Voice alarm systems are life safety systems. As such, having a regular maintenance regime in place for your system is a necessary requirement.  If you need any more convincing then here are just a handful of reasons why…

1 – Faulty systems cost lives

Most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and are unable to find an accessible exit. Fire alarm and voice alarm systems are designed to detect and evacuate the occupants of a building during the incipient stage of the fire. A faulty voice alarm system may fail to communicate the emergency to the occupants meaning that they may not be aware of the fire until it is too late. Quite simply, a broken system will cost lives.

2 – It’s just as important as the fire alarm

There is a view among many building/ facility managers that the voice alarm just isn’t that important.  Most understand the importance of fire alarm maintenance but do not have the same view of voice alarm.  The voice alarm is an integral part of a fire alarm system.  While the fire alarm manages the detection and suppression of fire, the voice alarm manages the alerting and evacuation of the building occupants.  What use is a fire alarm if you cannot communicate the emergency to the occupants when a fire occurs?

More often than not the maintenance of the voice alarm falls to the fire alarm maintainers.  Whilst integral to each other, fire alarm and voice alarm maintenance are completely different disciplines.  To ensure competent checks are completed and critical issues don’t go unreported it is always best to use a specialist.  There really is no substitute for a specialist voice alarm engineer.

3 – Discover little issues before they become big problems

The British standards (BS5839 pt 8) recommend a quarterly maintenance program.  Regular maintenance visits can help catch small issues like wear-and-tear before they lead to major failures. Maybe the vents in your amplification have become clogged causing overheating.  Or maybe a faulty loudspeaker is overloading a circuit causing an amplifier to operate outside its recommended rating.  Having a qualified, experienced voice alarm specialist inspect your equipment is the only way to be sure you don’t miss any ticking time bombs in your building.

4 – Save downtime and costs

When a system malfunctions, there are other implications to consider. When a critical part of the system fails the building operator must consider alternative arrangements for evacuating the areas affected.  These arrangements often involve extra staffing which can be extremely expensive, especially if the faulty part has a long lead-time.

5 – Regular attention is usually less expensive than big fixes

When an ongoing issue is ignored with a system or you simply don’t know one exists, you’re more likely to face a completely ruined component or expensive, time-consuming repair down the road. This is especially true for legacy systems or equipment that is no longer manufactured or supported.  Most small equipment issues can be repaired but if a fault is allowed to develop into a greater problem causing a total failure then alternative solution would need to be engineered.  This situation is costly in both time and money.  It’s better to spend a little now to keep your system running than to have to cough up many times more to replace parts or even entire systems.

6 – Insurance & Risk

When it comes to fire risk safety there are two important documents you must consider: ‘HM Government Fire Safety Risk Assessment‘ and ‘The Fire Safety Order‘.  Together these make it an offence to neglect the proper tests and maintenance in accordance with BS5839 pt 8.  Failure to demonstrate compliance will invalidate your insurance and make YOU liable.

7 – Ensuring audibility

A typical maintenance plan includes system audibility checks in all areas of the building.  This is important to ensure not only that the system and loudspeakers are functioning correctly but also that the coverage is still suitable for each area.  Buildings can change, either due to re-configurations of areas, change of use or change in acoustic conditions.  When these changes occur, the need to adapt the voice alarm system is not always considered.

8 – Familiarity

Frequent routine maintenance breeds familiarity.  Familiarity leads to improved reactive maintenance.  When an urgent fault occurs, an engineer that is familiar with both the system and the site will always diagnose a tricky fault quicker than an engineer that has never visited the site before.  While it may be an attractive option to employ a voice alarm engineer on a reactive basis only, a lack of familiarity will always result in a slower fix and more downtime.