During the MCFP Virtual Conference series, expert Lee Kaiser, covers how to conduct a manual fire alarm detection test. In the video below, watch as Lee dives in-depth on how to conduct the test and some of common issues he comes across.
Another device that we use to initiate a fire alarm in a building is a manual fire alarm box or a pull station. A fire alarm pull station requires a semi-annual inspection looking at location and mounting. Is it securely mounted? Is it not obstructed? Like this picture we like to use for teaching this, we found this on site, someone pushed a dorm-sized refrigerator up against the wall, which blocked access to the pole station. That would be a failure condition of that device. Is it physically damaged?
We're going to talk a lot about suppression systems and each one of those is going to have a means to manually activate the system. When we use a pull station associated with an extinguishing system we need to look if it is readily accessible, is it accurately identified. It is labeled to tell you what the function it will cause when you pull that device and then is it protected to prevent damage. We don't want those suppression systems to have the pole stations damaged and to cause an accidental activation of the system.
The intent of the test is to actually pull the lever because that's how the device would be used during a fire. Someone would go to the device and pull it. The cheat for a pull station is someone uses a key on the face of the switch and opens that casing and then uses the toggle switch. That's how we would reset a device after it has been activated, but we don't want to open the device up for testing because the intent is to actually pull the lever. That's for two reasons.
First off, we want to make sure that the lever works. We've seen devices where the handle is glued back in place after somebody, pulled the device. I've recently seen a picture of a handle taped in place. They put a little packing tape over the front of it. Who wouldn't catch that?
The other thing is that we want to make sure it's securely mounted. So, during a fire, if we see flames or smell smoke, and our adrenaline kicks up a little bit, and we have a little bit more strength than we normally would have. We want to make sure that when we go to pull the device, that no one gets hurt when they pull it and that it doesn't fall off the wall. This is why we actually pull the lever. Again, opening with a key switch to operate the little toggle switch inside is not a sufficient test.