What’s the difference between a fire alarm test and a fire alarm service? We get asked this a lot! In fact, we get asked a lot of questions about fire alarms. Luckily our team of local experts with decades of experienced can help.

We’ve been in business for forty years and have 20,000 customers. Our engineers service and test countless fire alarm systems. They are asked a lot of questions.

Here, our experts answer the questions everyone asks about fire alarms:

The number 1 question everyone asks about fire alarms is: Do I need a fire alarm?

It’s up to the responsible person to carry out a fire risk assessment of their premises and ensure that an appropriate fire detection system is in place. It is a legal requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment, and this will determine whether you need a fire alarm. We created this simple flow chart to answer this all too frequently asked question.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) says that:

Where necessary (whether due to the features of the premises, the activity carried on there, any hazard present or any other relevant circumstances) in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons, the responsible person must ensure that—

(a) the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms; and

(b) any non-automatic fire-fighting equipment so provided is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs.


Can anyone install a fire alarm system?

No. The RRO states that the responsible person should enlist a competent person to install their fire alarm. It is their responsibility to ensure the installer they select is “competent”. They can do this by ensuring they choose an installer who carries the necessary industry approvals, such as BAFE or FIA. BAFE encourages businesses to not only specify, but also verify, that the installer they select meets the approvals required.

What’s the difference between a fire alarm and a smoke alarm?

Smoke alarms are self contained individual devices, most commonly used in the family home. They sense smoke in the air and are triggered. The sensor and the alarm are within the same device. This is most likely the type you have at home.

A fire alarm system is made up of a number of devices that work together to warn the occupants of a building tht carbon monoxide, fire and smoke are present and to evacuate immediately. The alarm system will typically combine auditory and visual warnings to bring attention to the emergency. Fire alarms have a control panel and several devices which could include smoke detectors, heat detectors, beams, call points and sounders. These devices are connected together. The whole system can be activated by one device sensing smoke or heat. This are more suited to commercial environments and larger buildings where you may have lots of people in a building that need to be evacuated safely.

What types of fire alarms are there?

There are several types of fire alarm, including conventional fire alarms and addressable fire alarm systems.. Each is suited to a different type of building.

There are also fire alarm categories (or grades) which specify the protection type. The fire alarm system category is the responsibility of the interested parties, responsible person or a fire risk assessment. For example Category P is property protection. You can read in detail about each type of system and category on our dedicated fire alarm pages.

What’s the difference between a fire alarm test and a fire alarm service?

A fire alarm test is usually quite straight forward and can be carried out with training from a competent person. Fire alarm testing should be carried out weekly at a set time. This is often done by a nominated member of staff on site.

A fire alarm service, on the other hand, should be carried out by a competent person: This is usually someone who holds the correct industry level training and holds the skills required to carry out a full service of the fire alarm system.

During a service, a fire alarm engineer will check the detection, sounders, batteries and any other devices on your system to ensure compliance. Auxiliaries such as the back up battery must be in good condition too. Two services per year is the recommended minimum to comply with BS-5839. This is the British Standard giving guidelines for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire alarm and fire detection systems in non-domestic premises. You need a fire alarm service contract to comply with BS-5839. This is part of an obligation to complete a fire risk assessment of your premises, and the legal requirements your insurers require.

Do I really need to test my fire alarm?

Yes you do. It is a legal requirement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that the responsible person should ensure the fire alarm system is in “efficient working order and good repair”. This can be achieved through regular testing and routine maintenance. The British standard (BS5839) requires that fire alarms in commercial premises be tested weekly. This ensures there is no issues and that the system is working.

You should test your fire alarm once a week at a set time. Warn people inside the building that this is a regular test and that no evacuation is required. The elected fire officer for the building will be informed if the alarm is genuine.

How often do I need to perform a fire drill?

You must perform one fire drill per year to comply with UK law. You must also record the results of the drill to inform your fire safety and evacuation plan.

How do I stop my fire alarm bleeping?

If your fire alarm is lit up, flashing or beeping it’s telling you there is a problem. It will ikely show you on the panel which area or zone this is in. Our skilled team have undergone FIA training and have on the job experience to ensure we can not only carry out routine servicing but also repair fire alarms which are faulty. We offer fault finding and repair on fire alarm systems, as well as annual service contracts. We also offer service packages which include technical support. This gives our customers access to our trained experienced team who are able to answer your questions about fire alarms. Find out more by calling us on 01535 661197.