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Maintenance Steps to keep False Fire Alarms at Bay

Incidences of false fire alarms are a bugbear for facility managers, with several states enforcing fines for them. Building owners and managers are being urged to take a closer look at their fire safety maintenance schedules in a bid to address a rising number of false fire alarms.

The number of false fire alarms each year is staggering. The latest figures from Fire and Rescue New South Wales reveal that of the 46,000 fire alarms that were responded to in 2012, only approximately two percent were genuine fire emergencies. The issue was so problematic in Victoria, that the Country Fire Authority introduced fees for false alarms, which are supported by state government legislation.

Facilities maintenance on fire alarms

Fines are now in place across the country for businesses found to be responsible for a false fire alarm. For instance, in NSW, a business found to have ‘no reasonable excuse’ for a false fire alarm is fined $1250. In Queensland the fine for triggering a false fire alarm is $1092.95.

Poor maintenance is among the common causes for false fire alarms, along with dirty smoke detectors, cooking incidents such as burning toast and smouldering cigarettes.
For many facility managers, unnecessary fines may be avoided by undertaking regular and rigorous maintenance of fire safety equipment. Building managers are encouraged to work closely with their fire maintenance provider to ensure the appropriate maintenance and testing is being carried out in accordance with Australian Standards. Australian Standard AS1851-2012 Routine Service of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment prescribes routine servicing activities for most fire protection systems and equipment to help ensure systems and equipment are kept in proper working order. This includes inspection, testing, preventative maintenance and survey activities.
If you’re responsible for building safety, be aware that if defects or failures are reported by maintenance contractors, the property owner or occupier is responsible for rectification to meet the regulatory requirements and maintain system performance.
All primary regulations for maintenance of buildings around Australia place the responsibility of maintaining fire equipment and systems on the owner or occupier.
Implementing a maintenance program
A high level of reliability is essential when it comes to fire protection. Fire protection systems and equipment should always perform to the standard to which they were originally designed and installed.
Working with a fire protection specialist can help facility managers stay on top of things by keeping a schedule of when and how the systems need to be inspected. It can also help ensure all the necessary servicing procedures are undertaken, so that the risk of the fire protection equipment failing is minimised.
In addition to the testing carried out by a fire protection specialist, it is a good idea for facility managers to visually inspect the fire protection equipment regularly to ensure there are no obvious problems or physical damage, and introduce checks and balances to better manage fire equipment maintenance. This may include effectively managing contractors and tradespeople by logging their presence on-site to help ensure they do not put the system at risk by their activities, and ensuring all building tenants, staff and occupants are aware of fire safety guidelines and procedures.
Excerpt from Facility Management Sept 2015