and heat within a kitchen environment. The detectors within cooking areas also need to be adjusted accordingly for the environment they will be in. 

Similarly, closing doors and exits to the area must be planned appropriately so the smoke doesn’t travel to other rooms with more sensitive smoke detectors. 

Testing or Maintenance of the Alarm System

Whenever you plan to test alarms in your system, the first step should be to inform the authorities that may receive an alert that your alarm system has gone off. 

After this, if you look at your fire alarm system panel, you should see a button that allows you to silence the system’s alerting. Only the strobe lights and panel indications will work here, which is helpful for inspection tests.

Before you turn off your system’s sound, it is crucial to check the sound level. You can do this by testing the sound pressure level of a system using a decibel tester. This test allows you to find out whether everyone within the building can hear the alert if an emergency occurs, but it also ensures that the sound is not too loud, which could harm normal hearing. Therefore, you can use some volume-adjusting metrics from your decibel tester’s data to ensure the fire alarm system does not harm people.

If this article didn’t give you enough information about the inspection and testing procedures for your fire alarm systems and the benefits of a wireless alarm system, then take a look at one of our detailed blogs focusing on wireless alarms and the best way to maintain your system so that your business and your assets are secure.

Conducting these inspections and tests is not just a toiling and time-consuming process but a crucial one that ensures the safety of the building and its occupants. ZenFire can help you optimize this critical task. We have a library of 500+ ready-to-use checklists that are instantly available for download and usage. Take advantage of these resources and finish your inspections in no time!

If you’re interested in how ZenFire can help you and your technicians with your whole business, take a free demo on us and see what we can do for you.

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Tailored to meet your specific requirements, enabling you to manage
inspections and reports with greater detail and efficiency

ZenFire is a lot more customized to my business. Before I was using a generic app, I could not customize, like I do now."

Rick
ABC Fire