The health and safety of all of your staff should always be the number one priority in any case. Owners and establishment managers are partially responsible for the well being of the members of their company while they are at the facility. Are all of the personnel aware of the location of the fire extinguishers on the premises? When was the last time those extinguishing devices were inspected or pressure tested? Do you or your employees perform regular visual assessments on your fire protection systems? How often should you be inspecting and testing these elements? Some safety regulations and maintenance schedules depend on what state you reside in, your insurance policy, or the type of system you have but overall many of them are pretty consistent for the most part. Regular inspections and maintenance can prevent life-altering accidents from occurring. Safety first!
What is the Difference Between Inspecting and Testing Your Devices?
Visually inspecting your fire protection system and testing your protection system are two totally different things. Doing a visual check consists of looking for corrosion, damage, leaks, or anything else unusual around your system’s components as well as basic maintenance and making sure that the area is well maintained. Issues, no matter how big or small, can be discovered on routine checks and can then be resolved before an accident ensues and you find out after it is much too late. Testing the fire system entails actually doing a full run of the system to make sure everything is operating properly and that it could function in a real emergency; it is not just glancing around at it. Maintenance tests should always be completed by a trained professional and regular visual inspections may be carried out by trained employees of the establishment.
How Often Should You Perform a Visual Check of Your Fire Protection System?
Visual checks on certain fire protection equipment should be completed weekly, if not more often, depending on the location and equipment type. Under the National Fire Protection Association regulations, dry, pre-action, and deluge system gauges should be looked upon weekly while wet pipe system gauges can be looked at every three months. Signals and alarm devices are examined quarterly, just like the wet gauges. They are easy to forget, but keep in mind all the batteries tucked away in their tiny little hiding places throughout the facility, all fueling your protection system’s devices. The number one reason that fire alarms and device signals fail is faulty batteries. They should be checked on at least once a month (are they inserted into the device the correct way? do you spot any corrosion?) and will need replaced once or twice a year. Battery corrosion can seriously damage your equipment, and if it is severe enough, it may result in you having to replace the entire unit. Replacing a few batteries is easier than replacing a unit or your building and all of its contents. Dead batteries aren’t doing your fire system or your safety any good.
How Often Should the Sprinkler System be Tested?
The schedule for which you should be testing and inspecting elements of your sprinkler system isn’t just one simple answer. There are many different components and they are all on their own maintenance schedules. The sprinkler’s mechanical devices need to be tested every three months, pressure switches should be tested twice a year, and a complete fire sprinkler system test must be ran once a year. Additionally, every five years a thorough internal inspection is required of the sprinkler piping to check for rust and leaks. Sprinkler components that are subjected to harsh environmental factors or high temperatures may be tested or even replaced every five years, as well as any gauges that have become aged. Then lastly, dry sprinklers should be tested/replaced every ten years. Don’t forget to update your informational signage whenever making renovations or equipment replacements! These should be reviewed annually to make sure the information is fully correct and current.
How Often Should You Check Fire Extinguishers?
Fire extinguishers should have monthly assessments completed which should be documented as well. They also need to be inspected and certified by a fire protection equipment company once a year. A total breakdown and examination of the internal elements must be completed every six years, also fulfilled by a fire protection agency. It may seem like a bit much to remember, but the use of proper documentation does all of the remembering for you.
Make sure your fire extinguisher is in a clear, open space, and is in the designated location at all times. Remember to check for leaks and verify that the hose is clear and not clogged or obstructed in any way. And of course, always confirm that the tamper evident seal and locking pin are both intact and undamaged. Simple inspections can prevent life-altering accidents. Technology is a wonderful thing, especially when it is in full working order, but will it do any good if no one knows how to properly use it? Ensure that your staff is aware of basic fire safety practices and know how to correctly use a fire extinguisher.
The safety of your company and the people within it is top priority. Routine inspections of your protective equipment can help you find minor issues before they become a major problem. Maintenance and repairs are much easier when you stay up to date on your fire protection system’s tests and inspections. Preventative care is preferable over cleaning up the mess afterwards of a very preventable accident. Keep on top of your visual assessments and the documentation of them. Owners and building managers should constantly try to be aware of what is going on inside their company, especially when it comes to something as vital as health and safety. Remember to always follow the local codes and guidelines and check with your insurance provider on their policies and inspection schedules as well. And last, but not least, don’t forget to check on those pesky little batteries!