When new customers contact us about setting up their contracts, we frequently get asked a few common questions. If you have just taken over management of a new building and are unsure about where to start with your fire safety systems maintenance schedule, this blog may have some of the answers you are looking for. For anything else you are still unsure of, contact one of our friendly and professional servicing specialists or use our ‘What’s on my roof’ uploader tool to identify what systems you have.
1. How often do smoke vent systems need to be serviced?
All smoke ventilation and extraction systems need to be serviced a minimum of once a year to meet the requirements of the RRO (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, article 17) and BS: 7346-8.
Smoke control systems are mostly installed for the protection of life safety and fire fighter access in an emergency, they should be maintained in full working order at all material times – this is a requirement of the RRO (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) and BS: 7346-8.
Smoke control systems should be tested weekly and the schedule of maintenance referred to in BS 7346-8 is annually. If the system is found to be non-functioning during routine testing, or has become damaged, then the maintenance requirement is immediate.
If the system performance is reduced or compromised in any way and cannot be repaired immediately, a risk assessment should be carried out by the Responsible Person to determine if any additional measures should be put in place until full performance is restored.
2. I’ve heard the term “responsible person/s” when it comes to maintaining a building’s fire safety systems. Who is classed as a “responsible person”?
You’re responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you’re:
- an employer
- the owner
- the landlord
- an occupier
- anyone else with control of the premises, for example a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor
If there is more than one responsible person for the building you manage, you must work together to meet your responsibilities collectively.
3. Can people go to prison if there is a failure in a Life Safety system that either wasn’t serviced or wasn’t maintained well enough?
The short answer here is “yes”. If there is a clear failure of the system in a fire and this was down to incorrect or no maintenance, then you could face heavy fines or even imprisonment depending on the results of the fire. To avoid the possibility of this happening, we strongly advise that you get a professional opinion on your smoke control system maintenance from an accredited provider such as Colt.
4. How do I know if I have a smoke vent system or an AOV in my building that might need maintaining?
Generally, in residential blocks you will have a smoke control system in the form of a louvred ventilator at the top of a flight of stairs, which will look something like the image on the right.
In addition, you may have doors on each floor which only open when the fire alarm is operated, which will be a good indication that a system has been installed. They may have a legend badge on the front that looks something like the image on the left.
Another good tell-tale is either a yellow or orange break glass around the ground floor, which looks similar to the image on the right.
5. What is an AOV?
You may hear or see your fire security or smoke control maintenance company mentioning “AOV’s” quite frequently. “AOV” refers to “Automatic Opening Vent”, which is exactly what it sounds like – a smoke or fire vent that will open and close automatically when triggered by the control system. These can typically be activated by a smoke or heat detector, either directly or from a smoke detection system or possibly a fire alarm system, so they will open in the event of smoke and/or heat being detected.
AOVs can come in the form of a magnet release window or louvred vent, or a motorised window or vent and could look similar to the images below.
6. I have a fire alarm company that does some tests on my fire safety systems. Is getting the smoke control system tested by the fire alarm company the same thing as a maintenance visit?
No, Fire Alarm companies generally carry out functionality testing only to check that the system is working – this should actually be carried out weekly- You must also have a full, yearly smoke control system maintenance visit from a specialist where your system will be fully serviced to consider the Cause & Effect, check correct airflows, opening and closing times, charge rates, motor resistance levels, water tightness etc.
Opening and closing a smoke ventilator only on a test (as fire alarm companies will do) is not a service. A fire alarm company will not be qualified or equipped to carry out a comprehensive and legally sound smoke control system maintenance check. If you have been following this approach, we suggest you contact Colt for a free consultation and site visit to double check you are not at risk of your smoke control system failing in the event of a fire.
7. Can water come into the building through a smoke vent?
If a smoke vent is not closing tightly as it should because of a problem with the controls or there is debris on the louvre blade left by birds or the wind, then water can drip in and onto the floors below. This would have to be corrected by a maintenance visit to ensure your systems are operating properly.
We hope that the above questions and answers have managed to help you with some of the more basic maintenance-related knowledge you may have, but please contact us with any other queries or if you would like us to help you set up a service contract – our knowledgeable team is always happy to help.