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Does it matter who services your fire safety systems?

Let’s face it, fire safety systems, especially fire alarm or fire detection systems, are pretty boring. They just sit there for years, doing nothing. Or even worse, being a nuisance with disruptive false alarms. So when it comes to deciding who should be servicing these systems, it’s not quite as exciting as say, buying a new car or a computer.

The problem with fire safety systems though, is that when they are needed, if you are unfortunate enough to experience an emergency situation, then they need to function perfectly, without hesitation, no matter how many years they have been sitting quietly there in the background.  That’s why it’s important that all fire safety systems are correctly maintained.

Although there are plenty of standards that define what and how servicing should be carried out, surprisingly there is no legislation that specifically makes such servicing compulsory, and neither is there any legislation that makes it compulsory that the persons and organisations carrying out such maintenance hold particular qualifications. In theory, anyone can service your fire alarm system!

However, there is a single piece of legislation that is very relevant! The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005. This replaced a great deal of previous fire safety legislation and as far as any non domestic premises are concerned and dictates that fire risk in all such premises must be properly managed. In addition, it firmly placed the responsibility for implementing fire safety with a building on the owners and / or occupiers of a building. In particular, it created the concept of the “responsible person” being a person that has a degree of control over a building or part of a building. Determining how to “manage the fire risk” within premises is carried out by means of risk assessments. It is compulsory to carry out a fire safety risk assessment for any non  domestic premises that demonstrates that all potential fire risks have, as far as is practical, been considered and addressed.

So how does this impact on any decision as to how your fire safety systems are services and maintained? Well simply, your risk assessment will determine that certain fire safety systems are required within you premises. Precisely what systems are needed will depend on the nature and size of the premises. This article assumes that these decisions were made a while back, and all required systems are installed and operational. Your risk assessment will then certainly conclude that, to ensure reliable future operation of your systems then these systems need to be correctly maintained. But what does ”correctly maintained” mean and how do you ensure that this is achieved?

Fortunately help is at hand. There are a variety of British Standards covering the wide range of fire safety systems, from fire detection and alarm systems, emergency lighting systems, portable fire extinguishers and more, that state quite clearly what maintenance operations are required and that these operations should be carried out by a competent person and / or organisation.

So, we have determined that, to be able to demonstrate you are complying with the requirements of the Regulatory Reform Order, all of your fire safety systems must be maintained by a “competent” person in accordance with applicable British Standards. But what is a competent person, and how can you be certain that the person or organisation you appoint is competent?

The answer to that question may be more complex than immediately meets the eye. Personnel carrying out work on your fire safety systems must be adequately trained. The organisation they work for must ensure that training is correctly managed. Such personnel must be fully familiar with the requirements of the applicable Standards and the organisation must possess the resources to deal with any eventuality. Above all, the organisation must manage the whole process in such a way that you, the responsible person, are confident that your responsibilities are being adequately met. If you are left feeling “Hmm, am I confident everything is covered?” then maybe you need to find a service organisation that does, in fact, give you that peace of mind.

Of course, there are always economic factors to consider. We want to be covered, but like all other aspects of our business, we want the best possible value for money. In the fire safety business, yes it is definitely possible to seek and find great value for money. But you need to be careful not to cut corners, or that reassurance and peace of mind may be compromised!

On one hand many businesses simply rely on the original installers of their systems for ongoing maintenance as this is the default scenario. But without active competition, this may not represent the best value. On the other, you may save money by having your emergency lighting system serviced by your in house or local electrician. Yes, emergency lighting is an electrical system so you can argue that your electrician is competent. But is a general purpose electrician or electrical contractor likely to be fully familiar with BS5266? Well, you should at least ask the question!

So, who else should you consider? Well, there are many, many contractors that specialise in fire safety systems. When considering various contractors, price is easy to determine, but competence? How do you know?

Again, help is at hand. Although 3rd party approval for contractors is not a legal requirement in the UK, the industry does have a very strong industry association in the FIA and an established 3rd party accreditation process. Incorporating ISO9001 quality assurance schemes, but going MUCH further, approval schemes such as BAFE ensure the competency of approved contractors and require regular inspections of the contractors themselves and the quality of their work. So these accreditations go a long way to satisfactorily answering the question, “Are my fire safety systems being maintained by a competent organisation?”

So, in summary. You must have all or your fire safety systems and equipment properly serviced in accordance with the relevant Standards. This servicing must be carried out by a competent organisation that you can trust, and this is best assured by their membership of the FIA and possession of BAFE 3rd party accreditation. You want expertise you can rely on in any eventuality. You want great value for money, and also top quality customer service. After all, this process should be made as easy as possible for you!

If you are thinking “Hmm, now where can I find a company that provides all that?”, then maybe you don’t need to look too far…. 


Whatever your fire safety systems requirement, Chameleon Systems are the perfect company to fulfill it.
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