Although fire detection is generally seen as a grudge purchase and done only when it becomes a legal requirement, fire and electronic security solutions systems integrator FS-Systems points out that building owners have a moral obligation to ensure that all occupants of their facilities are kept as safe as possible.
“This can be done by ensuring that fire escapes are kept clear, emergency signage is well displayed and that there is a working, well-designed and well-maintained fire alarm system [in place],” says FS-Systems national maintenance manager Dorian Dennis.
Fire-detection maintenance is the testing of a fire alarm system in accordance with the recommendations of SANS 10139:2012 to ensure that it operates according to its original design. In terms of SANS 10139, such a system must be serviced at least every six months.
Further, Dennis highlights three advantages of fire alarm maintenance. Firstly, by scheduling routine maintenance, companies ensure that no laws are violated. “In terms of SABS10400-T, it is an offence not to maintain a system and/or equipment that is installed for the purpose of detecting, fighting, controlling and extinguishing a fire.”
A second advantage, he points out, is that periodic maintenance improves the reliability of the system, adding that reliability improves as the time between scheduled maintenance times is reduced.
Fire-detection maintenance also ensures that the fire alarm system remains compliant. “Many facilities are dynamic and, as changes are made, the fire maintenance team will notify the client of modifications that are required to be made on the system to ensure that its design is not compromised,” Dennis explains.
He adds that, without scheduled or managed maintenance, this is unlikely to happen, which could result in loss of life and damage to property.
Dennis asserts that there are two aspects to fire maintenance. Firstly, the user has a responsibility to conduct weekly and monthly inspections. He adds that clients are not experts on these matters and will not be aware of this responsibility unless their fire alarm contractor provides the necessary training.T
he second aspect is scheduled maintenance, which is conducted by the fire alarm contractor and is based on each client’s unique situation.
He explains that the maintenance schedule is governed by a comprehensive service-level agreement (SLA), which ensures that all routine services are carried out on time, thereby shifting the responsibility for mandatory fire maintenance from the client to the fire alarm contractor.
“For this reason, a well-written SLA is at the centre of fire alarm maintenance, as it creates visibility, accountability and peace of mind for all parties,” comments Dennis.
As the fire maintenance and facilities management industry matures, preventive maintenance is also moving towards predictive maintenance methods.
He explains that scheduled preventive maintenance is very important; however, he notes that, unfortunately, system degradation is gradual and, unless the system is benchmarked, the client and service provider have no easy or visible way of determining the level of degradation.
“Degradation starts with system faults or false alarms that gradually become more frequent over time. With our predictive maintenance offering, we benchmark the system uptime and have a clear measure of acceptable downtime, thus ensuring that the system’s performance is consistently optimised,” he concludes.