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Fire Alarm Inspections and Testing FAQs

Today, we are going to run through the typical things that happen during a fire alarm inspection:

  1. Pre-test: Fire Alarm Testing Inc. will alert the Monitoring Station and/or the Fire Department and the property manager to coordinate a Fire Inspection will be occurring at the Facility or Property.
  2. Test Primary and Secondary Phone Lines: Once the fire alarm is activated, our team will set off the alarm using one phone line at a time.
  3. Test Backup Battery: Back to the fire alarm panel, there will be a separate section dedicated to the backup batteries that will provide power in case of a loss of power.
  4. Alarm Sound Testing: After activating the alarm, we will go to every floor and check if there was a sound and see if the horn strobes were lighting. 
  5. Pull Manual Pull Fire Alarms: One technician will go around activating (pulling the alarms, while the other is at the panel acknowledging that the fire panel received the request, Once the alarm is activated, the technician must. Reset the panel, then the other technician will move onto the next alarm.
  6. Test Heat Detectors: Heat detectors that are installed around the building need to be inspected as well. A short in the detector can send an alert to the fire alarm panel. 
  7. Perform Smoke Detector Inspection: The smoke detector sensitivity and smoke test is done to make sure the smoke detectors work properly. This is done by spraying artificial Smoke into the Smoke Detector to ensure that the Smoke Detector is working properly. 
  8. Sprinkler Tamper Valve: We turn the Sprinkler Tamper Valves to turn off the sprinklers and then turn them back into the open position. This portion of the test is to make sure if someone turns off the Sprinklers to your system, the Fire Alarm Panel is Supervised and notifies the call list and the Fire Alarm Company that someone is tampering with the Sprinkler System.
  9. Fire Alarm Sprinkler Test: We test the sprinklers during a Fire Alarm Inspection to make sure that if the Sprinklers Activate during a fire, the wiring to the Sprinkler System is working and activates the audibles as well as calls the Fire Department.
  10. Document Everything: For every Sprinkler Flow Switch, Tamper Valve, Fire Alarm Panel, Heat Detector, Smoke Detector, and Manual Pull Station, there needs to be documentation for a few reasons:
    • The property manager knows what has been inspected and where devices are.
    • The department knows the locations of the Fire Alarm Equipment for their records and inspections.
    • All servicing companies will know where the devices are in a fast and convenient way in case of Emergencies or future inspections.
    • Invoicing can be accurate.

A Fire Alarm Inspection and Testing can range from an hour to a few days depending on the number of devices and complexity of the fire alarm system on a facility or building.
To get the complete NFPA Standard guide, be sure to click here and here or simply download AIE’s free Fire Alarm Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance checklist, which includes the NFPA’s requirements.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has determined that fire alarm inspections need to be performed at least once a year depending on the type of system.
If your fire alarms use regular batteries, swap in fresh batteries at least once a year. Once you hear a chirping sound, it means that it’s time to change batteries. 
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), all parts of your fire protection system must be inspected annually (fire alarm, sprinkler, backflows, extinguishers, etc.), but the fire alarm system also requires a semi-annual alarm testing.

The semi-annual alarm testing however is substantially less involved per NFPA code, and includes:

  • Visual inspections of initiating and notification devices.
  • Functional testing of flow switches, tamper switches, and backup batteries.

The typical price for a fire alarm system inspection is based on the number of devices on the system. At minimum, it costs around $200 a year. 
The typical price for a fire alarm system inspection is based on the number of devices on the system. At minimum, it costs around $200 a year. 

Visual inspections of fire alarm components need to be done weekly, monthly, semiannually, and/or annually in accordance with the schedules in Table 14.3.1 of NFPA 72.

Some of the most common visual inspections include:

  • Control equipment must be checked weekly to verify that the fire alarm system is in normal condition. This includes visually inspecting the fuses, LEDs, power supply, and checking for trouble signals.
  • Batteries must be inspected on a monthly or semiannual basis (depending on type) for corrosion or leakage.
  • Duct detectors, heat detectors, and smoke detectors must be checked on a semiannual basis.
  • All equipment must be checked annually to ensure there are no changes that affect equipment performance.

Once the authorities have been notified that fire alarm inspections and testing will take place at the facility, the Fire Alarm Testing Inc. team will enter to inspect. It takes two technicians to inspect and test the fire alarms. The first technician is stationed at the fire alarm panel, while the second technician goes from floor to floor inspecting and testing the smoke detectors, fire alarm pull stations, heat detectors, flow switches, tamper switches, and the fire alarm horns and strobes. 
Fire safety inspectors ensure that equipment such as sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, fire doors, and fire alarms perform as they should.
The two main types of Fire Alarm systems that exist are:

  1. Sprinkler Monitoring Systems: Sprinkler Monitoring systems have the sprinklers watching the majority of the system. It has usually a Smoke or Heat Detector above the Fire Alarm Control Panel and a Manual Pull Station on site. The Fire Alarm is connected into the Sprinkler System and Tamper valves so if the Sprinklers are activated, it notifies the Fire Alarm which dispatches the Fire Department. It also is watching the Tamper Valves to ensure no one is tampering with the Sprinkler System.
  2. Full Fire Alarm System: A Fire Alarm System ranges from just a couple Smoke Detectors in a very small office to Smoke Detectors and/or Heat Detectors throughout the building with Manual Pull Stations at every exit and on every floor. Also it may have more on the system such as HVAC Smoke Detectors making sure that if there is smoke into your ventilation system, it will shut down the Air Conditioning unit. It may have additional protective devices depending on the complexity of the system and the requirements needed to be in place. 

What type of system does my building need or have?

The type of system installed is determined based on the year installed (A Fire Alarm System installed 30 years ago will have different installation guidelines compared to a newly installed system). In addition to year of installation, the installed type of system will vary based occupancy type and what needing to be protected. The Authority Having Jurisdiction can also require more or less being installed during a major remodel or the construction of the building depending on what they believe is the best protection for the building.

Fire alarm inspections and tests are necessary and required by a Fire Alarm Company to ensure that all existing alarms are compliant with NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. These inspections reveal areas of a building’s or facility’s fire signaling system in need of repairs or replacement.
Most battery powered smoke detectors will beep for a minimum thirty days before its battery dies. If you hear a consistent beeping every 30 to 60 seconds, you will know that the battery is losing its charge.
As the smoke detector battery gets weak, the smoke alarm will chirp about once a minute to let you know that the battery needs to be replaced.
If your smoke detector is still beeping even without the battery, try taking an air blower (similar to one used for keyboards) and blow inside the alarm’s vents.

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