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Does a Fire Alarm need to be tested

It has been asked, as BS5839-1 is a recommendation, where is requirement for the system to be tested.

A reference should be made to the Regulatory Reform Order (R.R.O)

On commercial buildings the regulatory reform order required Fire Risk Assessments to be carried out. This also applies in common parts of houses in multiple occupation and blocks of flats and if you have paying guests – e.g. run a bed & breakfast, guest house or let self-catering properties.

It required the Responsible person to

  • Carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises
  • Tell staff and/or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified
  • put in place, and maintain, adequate and appropriate fire safety measures to remove or reduce the risk of life
  • plan an emergency
  • provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training 

It states that, all premises subject to the Regulatory reform (Fire Safety) Order should have a means of raising the alarm of fire.

The arrangements for detection of fire and the means for then warning occupants of the premises need to be considered

Within sections of the RRO it clearly makes reference for the risk assessor to refer to relevant British standards.

Fire risk assessment – Guidance and a recommended methodology

In the case of fire protection measures, a plethora of codes of practice exist. In the case of some specific fire protection systems, a single, universally-accepted code of practice exists and is based on sound engineering principles. This is the case in respect of, for example, fire detection and fire alarm installations (BS 5839-1)


Normally, the fire risk assessment considers the functionality of a fire detection and fire alarm system, but it does not involve any detailed engineering evaluation of the system.

It needs, however, to be confirmed that the fire detection and fire alarm system is subject to routine testing and maintenance, so that faults and major shortcomings are identified by this means (see Clause 16). Moreover, it is normally appropriate for the fire risk assessor to consider whether the fire alarm signal is likely to be audible in all relevant areas of the premises, based on a visual inspection of the locations of sounders or loudspeakers, even though shortcomings are normally identified by routine testing. The fire risk assessment might then recommend, within the action plan that an engineering evaluation, including measurement of sound pressure levels in “suspect” areas, be carried out.

Testing and maintenance of fire protection measures

The fire risk assessor needs to ensure that there are adequate arrangements for testing and maintenance of all fire protection measures. There is also a need to ensure that the workplace itself is adequately maintained in order to avoid certain fire hazards.

NOTE 10 Attention is drawn to the requirements of the relevant fire safety legislation for testing and maintenance of fire precautions required by that legislation, and for testing and maintenance of facilities, systems and equipment required under other legislation (e.g. building regulations) for the use by, or safety of, fire-fighters.

Recommendations for testing and maintenance of systems are given in the relevant British Standards for the particular systems and equipment.


16.1 The fire risk assessment should record the name(s) or post(s) of the person(s) responsible for fire safety in the premises.

16.2 It should be confirmed that there are arrangements for obtaining competent advice on the requirements of fire safety legislation. The source of such advice should be recorded in the documented fire risk assessment (see Clause 10).

16.3 In the course of the fire risk assessment, the following matters should be considered. Any shortcomings in these matters should be identified in the documented fire risk assessment and should be addressed in the action plan (see Clause 19):

a) the fire procedures, including procedures for people with special responsibilities in the event of fire;

b) the arrangements for summoning the fire and rescue service in the event of fire;

c) the nomination of people to respond to fire, using fire-fighting equipment if appropriate to do so;

d) where appropriate, the nomination of people to /assist with evacuation;

e) arrangements for liaison with the fire and rescue service;

f) arrangements for routine inspections of the premises and their fire precautions;

g in the case of premises in multiple occupation, arrangements for cooperation and coordination between different occupiers;

h) staff training;

i) fire drills;

j) provision of information to third parties;

k) testing and maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment by a competent person (including systems and equipment installed for use by, or for the safety of, fire fighters);

l) maintenance of the workplace;

m) appropriate records, including, normally, a fire safety manual.

BS5839 – 1

 44.2 recommendations for weekly testing by the user - Go to weekly testing page 

East Sussex Fire Brigade Employers responsibilities page