Many businesses get fire alarm testing wrong. Some assume it is too specialist to do in-house and spend money unnecessarily, while others delegate the job, without giving proper instructions. Although it is quite an easy job for staff to undertake, it needs to be done correctly, as making mistakes could create serious fire risks. What’s more, if staff make errors which lead to unnecessary building evacuation or fire service attendance, the costs can be significant.

Fortunately, with some simple instructions, all of these concerns can be easily resolved and that’s where our new document will help.

How to use it

You can use the instructions as they stand to remind staff of the proper testing procedure or, if you prefer, you can adapt them to create your own site-specific procedure. The individuals you assign to the testing job will need to be familiar with the basic operation of the fire alarm system for example, how to switch it on and off, understanding the panel and so on.

Note: weekly testing should be supplemented with routine servicing by a specialist fire alarm engineer. This should take place at least every six months.

Introduction and purpose

Your procedure should begin with a short introduction, which explains that the fire alarm should, "be tested on a weekly basis, by activating a different call point each time in rotation until all have been tested". This ensures compliance with legal requirements.

The second section of the procedure should outline the purpose of the test. "The employee undertaking the test must be aware of the purpose in order that they can make the appropriate checks."

The types of checks to be made during the test will vary, depending on the individual workplace, so we have outlined the most common of these scenarios:

l Testing the ability of the alarm panel to receive a signal

l Checking the audibility of the alarm throughout the company’s premises

l Checking that other devices are triggered by the operation of the alarm, as necessary for example, security locks released, deaf pagers and beacons working.

Test procedure

The final part of the procedure should describe the step-by-step sequence for staff to follow, including:

l Having the necessary keys or codes for cancelling the alarm

l Where applicable, notifying the alarm receiving centre and staff/visitors

l Activating the selected call point using the appropriate triggering device

l Allowing the alarm to sound for no more than one minute and completing the checks required

l Making a record of the outcome

l Arranging for repairs as needed.