Fire Alarm Testing Regulations

Updated April 17, 2017

Fire alarms are a crucial part of any building's safety and security. Fire alarms not only protect people from potentially dangerous situations, they alert firefighting personnel, decreasing the chance that a fire's damage will be extensive. However, to maintain the safety and security of fire alarms, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has developed several criteria for testing alarms.

Reasons for Alarms

It is vital that all building fire alarms work properly. If a system malfunctions in a large building, hundreds of lives are at stake. Many local building departments, cities and states have regulations for fire alarms, so ensuring the alarm works properly is necessary to meeting regulations. If a fire does destroy a building, many insurance companies require proof that the building's fire alarms had been tested in accordance with the law.

Alarm Regulations

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all employers must ensure that all fire alarm devices are approved for their specific purpose in a building. Some detection equipment is only intended for one use and is destroyed after detecting a fire. Employers must replace materials quickly and thoroughly. Employers must also cover an outside fire alarm to protect it from corrosion, and the fire alarms must attach to the wall or ceiling without wires or tubing.

Weekly and Quarterly Requirements

The NFPA requires weekly and quarterly inspections of fire alarm equipment for both monitored and unmonitored fire alarms. For monitored fire alarms, users must visually inspect a fire alarm to see if the trouble signal is activated; unmonitored panels require a weekly visual inspection of lamps, LEDs, fuses and power supply to ensure they are functioning properly. Quarterly, you must visually inspect both types of panels' waterflow switches, valve temper switches and pump monitored points.

Semi-Annual and Annual Requirements

Every six months, you must physically test the sprinkler waterflow switches, the sprinkler valve temper switches and the batteries for both types of alarms. Once a year, you must perform a battery discharge test for 30 minutes and an inspection of the warning sound, smoke detector, heat detector, duct smoke detector, solenoid and voice evacuation equipment on both systems. For a monitored alarm, you must also inspect the panel's functionality and the panel's battery charger.

New Developments

In the 2010 revision of the NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, several new requirements were added. The mass voice notification system, commonly used in high-rise buildings, is now more incorporated into new fire alarm systems. There are new requirements for automated voice intelligibility in the notification of a fire and new signaling standards for deaf and hard-of-hearing personnel.

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About the Author

Jack Stone, a 25-year-old freelance writer, has been writing professionally since 2009 for sites such as eHow, Golflink and Trails. He holds a Bachelor of Theology from Ozark Christian College, a certificate to teach English to speakers of other languages from Biola University and a Masters of Arts degree from Wheaton College.