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Fire alarm testing - small residential block


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Hello, may I please have some advice on the obligations and frequency of fire alarm testing within the communal areas of a small block of flats. Block was built 1860s, completely renovated 2 years ago with a new mixed grade fire alarm system professionally designed and installed. The building is purely residential. There are fours stories, one flat per floor plus lower ground floor flat with separate entrance. System category is Grade A L3/M in the communal hall - manual call points on each floor in the communal hallway and in the lower ground floor flat hallway. The four other flats have Grade D LD3 system. There are regular 6 monthly service inspections done and logged by a professional company. What does the law / regulations say about frequency of testing of the fire alarms? I find the information on this extremely unclear in so far as what is applicable to commercial premises and purely residential ones. The Summary of the BS 5839-1:2017 which I read refers to weekly tests, but this piece of regulations specifies it's for "non-domestic premises".

I've been told weekly inspections are necessary, then monthly by a different person. To be honest, I have literally never heard of a block of flats where audible fire system checks are done weekly or even monthly. Could you please provide some definitive information and also distinguish what is actually a legal requirement, vs recommendation, vs (perhaps) acceptable practice?

Thank you!

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The testing requirements for a domestic grade system are in BS5839-6 which requires weekly testing of devices regardless of the grade.

Think about it - sleeping risk is high risk and most fire deaths are in the home - why on earth would it be acceptable to have a lower maintenance standard than in lower risk commercial premises?

If it actually needs the alarm it should be maintained appropriately.

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Thank your Anthony for the regulation reference.

I still don’t see any mention of weekly testing being obligatory. The testing within the dwellings themselves  is up to the occupiers. What I’m asking about is testing of the communal area. I completely understand systems need to be tested, I’m questioning the need for these tests to be as frequent as weekly. As I was told monthly by one fire inspector, I wanted to know whether these were merely recommendations. You’d think that occupiers would be happy about safety measures, but in actual fact there are only complaints about noise and disturbance! So knowing exactly what is required could help one find a happy medium. 

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Very little is set in stone and ultimately the courts would decide in individual cases. The prosecution would reference the benchmarks in BS5839 and in defence you would have to justify why an alternative approach is still safe.

Sainsbury only test fire alarms monthly - but to justify this they went through years of detailed weekly test records, fault reports and engineer service visits for their stores and were able to demonstrate that the majority of fire alarm faults were discovered and escalated after either the daily visual check of the panel by the store duty manager or the 3/6 monthly service engineer visit as oppose to the weekly test.

This is an example of how you can use the flexibility of the current legislative approach - but you can't just pluck a different regime out of thin air, it must be justifiable.

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  • 3 years later...
Guest Stephan



Hi there
I would be very interested in starting a business as Fire Alarm Tester and was wandering if you could assist with some advise:
Qualification required to carrying out fire checks in commercial and residential businesses (I will e only me working as self-employed)
Registration to any particular body
Insurances required
Potential earnings for each test
Anything else needed?
Thank you.
Best regards,
Stefano Argiolas


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  • 2 weeks later...

Not ignoring you, this forum has got very slow lately.?




Would you pay someone to come into your house once a week to press the test button on your smoke alarm?

You would also have to find enough people to let you do it to make it viable.

Domestic is a non starter.



Similar to domestic, but with a twist.  To comply with regulations it must be tested by a competent person, are you competent?

Unlike domestic premises, there are commercial premises that do have an outside company test the fire alarm every week on the same day, but I would point out those that have it done, already have a company doing it.



You would need your own:

Transport, test equipment, insurances, paperwork to prove you have visited site, knowledge of a variety of fire alarms, (What will you do when you find one device that does not work?) cover for when you are not available, credibility, invoicing procedure etc.



Go and work for a fire alarm company, such a job as you seek does exist.

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Metro Safety have been doing this for nearly 30 years and were the first organisation to have it as a key offering. Their testing staff usually did weekly fire alarm tests, monthly emergency lighting testing & fire drills with more complex services such as servicing and repair sub contracted out in their early days.

It's a long time since I had their prices, but they weren't cheap!




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  • 11 months later...
Guest Stoic Warrior

Reading the regs is a bit confusing for residents of a small apartment building ... we are 7 flats, 3 each over two floors with a single penthouse apartment on top and a garage for cars below. We were a new build in 2014, From flat ground to roofline of penthouse, our building measures 10.7 meters high. Are we subject to the weekly test and logbook requirement of the communal alarm?

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Yes - but as a new build in 2014 I'd question why you have a common alarm in the first place. Building Regulations both then & now didn't/don't require them, just smoke detectors connected to smoke vents.

A lot of people think under 11m means no obligations which couldn't be further from the truth - the Fire Safety (England) Regulations only provided additional & prescriptive requirements over and above the many pre existing requirements on testing, maintenance, risk assessment and fire precautions. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Mrs T

Can anyone help. Have a studio flat in a house conversion made into 6 separate flats. Basically a large detached 2 storey property made into 5 flats & a separate flat at the back with its own entrance.

Property management company want to charge for a weekly smoke alarm test. I know legislation has changed since Grenfell, but is it necessary for

1) a smoke alarm to be tested weekly for a hallway with stairs & each of the 5 flats has a self closing fire doors?

2) could the smoke alarm be tested by one of the occupants of the flat or does it need specialist training? 




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It depends what type of fire alarm system is in the common areas - if it's a Grade A system (i.e. looks like the ones you see in offices, shops, etc with a central control panel & manual call points, detectors, sounders) then it should be tested weekly. If it's a Grade D system where there are just domestic detectors like you have in your flat then the testing requirement is only monthly.

In either case the tests are 'user' tests that can readily be done by anyone with simple instruction - particularly Grade D where you just push the test buttons (just like you should do with your own!)

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Stoic Warrior

Thanks Anthony, for your prior response. We certainly agree that periodic testing of our C-Tec CFP series alarm is good and necessary. Our question is the necessity of weekly, versus monthly or other "periodic" testing for our small, recently constructed building. The fire safety inspection we recently paid for found everything fine and up to spec, and stated that testing was "recommended". However, our management company (we are a leasehold property with a strident landlord) is saying that weekly testing and logbook entries are "mandatory". We are concerned that they are trying to sell us a rather pricey (and possibly unnecessary) extra service to undertake this, all under penalty of law and significant fines if we do not. Even agreeing to do it ourselves as "competent persons", weekly testing and logbook maintenance seems overkill. Your thoughts?

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The government provides fire safety guidance which has a special legal status. If a prosecution or other legal action is taken and you have proof of compliance with the applicable risk based guidance it may be relied on as tending to establish that there was no such contravention (i.e. not guilty/no case to answer).

However proof of a failure to comply with any applicable risk based guidance may be relied on as tending to establish that there was such a contravention (i.e. guilty/case worthy of progression). Thus you need a very robust expert technical defence as to why the guidance was not followed if you want to avoid a successful defence (not just we can't be bothered or think it's OTT)


The applicable Government risk based fire safety guidance for residential premises like yours says the following regards fire alarm systems:

"Where provided, fire alarm systems should be subject to routine testing and servicing. There are two parts to this, regular testing and periodic servicing.

A simple functional test should be undertaken, once a week, by operating a manual call point. This can readily be carried out by non-specialists eg housing officers and in-house maintenance teams. The aim of this test is simply to check that the system is functional. It is not intended that this test be used to confirm audibility of the alarm, for example. However, where operation of this system is associated with, say, release of devices holding open fire doors, or releasing electrically locked fire exits (where permitted), the weekly test should be used to check the function of these ancillary actions.

Periodic servicing should be undertaken at least once every six months.

Further guidance on testing and servicing of fire alarm systems can be found in BS 5839-1."

and the following regarding records:

"It is good practice to keep records that show that people have received fire training and that inspection, testing and maintenance has been carried out on fire safety systems and equipment. Such records enable a responsible person to demonstrate due diligence in the event that fire safety is found wanting, either as a result of routine audit or following scrutiny after a fire.

Various methods can be used to keep records, from the commonly-used log book to electronic devices used to capture data"

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  • 10 months later...
Guest Rach

Hi, I see there have been updated comments to this so thought I’d try for some advice. We have a 2 story block of just 3 flats with only a detector on each level in communal areas, looking for advice on how often this should be tested please? Recently taken over freehold and trying to manage regs with costs. Thanks 

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On 27/04/2024 at 09:59, Guest Rach said:

Hi, I see there have been updated comments to this so thought I’d try for some advice. We have a 2 story block of just 3 flats with only a detector on each level in communal areas, looking for advice on how often this should be tested please? Recently taken over freehold and trying to manage regs with costs. Thanks 

The first thing is - are they needed at all? In purpose built blocks domestic smoke alarms should not be fitted in common areas and a commercial grade fire alarm system is also not required except if there are automatic opening vents when smoke detectors (no alarms or call points) are required.

If your block is a conversion and on a full evacuate policy with a fire alarm system that covers both common areas and flats then fair enough.

To your question:
- Domestic smoke alarms: Monthly test using test button, no servicing unless linked to a telecare system

- Commercial alarm system: Weekly test using a different call point each week and 6 monthly service by a competent person.

A decent FRA from someone with residential expertise is important - I have a lot of resident management company clients who have previously paid out for or be told to provide a whole host of measures that aren't actually required & in some cases even counterproductive, especially in small blocks

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