Fire-System Maintenance Includes Fire Alarms and Extinguishers
Today’s fire-alarm systems are more complex and advanced than the systems they replace. For this reason, they require greater attention to inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) to reduce life-cycle costs, extend service life, and avoid liability.
Faced with changing code requirements and a need to hold down costs, maintenance and engineering managers face an even tougher challenge developing proactive ITM programs. It is essential managers understand their responsibilities for ITM, initiate preventive maintenance (PM) programs, take steps to assure compliance, and properly train staff.
Proper ITM directly affects the performance and reliability of fire-alarm systems. The process is one of a manager’s most important responsibilities. Yet it remains one of the least likely to receive full attention.
Studies have established dollar equivalents for fire-related deaths and injuries at $1 million per death and $166,000 per injury. The financial considerations are apparent: If a fire-alarm system fails to detect the presence of smoke, fails to notify occupants, or delays an alarm transmission to the fire department, can the organization handle the liability and consequences of failing to properly maintain such important life-safety features?
Most facilities feature systems or products that are maintenance-free, meaning they remain in place for the life of the building without maintenance. But many structural and operational features require regular maintenance. Penetrations, dampers, and doors in fire-rated walls are examples of building features departments must maintain properly.
Technicians must maintain automatic-fire-sprinkler and standpipe systems, portable fire extinguishers, and fire-alarm and -detection systems under model codes and standards. Managers should be thoroughly familiar with features that require maintenance and the frequency of those activities. Managers who do not regularly ensure the maintenance of fire-alarm systems instead will end up fixing something after it fails, while also recovering from the failure’s effects.