The next time you step into your building, I want you to step to the side and take a few seconds to look up at your ceiling, and next to the doors. Take note of the smoke detectors, pull stations, and the red panel that is behind the receptionists desk. Then walk down the hallway and continue scanning for anything on the ceiling that looks like a strobe, horn strobe, and more pull stations at the exits. Finally walk to your electrical room or sprinkler room and you will likely find your Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP).
When you take the key and open the panel you will find the installation date, inspection date, and any repairs that have been performed; notated and placed on the inside of the door. This is a great place to begin your search for who to call if your system is malfunctioning. The installation companies name will be on the top of the installation sticker. They likely have an inspection and service division that can repair your system.
Now that you have opened your panel, you should take note of a few things immediately. First, does the panel show system normal or something to that end? Second, does the panel have a sticker in it showing that it has received its annual inspection this year? Third, take note of the two batteries at the base of the FACP; these batteries should have the month and year of their installation written on them so that you will know when they should be replaced.
HERE ARE SOME COMMON FAULTS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
1. GROUND FAULT – This means that an electrical component is making contact with something that it should not making contact with.
2. LOW BATTERY – This means that your batteries are low, and likely need to be replaced.
3. DIGITAL ALARM COMMUNICATOR TRANSMITTER (DACT) FAULT – These have the ability to dial out or send a digitized message to a central station who will relay the message to a fire station or notify designated personnel in regard to a trouble in your system. This being a trouble means that your fire alarm system is not communicating properly.
4. PANEL BEEPING AND YOU DON’T CARE WHY!!! – This is where prior planning comes in very handy. Call your fire alarm inspection and service company, have them send a technician to your building as soon as possible, they will fix the system for you.
Your fire alarm system has inputs and outputs. Smoke detectors, heat detectors, and beam detectors are common inputs. Strobes and horn strobes are common outputs. When an input detects something that will put it into alarm, such as fire, smoke, or heat, a signal is sent to the FACP. This signal will then be used to send the notification devices into alarm. Meanwhile, if your system is going into alarm, your DACT will be dialing out to the monitoring station who will then notify the appropriate personnel.
If you want specific information about your fire alarm system you can usually download the user manual after looking at your FACP to find out what type of system you have. You can also request owner training from your fire alarm service company.