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Testing Your Fire Alarm

Fire alarms are devices that some people take for granted. We know how to use them but not necessarily how they work. Fire alarms are designed to help you stay safe at home, but how do you know whether they're working as intended or not? This article aims to teach you the ins and outs of fire alarm testing.

Test fire alarms are used to test the activation of a fire alarm system. These tests can be conducted on-site or off-site.

Off-site test

An off-site test is performed at a location other than where the system will be installed. This may be required if the system is too large to install in one place or if it cannot be installed in a specific location due to site constraints (e.g., terrain).

On-site test

An on-site test is conducted in a building that has been designed for an alarm system. The building may have been built before an alarm system was installed, or it may be an existing building undergoing renovations and modifications such as adding smoke detectors or fire sprinklers.

Why Is It Necessary To Test A Fire Alarm?

It is necessary to test the fire alarm before you have a fire to ensure it is working correctly. You can test fire alarms anytime, but it is better to do it when you first buy the device. You will have more time to test it and fix any problems that may arise during testing.

Test fire alarms before you enter your home or office. If you find a problem with your smoke detector, call the fire department on the phone and tell them where they should go to respond. This is important as the fire department might not know where to go when they arrive at the scene of an emergency.

Say a family member comes to your home and notices a smoke detector that isn't working correctly. If that happens, they may try to turn it off or take it apart to see how it works so that they can fix it themselves instead of having an electrician or technician come out and charge hundreds of dollars to fix it.

Methods Of Testing Fire Alarms

Fire alarms can be tested using a variety of methods, including those listed below:

Visual inspection

Test the visual indicators, such as lights, strobes, and bells, by examining them with a flashlight.

Non-visual inspection

Test non-visual indicators such as smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. Use an electrical tester or an ohmmeter to see if you have power or test for continuity by touching the probes together.

Your sprinkler valve is not installed correctly if you have no power, or there is a break in the wiring at some stage between where it enters the building and where it reaches its destination outside. See our guide to testing smoke detectors for more information about this type of test.

Audio/visual inspection

Test audio and visual indicators by listening for unusual sounds, watching for their flashes and patterns on a digital display, or using a digital meter.

Steps To Test A Fire Alarm

Step One: Figure out where the tester is located

The first step in testing a fire alarm is to find out where it is located. To achieve this, simply utilise a smoke detector, which will tell you the position of your fire alarm. Smoke detectors typically have a broad base, so they can be placed in different locations without compromising functionality.

Use a handheld tester or test strips if you don't have access to smoke detectors. These devices are not very accurate, but they work in most cases. Turn off all mains power at the circuit breaker box and then remove all electrical fixtures from the area that needs testing. This ensures that no power sources nearby could interfere with your test results.

Hold the probe directly over the location of your fire alarm for about two seconds before releasing it and waiting for it to vibrate once again. If the device does not vibrate when hit with force, there may be an issue with its circuitry or wiring that needs attention before performing further tests.

Step Two: Test your fire alarm batteries

Test your fire alarm battery and check its voltage. If the alarm isn't working, you may not be able to see a very low battery voltage on the DC voltmeter. Use a test light with its red lead connected to the battery's positive (+) terminal and its black lead connected to the ground (the metal chassis) if it's not very low.

Make sure you use an analogue meter, not a digital one. Digital meters do not show voltage in millivolts (mV). Alternatively, connect a voltmeter that can measure millivolts (mV) between your fire alarm battery and the ground. The meter should indicate at least 12 volts AC at all times regardless of whether or not the alarm is activated.

Test your fire alarm by connecting an analogue meter between your fire alarm battery terminal and the ground if you don't have a voltmeter that can measure millivolts.

Step Three: Check the alarm is connected to its power source

Testing a fire alarm is a reasonably simple procedure. Connect your fire alarm to a power source and turn it on to see if it works properly. It won't be too difficult to test the fire alarm if you follow these steps:

  • Check the electrical wiring of your fire alarm system. Faults in the wiring can affect how your fire alarm works. Remove any coverings or parts of your system so you can see what's under them.
  • Try testing it by turning on your fire alarm system and checking if it works as expected and if there are no problems with your wiring. There may be an issue with something else in your home if it doesn't work as expected, such as a switch or fuse box.

Step Four: Clean the fire alarm

Test your fire alarm every six months. If your device is a smoke or heat detector, remove it from its mount and clean off accumulated dust or residue. Check for loose connections at the following points:

  • Seals on smoke and heat detectors must be tight so that no air can get in them when mounted on ceilings or walls. Make sure they are not leaking air by holding them in place by hand while you seal them with tape or caulk.
  • Mounting screws must be tight and threaded tightly into drywall before you fasten them to your ceiling or wall. This ensures no air can enter the unit's mounting holes when mounted in place. Turn your mounting screw clockwise while tightening it with pliers if they seem loose. If this doesn't work, replace them with new ones suitable for drywall (not wood).

Safety Precautions When Testing A Fire Alarm

Place the alarm where it cannot be disturbed

Always test your fire alarm in an area where it will not be touched. For example, if you can test the alarm in your living room, it is not necessary to test it in a small bathroom. Gather all fire safety equipment required for a live test when testing a fire alarm.

This includes rubber gloves, goggles, and a respirator mask. In addition, make sure that you have enough water on hand to put out any fires that may occur during testing. Use water from an extinguisher or hose (not salt water) to immediately extinguish the flames if a fire occurs.

Wear safety glasses and gloves

You should wear the correct safety glasses to protect your eyes from any debris that may fly from the device when activated. If the device is connected to a power source, gloves should also be worn as this will help prevent burns from electrical shock.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Ensure you have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it in case there is a home fire. Turn off the main power using the on/off button and unplug the battery from your smoke detector(s). If there is a backup battery, remove it as well.

Unplug all electrical appliances in the area where you will be testing your smoke detector. Test by using an electric drill with an insulated handle to shake or tap the unit if there are no batteries. This will wake up any units with a low battery.

Follow these steps to test your fire alarm system:

  • Identify the type of system you have.
  • Test each component individually, if necessary.
  • Test each component in its designated location, if necessary.
  • Test all components together if your local building code requirements or inspection authority guidelines are required.

Don't cover the smoke detector while testing

Don't cover a smoke detector when you test it. Smoke detectors are very sensitive and will not work if they sense heat or smoke near them.

Hook up the smoke detector to an alarm system instead if you don't want the batteries dying during testing. It will sound an alarm when there's a fire, but it won't silence the alarm until after the fire has been put out.

You may need a line cord to plug into your smoke detector if you have an older home with no electrical wiring. The line cord needs to be at least 18 inches (45.7 cm) long and have a plug that fits into your existing electrical outlet (the same type of outlet as your smoke detector).

Replace malfunctioning alarms

Replace a malfunctioning smoke alarm immediately. If you don't, the alarm will sound, and your home will be filled with toxic smoke. All smoke alarms should have a test button on the back of the unit that can be used to check for battery power and replace the batteries if necessary.

This button also has an audible tone that lets you hear whether the alarm is working. Test your smoke alarms monthly and change them when they are no longer working correctly. Keep your alarms from going off unnecessarily, remove any expired batteries from the unit, and clean all parts thoroughly before replacing them.

You should also replace any batteries that are not working correctly so they don't give off false alarms. Testing your fire alarm is a great way to ensure you have a working system. If you're unsure whether the alarm is working, one way to check is by manually testing it yourself. Another option is to call a professional to test the alarm for you.

How Often Should You Test Your Fire Alarm

As recommended by the fire protection association in Australia, you or a professional should test all fire alarms at least once every month. You can test the alarm by pulling out the battery or simply removing the cover and testing the alarm with a screwdriver. This is the same as a smoke detector, whose battery needs replacing yearly.

The testing process involves pulling the battery out of the fire alarm and pressing the test button. The alarm will then sound if its system has a fault. Testing should also be done if you hear a loud buzzing noise from your smoke alarms or when you pull on their cords, even after installing new batteries.

Get A Professional To Test Your Alarm

It's not recommended that you test your fire alarm system yourself. The best option is to hire a professional to come out and test it for you. They'll be able to conduct the test within minutes and give you peace of mind that everything is functioning correctly.

Electrical Licence NSW 252436C / QLD 78559
Air Cond & Refrigeration AU52000
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