How safe are your safety systems?

A fire safety system is only worth having if it works when it’s really needed. So don’t skimp on servicing, says Bradley Parker, Managing Director, Future Fire Systems.

How much do you know about the condition of the fire and life safety systems installed in the blocks you manage? It’s not difficult to ensure your fire and life safety systems are working effectively. Testing on a regular basis is vital – and it’s a mandatory requirement in blocks of flats with alarms. But the only way to really get a handle on the health of your system is to ensure the equipment is serviced and maintained as set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and to use a qualified, reliable company to inspect, test and report on the condition of your installations on a regular basis. This should be done in accordance with the current British Standard and the manufacturer’s recommendations – and this will differ depending on which system you have installed. Many companies and local authorities carry out inspections four times a year but every six months is the recommended minimum.

The industry recommendation for replacing life safety equipment is every 10 years. After that, manufacturers cannot normally guarantee that they can supply spare parts because the next generation of models is in production and being installed. As a result, dilapidation reporting is key to informing building owners and their property managers of the condition of their equipment and the likely time frame within which replacement will be needed.

At Future Fire Systems we use RAG reporting, which works on a simple traffic light system.

Green: 1-6 years – okay

Amber: 7-9 – start budgeting to replace equipment

Red: 10+ years – immediate action required

Of course, some installations will continue to work beyond their expected lifespan. But like all electronic equipment, component failure will occur at some point. If repairs and/or upgrades need to be carried out on a reactive basis, this will not only be costly due to the necessity for emergency call-outs but the downtime poses a risk to residents and may affect block insurance policies. So be proactive. Factor inspections and any recommended system upgrades into your planned preventative maintenance schedule and demonstrate due diligence. The safety of residents should always be your first priority.

So if you are having regular service and maintenance visits and your equipment is not being age-reported, don’t be afraid to ask some questions. Your engineer should be able to tell you not just that your equipment is OK now, but how many years (or months) you have before you need to think about replacement.

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