Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
Get the Book Make It Work - Convetional Fire Alarms
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Is There a Method for Testing Fire Alarm Systems?

Because they're all different, there isn't a step-by-step method for testing all fire alarm systems. However, testing involves trying each detector, pull station, waterflow switch, and any other input device to see if it sounds the alarms everywhere, closes doors, shuts down HVAC, calls the fire department, etc.

Is There a Method for Testing Fire Alarm Systems?


Is There a Method for Testing Fire Alarm Systems?


Greetings Douglas,

Where can I find a good procedure for acceptance testing for fire sprinkler and fire alarm systems?

Is there a step-by-step approach that I can add to for my particular project?

Thank you, TJ

A Fire Alarm and Detection System (FDAS) detects fire and warns people of the fire.

Because the system detects fires, it also compartmentalizes the building by closing fire doors, controls smoke by shutting down ventilation systems, controls access to areas of the building, and sends for help from the fire department. The FDAS (Fire Alarm and Detection System) also supervises other systems and controls.

The suppression system either detects fire itself and sends alarm and supervisory signals to the FDAS, or uses the FDAS for activation.

To test the system, one goes to each and every detection device, and using something to pretend there's a fire, activate the device. (Remember that fires do not carry magnets in their back pockets, so magnets do not test anything to see if it detects smoke or heat.) Spray the canned smoke that the manufacturer recommends, turn the knob, flow water through the restrictor, use a hair dryer on heat detectors, actually pull the manual lever or press the button on the pull station, etc.

As far as heat detectors go, learn how they detect heat, and learn how to test them. Most of the addressable ones can be reset after the heat is removed. Then again, some of the conventional ones melt low-temperature solder to detect heat; once the solder is melted, the heat detector needs replacement. In that case, there is no good way of testing the heat detector. The best that can be done on some conventional heat detectors is to see if their wiring detects a short at the heat detector to activate the fire alarm system, and follow the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) guidelines on testing and replacing the heat detectors.

When you test, see what happens. For the alarm devices, there should be warning for the occupants (horns sounding and strobes flashing), HVAC shutdown, calling off site for firefighter help, etc.

Check panels, make sure backup batteries are taken care of, etc.

You have to test every input device, one at a time, every panel for proper operation, every output device. If you don't, some fires might not be detected, some occupants might not be warned, and help might not be on the way.

Write down what you do and what happens so someone else can come in and duplicate what you did. Remember, if it ain't on paper; it didn't happen.

Douglas Krantz
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facpdoug@douglaskrantz.com
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