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UK Fire Alarm Testing Regulations For Commercial Buildings Explained

UK Fire Alarm Testing Regulations For Commercial Buildings Explained
UK Fire Alarm Testing Regulations For Commercial Buildings Explained

Every business, public facility and commercial space in the UK must have a suitable method of detecting fires and alerting people on-site – but they are also legally obligated to test their fire alarms regularly to verify they remain in good working order.

UK fire alarm testing rules vary depending on the nature of the property or building, encompassing business owners, public sector sites such as schools and hospitals, and rental properties, where landlords bear the responsibility for ensuring they comply with regulations.

Let’s take a look at the varying standards, legislation, and best practice policies for periodic alarm testing.

Which UK Laws Relate to Fire Alarm Testing?

The primary rules are covered in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005. This regulation states that a designated responsible person must ensure that every premise is fitted with suitable fire alarms and detection equipment to safeguard people using the site.

Regular testing is required, normally weekly, to ensure that any damage to the alarm system or call points or previous activations have not affected the functionality of these resources.

This regulation also notes that any person with appropriate training can be delegated to test the alarm system in place, while there are specific measures requiring the nominated responsible person to be ‘competent’.

Further requirements specifying the frequency of testing are set out in British Standard BS 5839, which indicates that fire alarms installed in commercial properties must be tested once per week. Regular testing ensures that businesses are aware of faults within their systems and can take corrective action to remain compliant with the previously mentioned regulation.

What Should Weekly Fire Alarm Testing Involve?

Each business should clarify who is responsible for weekly alarm testing. That might be a supervisor or manager, somebody within the company who has received the necessary training, or an authorised third party, such as:

  • A keyholder
  • An access control guard
  • A fire alarm monitoring service

Business owners and commercial property investors with several premises are more likely to delegate weekly testing, but this can be carried out with anybody with the appropriate permissions and access. They should activate at least one call point each week, selecting a call point at random or on a revolving basis – rather than testing the same call point each time.

Clearway UK Fire Alarm Standards

During the test, the responsible person should verify that the alarm sounds and is audible throughout the zone and check that the fire monitoring panel receives the signal promptly.

If the business has additional call points, such as voice-activated alarm systems, these must also be tested once per week to comply with BS 5839 requirements. The organisation must notify their alarm monitoring service before testing or schedule this for the same time each week to avoid a false emergency callout.

Which Aspects of a Fire Alarm System Should Be Tested Monthly?

Aside from call points and emergency fire alarms, businesses should also conduct monthly testing for other system elements. That may include generators that activate automatically, sprinkler systems, emergency evacuation lighting and standby power sources.

The designated person should check the pressure gauges on fire extinguishers and confirm that the extinguisher or other fire suppression equipment is in the right place, undamaged, has not been discharged, and is ready to use.

If fire safety equipment is electric or battery-powered, the monthly test should note whether the batteries are fully charged.

Recording Regular Fire Alarm Checks and Inspections

Most companies and commercial premises use a physical or digital fire log book. This record shows all of the checks completed, the date, and the initials or signature of the person conducting the test.

Log books may be essential for insurance purposes, inspections conducted by local authorities or health and safety surveyors, and in the unlikely event of an equipment malfunction.

Should the weekly fire alarm test or monthly inspection identify any faults or issues, including missing extinguishers or outdated equipment, this should be rectified as soon as possible, with a named party assigned responsibility.

While most weekly fire alarm tests are routine and do not result in any issues, the process remains imperative to meeting fire safety regulations. If a fire were to occur and result in severe damage to the premises or an injury to a person without a record of regular checks, the responsible party or the business could be subject to prosecution.

Training a Member of Staff to Carry Out Fire Alarm Tests

The British Standard we mentioned clarifies that fire alarm testing does not necessarily require any specialist or professional knowledge and that checks can be carried out by anybody within a business or premise.

However, the allocated person should be deemed ‘competent’ and know how the fire alarm system works to conduct proper testing.

fire alarms being tested often

Importantly, the person responsible for completing tests and logging these in the fire safety records must be available at the designated time – or there may be more than one person within a facility tasked with testing the alarms every week.

Additionally, the Fire Safety Order defines a responsible party as an employer, somebody in control of a premise, or a business owner. Essentially, the recorded accountable party must have sufficient authority and access to either test the alarms themselves or delegate this job to a team member.

Circumstances Where Fire Alarm Tests May Need to Be Conducted More Frequently

While the standard is to test alarms each week and other fire safety assets once a month, in some scenarios, the testing schedule may need to be revised depending on the nature and layout of the site and any additional fire risks or hazards.

If there is any likelihood that a fire alarm signal could be undetected or unnoticed for 24 hours or more, special checks are required every 24 hours to verify that equipment is working properly. This could apply to remote properties or facilities with large layouts where audible alarms are not sounded throughout the premises.

Alarms fitted in more remote areas and linked to a master station should be checked every week as normal – but include a verification that the call point activated results in a notification received at both the master station and the outstation being tested.

Functional tests are necessary for any automated smoke and heat detectors, aspirating systems and optical beam detectors, checking that these function as expected, where the alarm is sounded automatically rather than by a person hitting a call point.

For more information about these fire alarm testing regulations, how they apply to your business or premises, and whether your current testing policies are compliant, please contact Clearway’s expert fire safety team at any time on 0121 561 1214. 

Gavin Upton

Gavin Upton

Sales Director - Clearway: Fire & Security

Solution focused consultative approach aligned to clients strategic and operational road map.

Gavin has had notable successes in delivering solutions for a broad range of large complex clients from both NFE and NFN pipelines.
Extensive knowledge of all three sectors and multiple verticals including Financial Services, Retail, FMCG, Utilities, Healthcare, Automotive and Leisure/Hospitality. His focus is on delivering innovation, growth and retention through providing outsource solutions that deliver cross business benefits whilst utilising technology whether in-situ or new initiatives.

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