Posted May 3, 2017

What exactly is the useful life of a fire alarm? That’s a question we get asked quite often, so I thought it might be useful to provide some background information for our readers.

According to the FIA (Fire Industry Association), “BS 5839-1 does not define any fixed lifetime for the components of an FD&A system. This is because BS 5839-1 does not restrict the technology that is used and different technical solutions may produce a different life expectancy.”

In other words, the answer is “it depends”! There is no pre-determined lifetime for a fire alarm system as such, and factors such as location and hours of operation can affect useful life. It is the individual components of a fire alarm that need to be considered, rather than the entire systems.

A fire alarm is made up of a range of components, including:

• Control panel
• Cabling
• Smoke detectors
• Heat sensors
• Call points
• Strobes and sounders

There are many manufacturers for each of the components, each of whom will provide guides as to the expected life of their equipment. Sometimes, these manufacturers can stop producing or providing support for certain ranges. A recent example of this would be the EMS 5000 range, which has been streamlined for an “end of life” policy notification and should be considered for replacement in the up and coming years.

Just because a manufacturer recommends a useful life doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace that part (with the exception of carbon monoxide sensors). The main issue is system reliability. If faults become more frequent it may be worth considering replacing that particular part, but other than that there is no legal requirement to do so.

It is usually recommended that smoke alarms are replaced every 10 years, though again this depends on the manufacturer & the environment it serves. A carbon monoxide sensor is slightly different – they each come with an expiry date from the manufacturer.

One way in which you can ensure your fire alarm is still adequate and fit for use is to have it regularly maintained by a reputable fire alarm installer. The provider will check component parts when they service the system, and let you know about faults or discontinued products.

If you do find yourself in a position where your fire alarm is inadequate, it may be that it is not the entire system that needs replacing. It’s worth bearing in mind that where certain parts become obsolete, or where the fire alarm in particular parts of a building don’t comply with legislation, then it may be that just part of a system needs replacing. A fire alarm which has been installed for quite a while can sometimes be replaced piecemeal, making it more cost effective for the organisation.

Our recommendation at SS Systems is to have your system either maintained by a reputable provider (as per the above) or to have the fire alarm system reviewed. It is the legal responsibility of every organisation to adequately maintain their fire alarm systems so it’s crucial that you ensure the system is to standard.
If you have any doubt as to the adequacy of your fire alarm system and you would like a review, then please get in touch with us. You can email us via the link below or call us on 01709 362999.