Fire Detector Maintenance - Even kids can identify a problem!

Contaminated Smoke DetectorEarlier today, my 11 year old daughter sent me an email with an attached photograph.

The photograph was of a smoke detector she observed in a private medical clinic that she described as "Yucky!"

The photograph was one of two images she sent me, the second was of a fire sprinkler, missing its escutcheon plate. An escutcheon is the device the surrounds a fire sprinkler as it protrudes through the ceiling.

The reason for the second photograph was to highlight the escutcheon was missing from around the fire sprinkler, leaving a large unsightly hole in the ceiling.

From a technical perspective what my daughter had observed (even using her untrained eye) was simple problems that can be fixed efficiently and cost effectively.

The Yucky! smoke detector

The "Yucky!" smoke detector was a detector on the ceiling, covered (completely covered) in a combination of "brown yucky! stuff" and a thick layer of "fluff"... What could this mean?

I see this "brown yucky stuff" from time to time, and it typically represents a fire detector that has been exposed over a very long time to airborne contaminants without being cleaned (or if they are old enough being replaced).

This is generally a symptom of long term neglect!

The external "fluff" is often an indicator of a detector that again has not been cleaned and may be in a building with poorly maintained air-conditioning filters.

Smoke Detector Maintenance

Point type smoke detectors are sensitive devices that rely on a flow of air to carry airborne particulate (such as smoke) into the sensing chamber.

When the smoke detector is engulfed in dust, fluff and other contaminants, the free flow of air through the sensing chamber is affected, reducing the ability of the detector to perform reliability.

In these cases, a smoke detector can be cleaned to remove excess debris, improving its performance.

The issue of the "brown yucky! stuff" is a different matter, and may be a sign of an ageing detector. In this regard, detectors (like any electronics) have a limited lifetime. The industry opinion on this varies considerably, and is one of the reasons we test detectors in accordance with a regular maintenance programme.

Maintenance Essentials can provide advice and arrange for detectors to be cleaned (or replaced) to improve their reliability and eliminate false alarms.

The missing escutcheon plate

Damaged Fire Sprinkler Head - CorrosionThe missing escutcheon plate is very common, it typically occurs because the supports holding the sprinkler pipe are insufficient for the weight of the pipe.

This lack of support leads to the fire sprinkler heads dropping below the ceiling height, forcing the escutcheon to fall off.

Unlike the yucky! smoke detector this problem doesn't normally affect the reliable operation of a fire sprinkler system, its simply unsightly!

In some circumstances however, there may be a problem with the airborne contaminants that could be permitted from the ceiling above through hole where the fire sprinkler is located into the room below.

These contaminants may expose people in the room (including immunocompromised people) to unnecessary infection or contamination.

More information...

For more information about the maintenance of heat, smoke and fire detectors or automatic fire sprinkler systems, give Maintenance Essentials a telephone call on 1300 30 88 22 or drop us an email at

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