Service & Maintenance Contracts Ensure System Integrity

March 31, 2011
Building owners need to have fire systems tested, maintained and inspected regularly

Fire alarm systems are installed for the protection of life and property. The protection of life safety requirements falls under the jurisdiction of the building and fire code officials; the protection of property usually is under the jurisdiction of the building owner. Meeting the expectations of both is crucial. The Acceptance Test, performed after a new fire alarm system has been installed, demonstrates the system operates as intended. Once a system passes its Acceptance Test, the customer has a reasonable expectation of safety from fire.

A fire alarm system must detect either automatically or manually, depending on the type of initiation devices installed. The goal is for detection to occur sooner rather than later, since smaller fires are easier to escape from. Once detected, the system's primary function is to notify occupants of the building or space. It is also essential that the fire department is notified in a timely manner since smaller fires are more easily contained, controlled and extinguished. To allow occupants to escape quickly and allow a safer building for fire fighters to enter, the alarm system may operate fire-safety related functions such as recalling elevators, releasing locked doors and controlling fans. The same holds true for the activation and supervision of any fire sprinkler and/or other fire suppression systems.

These components are critical to the safety of the occupants, the fire fighters and the building owner; they are also essential to your company's well-being and long-term profitability. It's imperative the building owner has a contract to have the system tested, maintained and inspected regularly. Ensuring the system will operate properly when needed is important, and a comprehensive test and inspection contract can add significant revenues to your bottom line.

Taking the time to install fire systems properly and tending to details like making sure the integrity of the wiring is monitored, batteries are fully charged and any number of other code required minutia are performed may seem time-consuming and mundane. But consider the consequences of a system that doesn't perform as designed. We pay attention to these details because we don't know where the fire might begin and we want the entire system, for the life of the system, to meet the customer's and the code's expectations by making sure it is always in the same operating condition as the day it passed its Acceptance Test. The best way this can be accomplished is through regularly scheduled maintenance tests and inspections.

Look over your list of fire alarm accounts and if you know which of your customers could suffer a loss from a fire, call them to schedule a test and inspection of their system. Better yet, since you can't foresee the future, start contacting all of them and arrange for a code-required inspection. Begin with the oldest customer, or the one with a history of false alarm problems, or those which are more dangerous occupancy types. Any nursing home or healthcare facility not presently under contract should be high on your list. Have your office staff prepare a list and get busy with the business of keeping your customers safe and adding monthly recurring revenue to your books.

Greg Kessinger is SD&I's long-time resident fire expert and regular contributor to the magazine. Reach him at [email protected].