Did You Know That Most Municipalities Require Even Residential Fire System to be Professionally Inspected? At Home Fire Alarm Testing
We have all seen or heard the commercials for alarm companies that offer a package of equipment and components to you at a very low price if not completely free. That package usually includes at least one “monitored smoke alarm” that can also be called, “monitored fire protection.” If you purchased one of these packages or specifically bought components of a residential fire alarm, there are a few things you need to know.
Fire protection is a very good thing
I am not trying in any way to make it sound like you made a mistake by purchasing or including fire protection components as part of your system. In fact, I am saying just the opposite. These devices have been proven over and over again to have the capability to save lives in the event of a fire breaking out.
When you purchased your equipment or had your alarm system installed, you may have been asked without you realizing it, to sign an agreement releasing the company that you purchased your equipment from or had the equipment installed by that releases them of any responsibility to inspect the fire alarm equipment in your residence. They have you sign-off on this for two reasons: 1. They do not want the liability that goes along with fire equipment and complete fire alarm systems. The liability on the company can be devastating if a fire actually occurs. In the litigious society that we live in today, unfortunately, this is something that anyone in business must think about and consider. 2. The municipality that you live in has a set standard for their fire code. These are a set of laws that are in place that require a fire alarm whether it is for commercial or residential purposes, meet these standards in terms of the amount of protection required for a given building and the distribution of that equipment throughout the premises of that building.
To include one or two smoke or heat detectors in a package for your alarm system in your home does not usually meet those standards. The alarm system at least in terms of fire protection therefore does not meet this code, so they require the customer to sign-off on this and remove the liability from the alarm company. This often means that you're responsible for the fire alarm testing to ensure it's up to your area's code.
Important note: These devices are designed to be life-saving, not property saving.
Many times the smoke detector or heat detector components that are part of your fire protection, either were already installed in your home when you bought it, you installed yourself, or you had professionally installed by an electrician or an alarm company actually say on them, “Life-Saving Device Only.” They are not meant to save the building or the property inside the building. In order to be considered as more than a life-saving device you would have to look into what is called, fire suppression equipment. That becomes a much larger project with a significantly greater expense. The overwhelming majority of people do not have fire suppression systems in their homes.
What should I do to make my fire alarm system legal?
The first step would be to find out exactly what the code requires within your municipality in terms of a residential fire system. If you have a local alarm company that you work with, I would suggest starting a conversation with them by giving them a call. If you are using a national alarm company or you installed the equipment yourself, I would start by making a phone call to my local fire marshal. They should know the code requirements backwards and forwards.
Most of the code requirements for a residential fire application are fairly straight forward. They usually require a fire protection device (Smoke detector or heat detector) on each level of the residence, and one in each of the sleeping spaces. In terms of fire protection, if the fire components are going to be monitored, they need to be interconnected as well.
If you have a fire alarm or fire alarm equipment in your home, most municipalities require the system to be inspected every one (1), two (2), or three (3) years. If you are the one that installed the equipment, then according to most codes, you are the one responsible for inspecting the equipment. This is not necessarily as ominous as it sounds.
Inspecting the equipment can be as simple as making a list on a sheet of paper of each of the fire components of your system, going to each one individually and testing it to make sure it activates and sends a signal. Before you attempt to test the the fire alarm system yourself, make sure that you contact your monitoring company to put the system on “test” so that when they receive the signals from your test, they will not dispatch the fire department. If you make the mistake of not putting the system on “test,” you will first of all have some very unhappy firefighters at your house very quickly, and if it happens a few times, you can be fined as much as several hundred dollars for false alarms.
Once you have the system on “test,” then it is time to test each component of the fire alarm system. You can test a smoke detector with any type of smoke or even dust. If the smoke or dust gets into the device it should activate. Once it has activated, it is very important that you clear it out. You can easily do this with a “can of air.” These are usually used to blow off a computer keyboard or other things like this. You can get it at any computer, office supply, or box store. Another simple way to clear out a smoke detector is to take a vacuum preferably a hand-held unit and just run it around the outside of the device. This will clear out any residual smoke or dust still in the device.
To test a heat sensor, you must me a bit more careful. You will need a match, lighter, hair dryer, or heat gun. When you go to test the device, make sure that you apply the heat around the edges of the device. If you put the heat in the middle of the device, it will “pop.” This means that it will activate, but will not reset with that device. If you “pop” a heat sensor, you will need to replace the device. If you are considering getting fire equipment installed or installing fire equipment, I would recommend you put heat sensors and not smoke detectors in any area where someone might be cooking. So many alarm companies have false alarms because of cooking setting off the smoke detectors.
Thanks for reading. We hope this blog has helped answer your questions about having fire alarms as part of your home security system.
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