Any electronic device is likely to decline in effectiveness over time, and your facility’s smoke detectors are no different. Whether it’s due to dust particles, age of the materials, or older technology, smoke detectors can become less sensitive over time, and a smoke detector that’s not able to do its job can hurt productivity by being too sensitive or put lives at risk by not being sensitive enough. 

Every facility with a smoke detector must follow sensitivity testing requirements to ensure detectors are performing in the ideal sensitivity ranges. We’ll go over the smoke detector sensitivity testing requirements you need to know about, including how to test your smoke detectors and when testing should happen. 

First, let’s explore why sensitivity testing matters for the success of your business.

4 Key Reasons to Test Smoke Detector Sensitivity

Maintaining your smoke detection system through regular testing of smoke detector sensitivity is extremely important — not only to check the item off your yearly to-do list, but also to protect your staff, comply with local fire codes, and save your company money from unnecessary disruption and device replacement.

01. Protect Your Employees or Building Occupants

In the case of a fire emergency, you want a fire detection system you can trust to warn employees or building occupants of danger. A faulty or insensitive smoke detector could compromise your first line of defense, and put your people in jeopardy.

02. Comply with Local Fire Codes

Your business must comply with local fire codes in order to stay in business. To maintain compliance with NFPA requirements, regular functionality and sensitivity testing of smoke detectors is essential. 

03. Reduce the Potential for “False Alarms”

When every smoke detector is calibrated to the correct sensitivity range, you won’t have to worry about overly sensitive detectors that sound the alarm and disrupt your facility for evacuation, potentially desensitizing your staff to the importance of the alarm. 

Remember, no alarm is a false alarm. Something is causing your fire alarm to go off, even if there is no hazard present. Addressing the health of your alarm system through regular sensitivity testing will minimize the loss of time and productivity for your business.

04. Save Money on Fire Protection

If you’re looking to save your company money, committing to regular scheduled maintenance for your fire protection system is the smart and economical thing to do.

Regularly testing and recalibrating your smoke detectors will extend the lifespan of your detection system. Not only will you save on equipment costs for unnecessary replacement, but you’ll also be preventing potential workplace danger or injury due to poor fire detection.

Smoke Detector Sensitivity Testing Requirements

Every smoke detector should be clearly marked with the appropriate sensitivity range. To test that the device functions properly within its range, you can check it yourself using UL-approved equipment, or have it professionally tested by a specialist. 

While testing equipment yourself can help you understand the sensitivity of your fire safety system, a professional test can guarantee every device is performing as it should.

Smoke detector sensitivity testing requirements stipulate that smoke detectors should be checked on a regular schedule and maintained or replaced as necessary.

When to Test Smoke Detector Sensitivity 

The frequency of smoke detector sensitivity testing will depend on the date and result of the last test. Per NFPA 72, smoke detectors must be checked within one year after installation, then every alternate year thereafter. 

If the first two tests demonstrate the smoke detector is performing in the recommended range of sensitivity, the period between smoke detector sensitivity tests can be extended up to five years.

Some smoke detectors have a monitoring panel that continuously checks the sensitivity of each device and warns when it goes out of range. These types of smoke detectors do not need to follow the normal sensitivity testing schedule, but should be inspected regularly to ensure they are performing effectively.

How to Check Smoke Detector Sensitivity

To complete smoke detector sensitivity testing, a fire safety technician will use a specialized tool that introduces a controlled smoke to the system to measure the sensitivity of each detector head. The tool will determine the sensitivity of the smoke detector in percentage per foot. 

If your smoke detectors do not fall in the recommended sensitivity range during testing, they must be cleaned and recalibrated or replaced with updated equipment. Smoke detectors that have adjustable sensitivity ranges can be corrected as needed.

Professional Smoke Detector Sensitivity Testing 

When you have smoke detector sensitivity testing completed by qualified professionals, you can rely on their expertise to verify that your system is functioning at peak performance. They can guarantee that in an emergency, your smoke detectors will help defend your facility and employees against the danger of a workplace fire.

Is it time for your regular smoke detector sensitivity testing? The Vanguard team is available and ready to help. Give us a call at 800-444-8719 or contact us online to schedule an appointment today.

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