A facility manager's job encompasses looking after not just the building, but its occupants as well. An updated and properly functioning fire protection system is an integral part of looking out for the health and well-being of the facility and its tenants. But fire protection isn't a fire-and-forget affair. Even after installation, there are important steps that you should take regularly to ensure everything works properly if things ever heat up.
Testing is crucial
Pop quiz: When was the last time you had your fire alarm system tested? Surprisingly, this crucial bit of preventative maintenance can often fall by the wayside. But testing your facility's fire alarm should become a regular part of your building maintenance procedure. Routine testing can help you identify alarms that are malfunctioning or not hooked up to the rest of your building automation system, sprinklers that have been painted over or rusted or other instances of equipment not working as it should.
In fact, even if your alarm system is new, testing after installation can be a valuable process and may help you uncover a variety of potential glitches, errors and other unexpected problems that can compromise the function of the system and, by extension, building safety. FacilitiesNet reported several benefits of early testing for alarm systems. It can help detect and fix installation errors, make sure the system is operating at peak efficiency in order to conserve energy and help cut down on false alarms, which can be costly.
Know how to get out
Making sure your alarm system is functioning properly is key, but it's also only the first step in the process. You also need to ensure the alarm signals communicate the correct information to the relevant parties to facilitate the evacuation.
Publication FMLink expressed the need for what is referred to as a mass notification system, especially for facilities that are larger, multi-floored or occupied by high numbers of people. Separate from the actual initial alarm system, mass notification is responsible for guiding people out of the building in an evacuation. This can take several forms, such as lighted beacons and signs, but voice instructions are recommended by FMLink as one of the most effective methods.
"Research has proven that in an emergency people will react without confusion or panic if they receive a clear, intelligible message," Eaton's Fire Business Systems senior applications engineer Jim Spowart told the source.