Contractor Tips Blog


Fire Alarm Inspections

Almost all commercial properties and many residential properties have a fire alarm system, which detect fire through a variety of strategically mounted heat and smoke detectors, pull stations, as well as the building’s sprinkler system.   In the event that a fire is detected, the alarm system notifies a central call station, which in turn notifies the nearest fire department, which will dispatch the fire department.  The fire alarm system will also trigger a variety of audio and visual alarms within the structure, notifying occupants of the fire.  In many buildings there is a central panel in the lobby of the building, which tells responding fire fighters the area or zone that the fire is in.  

The components of a modern fire alarm system are very complex and sophisticated and periodic inspection of the entire system is required under the provisions of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which has been adopted by local jurisdictions responsible for enforcing building codes.  In most jurisdictions, the local Fire Marshall will require that evidence of this yearly inspection be provided as a condition of continued occupancy of the building.  

The qualified technicians completing the inspection will test all components of the system to make sure that they are in proper working order.  In addition, they will verify that the system is communicating with the central call station either by a hard-wired phone line or wirelessly, depending upon the system being used.  In the event that any issues are discovered, they will be able to be immediately resolved no matter what type of system is being used.  Yearly fire alarm inspections are not only required by law, but they are critical to keeping the occupants of any commercial or residential structure safe!

Posted on behalf of Callaway Security


Ionization vs. Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

Smoke detection devices are one of the most common technologies used in fire protection. They are a common sight in apartment complexes, houses, and places of business, but exactly how do they work? Smoke detectors rely on one of two processes: ionization smoke detection or photoelectric smoke detection.  The two technologies have different operating features and provide different advantages. For maximum fire protection, it is best to have both types of systems installed.

1)      Ionization smoke detectors

Ionization smoke detectors work through the action of an ionization chamber. The ionization chamber consists of two metal plates with about a centimer’s space between them and a minute amount of radioactive material between the two plates. An electric current running through the plates causes the radioactive material to ionize the air in the chamber. When smoke enters the chamber, it interrupts the stream of ions flowing between the two plates, decreasing the electrical charge of the plates, which is what ultimately sets off the alarm.

Ionization smoke detectors respond better to flaming fires, i.e., fires that begin with flames and have a fast-growing smoke layer where the smoke builds up close to the ceiling.  For this reason, ionization smoke detectors are best suited for interiors containing highly flammable materials and substances (e.g. cooking oil, gasoline, paper, cotton fabrics etc.) that quickly burst into flames.

2)      Photoelectric smoke detectors

Photoelectric smoke detectors work through the action of a light-sensing mechanism.  The detector’s sensing chamber contains a LED light and a light-sensitive device called a photocell or photodiode. When smoke enters the path of the light beam, it scatters the light particles, so that some of the light is deflected toward the photocell. When light strikes the photocell it becomes electrically charged, which is what activates the alarm.

Photoelectric smoke detectors respond better to smoldering fires, i.e., fires that start with a long period of smoldering and where the some layer grows slowly and accumulates closer to the floor. These types of detectors are best suited to rooms with a lot of slow-burning materials (e.g. countertops, mattresses, wooden furniture, upholstery etc.) that produce more smoke than flames.


Fire Alarm Inspections: What to Expect

Fire alarm inspections are routine checks of the fire alarm system in a commercial or residential property. They are performed by qualified personnel from a fire protection company and are done to verify that alarm systems are still functioning properly. Fire alarm inspections involve a visual examination of the system, a series of system tests, and system maintenance if required. If you are having the fire alarm system in your home or place of business inspected, here’s what you can expect.

1)      You will be asked to notify everyone on the premises that a fire inspection will be taking place at a specified time. This is necessary since the alarm will go off during the inspection. The inspection company will also give the monitoring/dispatch center notice about the inspection so that no fire trucks are sent to the premises when the alarm goes off.

2)      The alarm technician will visually inspect the batteries, panel, wires, charging circuit, and modules.

3)       The technician will perform a series of tests to make sure that different components of the alarm system are working properly. All of the signal devices (the main alarm, horns, bells, chimes, strobes) will be triggered for a few minutes and the technician will go to each one to verify that it is working (known as location checks). The water flow switch, which regulates the flow of water through the sprinkler pipes, is also set off to verify functionality. The smoke and heat detectors are tested, as well as the battery-charging circuit.

4)      The alarm technician will call the dispatch center to verify that all signals sent during the tests were received.

5)      Any required system repairs or upgrades will be performed or recorded for servicing in the near future.

6)      Paperwork will be filled out and a green tag with information such as the inspection date and the fire protection contractor’s name will be attached to the panel. The green tag signifies that the alarm system has been inspected and deemed completely sound and functional by a licensed inspector. If the system has been found to be functional with a minor deficiency, then a yellow tag is affixed. A system that is non-operational is given a red tag, while a system that has been serviced is given a white tag.


Test Your Fire Alarms Regularly

Fire and smoke alarms are one of the most important tools in keeping you safe and secure in your work environment. In fact, it’s been shown that a working fire alarm could prevent many of the 3,500 deaths suffered by Americans who are killed by fire or smoke inhalation every year.

Here are six great reasons that you should have your fire alarms inspected and tested regularly:

  1. In order to meet the requirements of your local fire inspectors, or local building department or possibly your insurance provider
  2. People’s lives are on the line, a fire alarm can only save lives if it’s working and many faults aren’t obviously apparent without testing
  3. To reduce or limit your possible liabilities to others including but not limited to employees, tenants and guests
  4. It’s possible that your insurance provider won’t pay out on your policy unless you can prove your fire alarms were tested recently and were found to be working properly
  5. So that you don’t cause work unnecessarily for your local fire department, who don’t need to be called out to a false alarm and don’t forget when this happens it diverts resources away from others who may really need help
  6. And importantly for business owners it’s the law – and that means it’s required by the National Fire Alarm Code in section NFPA72

So don’t let your home or business become a fire risk when you can have a qualified fire alarm inspection and testing professional visit and make sure all your equipment is in top working condition.



Home Fire Prevention

Did you know that every year more than 3,500 Americans die and another 18,000 are injured in fires in their homes? That’s according to FEMA, and those fires cause an estimated $7.3 billion dollars worth of damage to homes and valuables too.

While insurance may cover the costs of replacing lost items, nothing may be able to bring back objects of great sentimental value like photographs of your children in their early years, or your wedding dress from the closet where it hangs as a reminder of one of the happiest days of your life.

One of the most important things to consider is that a fire can become life threatening in just two minutes from the moment that something in your home bursts into flame. You and your family deserve the best possible protection against this very real hazard.

The good news is that help is at hand. Heat and smoke detectors are available that keep an eye on your whole house so that you can be sure your loved ones will be safe. Not only do these systems work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year monitoring every part of your home for unusually high temperatures or smoke, but as soon as they detect anything unusual they will not only sound an alarm in your home but also send an alarm to a monitoring company.

For the best protection against fire for you and your family, chose a reliable alarm monitoring service that is approved by Underwriter’s Laboratories.  Ask if the monitoring is handled locally or off-site.  A local monitoring station can usually provide better and more reliable service in an emergency than one located hundreds or thousands of miles away.


Fire Alarm Inspections

Once you have made the investment in a fire alarm system for your home, office, or commercial building, it is important to have the fire alarm system inspected frequently.  No matter how great the fire alarm system is, it will not do any good if it does not work.  Seconds make a big difference in the event of a fire.   In an emergency, you need to be able to count on your fire alarm system working properly.  In addition, depending on your situation, an inspection may be required by your local building codes, fire department, or your insurance company.

The best way to make sure your fire alarm is in top working order is to have it inspected regularly.  Atlanta fire alarm inspections are best performed by a local professional fire alarm company. The National Fire Protection Association sets the national standards for testing and inspection of fire alarms.  A professional fire alarm inspector will be familiar with these standards and will make sure your system is in compliance with local codes and national fire alarm standards. 

There are several different brands of fire alarm system so be sure your fire alarm inspector is familiar with your system.  You can expect the inspection to cover your alarm system as well as compliance with other local and national fire codes and standards.  The inspector will not only be able to determine if your fire alarm system is in need of service or repairs, but also whether any other fire safety issues are noted. 

Regular fire alarm inspections are not only required by law, but they provide peace of mind and can save lives in the event of an emergency.

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