Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, all premises in England and Wales used for non-domestic purposes, with some exceptions, must have an appropriate fire detection system. The regulation is meant to set rules for which, in case a fire breaks out, occupants can be sufficiently warned.
Fire alarm maintenance is essential to ensure an alarm is primed and ready to deploy in the event of a fire. The Fire Safety Order provides that a fire alarm system should be maintained in good working order, and regularly tested by a competent person.
Fire alarm servicing is also a legal requirement for employers under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, as well as necessary to prevent false alarms. The required frequency of fire alarm servicing is explored in more detail in our article, How Often Does a Fire Alarm Need to be Serviced?
What type of premises needs a fire alarm, the kind of fire alarm required and what to look for in a fire alarm installer are all explored in our article, What Fire Alarm Services Does my Business Need? In the meantime, let’s take a look at the consequences of inadequate fire alarm maintenance, from a legal, financial and safety point of view.
What is involved in fire alarm maintenance?
British Standard BS 5839: Part 1 sets out the code of practice for the design, installation, commission and maintenance of systems in commercial premises.
Despite the level of sophistication of fire detection and alarm systems, there remains the need for human intervention to make sure it continues to run efficiently.
Fire alarm maintenance is vital to identify and rectify any faults. It’s also a critical element to ensure there have been no major failures of the system in whole or in part. Additionally, it’s necessary to make sure that occupants are familiar with the fire alarm signals.
In regard to the latter, it is crucial to install a regular system of weekly and monthly fire alarm testing routines which should be recorded in the fire log book. These, however, are separate to general fire alarm maintenance and servicing, which aims to identify and rectify any faults, including issues around false alarms.
Fire alarm maintenance inspections are also necessary to ensure that any changes to the premises do not affect the effectiveness of the system. For example, an investigation may find the addition of an extension to the building, changes to the location of fire exits or an increase in occupancy levels.
Fire alarm maintenance is specialist work. Therefore, inspections should usually be carried out by a qualified and accredited expert who can assure competence courtesy of third party certification.
What happens if my fire alarm is not properly maintained?
When a fire alarm is serviced, the fire log book is updated with a servicing certificate. The entire system is checked, from call points to automatic fire detection devices, sensors and sounders. Failure to update the log book and to carry out the safety checks places the responsible parties for the business in breach of the Fire Safety Order.
Non-compliance with the Fire Safety Order has its own legal consequences which we will look at shortly. Besides, it is important to consider the safety and financial connotations of not identifying and rectifying system faults. This could mean that a fire alarm system does not function properly in the event of a fire, leading to unnecessary injury or loss of life.
Fires can, of course, leave a property uninhabitable, which could lead to loss of profits and damaged reputation. Whilst some business owners will feel they can turn to their buildings and contents insurance in such circumstances, there will always be the question of whether policy warranties were met. In other words, was the fire alarm system suitably maintained as required by the insurance provider?
Fire alarm maintenance is also essential to prevent false alarms. Without regular servicing, there is a heightened risk of system failure, which could result in false alarms or unwanted fire alarm activations. These could lead to loss of earnings, business interruption and, in some areas of the country, fines.
What are the legal consequences of inadequate fire alarm maintenance?
If a fire breaks out, the investigating officer will analyse policies and procedures. Any deficiencies identified could lead to a prosecution. The Fire Safety Order provides guidance for fire and rescue authorities and other regulatory bodies to enforce fire safety in commercial premises. The same direction is used in the process of assessing whether any negligence was involved.
If a lack of fire alarm system maintenance is proved – and a serious injury or damage or a fatality has resulted – then the responsible person could face prosecution and, potentially, a custodial sentence. This means that landlords, property owners and company directors, or whoever is designated, that responsible person could be at risk.
The level of punishment will be aligned with the degree of negligence. Fines, prison and the withdrawal of fire service support are all possible outcomes.
Fire Alarm Maintenance Services from IQ Fire Solutions
IQ Fire Solutions is a British Standards qualified fire safety specialist with extensive experience across all aspects of fire safety, including fire alarm maintenance.
Our fire alarm maintenance service includes a free fire log book and car fire extinguisher. To learn more about our fire alarm services you are welcome to call us on 020 8500 9885.