Ensuring Effective Wireless Fire Alarm Systems: Testing, Battery Life, and Security

Wireless fire alarm systems, leading the way in modern technology, are the epitome of advanced protection systems available today. They stand out with a unique feature: the absence of any electrical wiring between the fire alarm control panel and any other devices within the system, a testament to their cutting-edge technology.

Reliable Wireless Fire Alarm Systems

Most systems today are wireless, but only a few can harness the power of intelligent technology to detect hazards. These innovative systems go beyond just fire safety. They can be seamlessly integrated with other applications, opening up possibilities and enhancing safety by incorporating software that bolsters security.

Now, let’s talk about the features that wireless systems have that make them so essential in today’s day,

    1. Wireless alarm systems use radio frequency signals to transmit signals from the various detectors to the main fire alarm control panel.

    2. Most systems now have a remote control panel to control the system. This means that the system can be controlled from a mobile application, allowing citizens to maintain these systems from their phones.

    3. The central fire alarm control panels have integrated multiple adequate detectors that work simultaneously. They analyze the situation with logic from all of the detectors, helping to make better decisions about the alarm systems.

    4. Due to increased logic and intelligent processing, wireless systems have a smaller chance of executing false alarms.

    5. The advanced nature of these systems allows users to assign specific fire alarm functions to every individual sensor within the system and change them at will.

    6. Wireless systems also use long-lasting battery systems that usually run out in about seven years.

    7. Advanced alarm systems like these can be placed in difficult-to-reach locations and help inform people of the best exit path during an emergency.

Testing Your Fire Alarm Systems

Like any other fire protection architecture, fire alarm systems must be tested frequently and efficiently to ensure proper and effective functioning. Many tests must be conducted to determine how well the system is doing and whether it needs repairs or replacements. Some of these tests are,

  1. Wireless Systems Communication Test 
  2. Testing the Battery Life Effectiveness
  3. Suitability of Environment Check
  4. Network Security and Encryption Check
  5. Signal Strength and Interference Test

As the NFPA states in standard NFPA 72, fire alarm system inspections are mandatory and must be done at a specified frequency. They must be inspected and tested weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. 

These tests don’t all need to be done by a fire inspection professional. Still, any semi-annual or annual inspections or tests require an official inspector or technician to perform the testing and then officially document the entire process for future information.

Here are the steps that are included in the different types of inspections and tests for fire alarm systems,

Weekly Inspecting and Testing

These inspections can be done by individuals who have a basic idea of fire alarm systems and will have only to do a visual inspection of most devices,

  1. Inspect the control equipment of the alarm system.
  2. Any engine-driven generators need to be tested for refills and proper functioning.
  3. The main power supply of the system and the trouble signal indicators need to be inspected.
  4. LED lighting, bulbs or lighting objects, electrical fuses, and communication equipment must be inspected.
  5. Batteries need to be tested and replaced if necessary.

Monthly Requirements

Monthly procedures are similar to weekly checks but include a few more components that need attention, 

  1. The system’s DACRs (Digital Alarm Communicator Receiver) must be inspected for proper functioning and no time-loss issues.
  2. Communication devices like DACRs, multiplexers, supervising receivers, station repeaters, and other signaling components must be tested and replaced.
  3. Inspecting the detectors of fire alarm systems, like CO2 detectors.
  4. Checking the wireless connections of all components and devices while verifying the strength of the network connectivity.
  5. Checking wireless transmissions’ security and verifying any discrepancies within the system must be resolved.
  6. Conducting load voltage and discharge tests on the system’s batteries to maintain electrical efficiency.

Quarterly Tests

Quarterly procedures become inspections more focused on external influencing components of the alarm system,

  1. To ensure the maintenance of electrical power sources, material-specific batteries must be inspected and subjected to a few electrical tests.
  2. Waterflow devices connected to response devices, such as fire sprinklers and hoses, must be inspected for defects.
  3. Fire detectors that use radiant energy technology to detect hazards must be inspected.
  4. Supervisory signaling devices and alert-initiating devices, like smoke alarm systems, must be tested. They must ensure they send their respective signals within a specific time-limit gap, imitating an emergency situation.
  5. Equipment off the premises of the fire alarm systems that transmit information to external authorities must be tested and verified if they work correctly with the respective officers after informing them before testing.

Semi-Annual Inspections and Testing

These inspections are of a higher complexity than before, so it is advised to go with a professional for this one. Otherwise, you can get approval from your AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) and get a verified individual from your side to do the testing, 

  1. Remote annunciators are often the first visual indication that an emergency is occurring and where it is happening. These need to be inspected and tested for any defects.
  2. The control unit signals must be verified for the correct results and good alert times.
  3. Initiating devices, such as smoke detectors, heat detectors, manual call points, and similar devices, must be inspected to ensure they are free of obstructions.
  4. Magnetic hinges, doors, and the system’s notification devices must be tested for irregularities and replaced if necessary.
  5. Interconnecting switches and activation devices must be tested and inspected for loose wiring or replaceable components. 

Annual Testing

These are the inspections that need to be carried out by a verified individual, such as a fire inspector or a verified fire technician with proper certifications,

    1. Annual inspections combine all procedures from previous inspections, all done again by the verified individual conducting the process.
    2. Silent testing of the alarm system and bypassing the emergency control functions is acceptable for the duration of the testing procedures. It can effectively test all the major components of the alarm system.
    3. Annual inspections consider every component in your system and can, therefore, take some time to complete. During this period, the systems are not deemed offline, and the official taking care of the process can turn the system back up in a few seconds if needed.
    4. The documentation created during this inspection is essential for future inspections so that inspectors know what was done before, what was fixed, any specific problems, or any specific communication that previous inspectors wanted to pass on.
    5. The certification provided by the official at the end of the inspections is essential documentation that must be kept safe. It is evidence that your system is working as it should and that you can continue your operations at the location. Otherwise, legal considerations could render your business grounds unsafe and prevent any use of the grounds for operations.

The 5-Year Sprinkler Inspection

Inspections every five years constitute a significant check of your overall operations. They are one of the most critical mandated procedures that the NFPA has implemented for the safety of individuals in their environment

There are many specific tests that the NFPA has mandated for sprinkler systems through their codes and regulations, which will be laid out here for you to understand and implement, 

Gauge Inspection Gauges shall be replaced or tested every five years by comparison with a calibrated gauge.

Standpipe Flow Test*   A flow test shall be conducted every five years on all automatic standpipe systems to verify that the required flow and pressure are available at the hydraulically most remote hose valve outlet(s) while flowing the standpipe system demand.   Where a flow test of the hydraulically most remote outlet(s) is not practical, the authority having jurisdiction shall be consulted for the appropriate location for the test.   Pressure gauges maintained in accordance with shall be provided for the test.*   Class I and Class III standpipe system demand shall include 500 gpm (1892 L/min) for the most remote standpipe and 250 gpm (946 L/min) for each additional standpipe until the total system demand is simultaneously flowing.*   The 250 gpm (946 L/min) required from each additional Class I and Class III standpipe shall be allowed to flow from the most convenient hose valve on that standpipe.*   Where the 250 gpm (946 L/min) cannot be flowed from each additional Class I and Class III standpipe, the authority having jurisdiction shall determine where the additional flow can be taken.   Class II standpipe system demand shall include 100 gpm (379 L/min) for the most remote standpipe connection.   The standpipe system demand shall be based on the design criteria in effect at the time of the installation.   Where the standpipe system demand cannot be determined, the authority having jurisdiction shall determine the standpipe system demand.   The actual test method(s) and performance criteria shall be discussed in advance with the authority having jurisdiction. 

Standpipe Hydrostatic Test*   Hydrostatic tests of not less than 200 psi (13.8 bar) pressure for 2 hours, or at 50 psi (3.4 bar) above the maximum pressure, where maximum pressure is more than 150 psi (10.3 bar), shall be conducted every five years on manual standpipes.  

Check Valve Inspection Inspection. Valves shall be inspected internally every five years to verify that all components operate correctly, move freely, and are in good condition.

Internal Inspection of Piping

14.2.1 Except as discussed in and, an inspection of piping and branch line conditions shall be conducted every five years by opening a flushing connection at the end of one primary and by removing a sprinkler toward the end of one branch line to inspect for the presence of foreign organic and inorganic material. Alternative nondestructive examination methods shall be permitted. Tubercules or slime, if found, shall be tested for indications of microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC).* If sufficient foreign organic or inorganic material is found to obstruct pipe or sprinklers, an obstruction investigation shall be conducted as described in Section 14.3. Non-metallic pipe shall not be required to be inspected internally

14.2.2* In buildings with multiple wet pipe systems, every other system shall have an internal piping inspection every five years, as described in 14.2.1. If foreign organic and/or inorganic material is found in any system in a building during the 5-year internal inspection of piping, all systems shall undergo an internal inspection.

Source: NFPA

If this didn’t give you enough information about the maintenance procedures for your fire alarm systems, then take a look at one of our detailed blogs focusing on the maintenance of your sprinkler systems for info about specific tests and procedures to support your protection systems best. 

Conducting these inspections 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 important 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 precisely what we can do for you.

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