Why Every Component of Your Life Safety System Should Be Tested at the Same Time

Posted on: July 15, 2017

You won’t know If they work together unless they’re tested together

Life Safety systems that protect commercial structures from fire, smoke, and other natural disasters utilize a wide variety of equipment and technologies, including:

  • Sprinklers
  • Alarms
  • Stairwell pressurization systems
  • Elevator safety systems
  • Emergency and exit lighting
  • Pull stations
  • Smoke detectors
  • Emergency and standby power systems

It’s crucial that each individual portion of the system functions and works properly during a fire or other emergency, which is why mandatory testing procedures require detailed coordination.

Every component needs to be tested together

In buildings, especially large commercial structures, many of these components, including the security systems, elevators, and fire safety systems, are often installed, maintained, and inspected by different contractors. This can make it difficult for a building owner to coordinate tests, unless a single, full-service firm is responsible for the integrity of the entire system.

The fire safety system is essentially the brain of your building’s safety apparatus – each of the individual components need to work in concert during a fire. In fact, the fire safety system takes control of many other portions of a structure during an emergency. Some important interactions include:

  • Sprinklers and fire alarms: The activation of water through the sprinklers is one mechanism that can trigger the fire alarm.
  • Fire alarms and elevator controllers: When a fire alarm goes off, the fire safety system takes over the elevator controller to capture the elevators, bring them down to the first floor, open the doors, and lock them open.
  • HVAC systems: Elements of the HVAC system (including fans and vents that will dissipate smoke) are tied to and controlled by the fire safety system. The AC is shut down down during an emergency, and even the hoods in any kitchen facilities will be switched on to vent smoke.
  • Security systems: Parking garage doors and gates need to opened automatically during a fire so that emergency services vehicles can access the premises. The security system of course needs to be unlocked and shut off.

The risk of fire and the most important elements of a life safety system

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 1,298,000 fires reported in the United States in 2014, causing thousands of deaths and $11.6 billion in property damage. Given these statistics, it’s essential to make sure that all these parts of your life safety system work, and, importantly, that they all work correctly together. In addition to the legal responsibilities of a building owner to maintain and test the life safety system, a disaster is not the time to discover that some components are malfunctioning.

An integrated life safety system test is like a complex fire drill for your business

In addition to the interactions listed above, a full test also helps you answer questions like:

  • When you pull the fire alarm, does the alarm actually activate and send notification signals?
  • When the smoke detector goes off, do does it activate extinguisher systems, such as pre-action systems or extinguisher systems for computer rooms?
  • Does the emergency and exit lighting work when power is cut to the building?
  • Is necessary access (for public safety officials) and egress (for evacuating occupants) opened automatically?

While all parts of your life safety system are extremely important in the case of a fire or other disaster, sprinklers, smoke detectors, and emergency power systems are three of the most essential elements of any disaster prevention apparatus. The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFASC) Handbook emphasizes that the coordinated testing of integrated systems is especially important and may require additional support personnel, potentially including building management, and, in some cases, inspection authorities.


Non-residential fires represent only seven percent of reported fires in the US, but they result in 23 percent of of dollar losses nationwide. The installation and inspection of your fire sprinkler system is essential to protect your property and your business from serious physical and financial damage. Additionally, the installation, inspection, and maintenance of sprinkler systems in a commercial facility are mandated by law.

Smoke alarms, elevators, and emergency power systems

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), smoke alarms effectively alert occupants of non-residential buildings about 70 percent of the time. The most common cause of smoke alarm failure is power source problems; another reason why it’s essential to ensure that all life safety components are tested concurrently, including your emergency power system.

In addition, the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 72 guidelines specify that elevator shutdown and fire protection systems and protocols must be fully tested by experienced, certified personnel.

The benefits of using LifeSafety Management to test your system

In addition to ensuring that all your safety systems work together, using LifeSafety management to conduct a comprehensive building safety test has other benefits:

  • It saves time; there’s only one contact to deal with
  • It avoids scheduling difficulties among different contactors and agencies
  • It can save building owners money vs. hiring multiple contractors

Dealing with five or six contractors just to make sure your building is safe can be a serious hassle. In addition, a collection of firms and agencies may miss serious safety equipment problems, since they’re only focused on one area at a time instead of reviewing your system as a whole.

The NFPA reports that there were over 100,000 non-residential fires in the US in 2013, causing 2.6 billion dollars in damage. It’s essential that your building is prepared by having all of your life safety systems fully maintained and regularly tested.

If the life safety system in your building needs a checkup, or your fire sprinklers, emergency lighting, smoke detectors, or other safety technology requires repair, call the full-service experts at LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158 or reach us through our online contact form.