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Answers to Your Top Fire Alarm Inspection Questions

By Sandi Scott

It’s 2 a.m. You are asleep when you are awakened by the chirping. You know the one. It’s annoying and loud. It also means your smoke detector needs a new battery. An inconvenient time for it to happen, but thankfully, a quick fix, and you are back to bed.

Now, imagine the beeping happens at your business off hours. What if no one is around to check the fire alarm system? Or worse––what if the fire alarm panel battery dies one night and the next you are awakened not by the beeping, but a phone call from the fire department telling you your building is on fire?

Not such an easy fix––after the fire. But there are ways to mitigate the problem in the first place.

Fire is a more than $1.2 billion business problem in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. From 2011-2015, there were an estimated 37,910 fires in industrial and manufacturing properties.

How to Prevent Fires at Your Facility

It’s important to take precautions so your business doesn’t end up in that number. One of the best ways to prevent a fire is to make sure you have a fire alarm system in place and to have it inspected and tested regularly.

But what about the annual fire department inspection––won’t that catch problems?

Regular fire department inspections are necessary for code requirements, but they won’t ensure your fire alarm system is working at 100 percent functionality. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common misconceptions about fire alarm inspections.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fire Alarm Inspections

There’s a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about fire alarm inspections. So, let’s talk about some of the other common questions we receive about fire inspections.

But before we do that, let’s discuss why fire alarm inspections are important. Inspections ensure your fire alarm system is running properly. They can predict building trends and they maintain fire code compliance.

So, now that you understand that.  Here are some other answers to frequently asked questions about fire inspections:

1. What are the key differences between a fire alarm inspection from the fire department versus one from ACT?

There are two kinds of fire alarm system inspections. The one from the fire department is designed to make sure your building is up to government code and that fire hazards don’t threaten your building space. This will inspect your exit plan, your electrical safety, check for storage or housekeeping issues, count fire sprinklers, fire alarm devices and fire extinguishers. 

The second type of inspection, and the kind we offer at ACT, is one done to check that your fire and life safety system is operating correctly and remains at its best. An ACT fire alarm inspection is designed to ensure that you have full confidence that if something goes wrong that potentially leads to a fire, or one starts, it will be detected immediately.

The biggest difference is that our inspections are far more thorough––we test every single device to ensure it’s working properly. We’ll talk more about what this looks like below.

2. How long does a fire inspection take?

While the time for an inspection varies depending on the size of the facility and the system being tested, we tell clients to block off at least four hours. Because the inspection can be disruptive, we suggest scheduling for off-hours, on the weekend or when a majority of the employees or residents aren’t on site.

3. Will the fire inspection disrupt employees, tenants or customers?

Some companies choose to silence horns when testing the fire alarm to reduce disruption. But in doing so, you don’t know if the system is working properly.

Because we test every device with the sound on, there will be some disruption to your employees or customers. That’s why we offer after-hours and weekend inspections––to minimize the impact on your business.

And if you have a smaller workforce on site due to COVID-19, now would be a great time to schedule your inspection to reduce the impact of testing on your employees.

4. Are the inspectors specially trained?

Members of our team have achieved NICET Level 4 certification with the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. This level is the highest level of certification in the industry, and is something that only a few technicians in Nashville have achieved.

Our team has a deep knowledge base – they know what works and what you need – regardless of your budget. And if something goes wrong, they know how to diagnose and repair the problem.

5. What happens during a fire inspection?

At ACT, our fire inspections are thorough. We test each system component individually to make sure it’s working properly. And we conduct a complete test of your fire alarm system to check its functionality.

Many firms simply visually check the system, making sure that the circuit is receiving a charge or that the alarm lights are working. We know that a real inspection means having one technician at the panel and another at the device to make sure the two are communicating correctly.

We do that for every horn strobe, pull station, smoke detector and heat detector.  After all, you don’t want to discover that a device isn’t working properly in the middle of a fire.

We barcode each device during our inspections to mark the time and date so there is a handy, accurate record of what was tested and when.

6. What are the code requirements and frequency of inspections?

Local authorities, including the city of Nashville, require annual inspections of fire and life safety systems. These mandatory inspections are required by NFPA 72 code and are typically enforced at the local level.

Because we work in a variety of cities, we are up to date on the latest code requirements and how often inspections are needed. You can be assured that we will keep you and your systems in compliance.

7. How will I get the report post fire inspection?

Every company does this differently. We’ve seen some companies provide handwritten notes with their findings.

That’s not how we do it at ACT. We provide easy online access to your fire inspection report so you can easily access it at any time. And because we barcode every device, it’s easy to look up and see that a device was inspected, serviced or repaired.

And if you work with us on preventative maintenance, we can also give you reporting on the health of your system so you can see how it has performed over time.

8. How much do fire inspections cost?

The cost of fire alarm inspections vary by provider. While we might not be the cheapest solution, we are by far the most thorough fire alarm inspector in Nashville.

We believe that taking extra care and precaution at the inspection level will ensure your employees and customers are safe during an emergency. Plus, regular inspections can prevent additional cost down the road by keeping your system running at its optimal level.

Why Fire Alarm Inspections are So Important

Annual fire and life safety inspections do more than meet the requirement of your local fire marshal. Fire alarm inspections and regular preventative maintenance extends the life of your system and ensures its running at its optimum capacity.

Plus, ACT’s reporting software can give you performance data to see how your system has performed over time, which can help with maintenance recommendations and emergency planning and ensure you meet local fire marshal record keeping requirements.

Ready to get your annual fire inspection crossed off your to-do list? Give us a call or contact us here to see how we can help.

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