Fire Protection Maintenance - Chemist

Joe contacted me and asked;

Sorry to keep bothering you with Q's all the time, but you are a great resource.

The Chemist shop here is going through some sort of industry accreditation??

He has asked me 2 questions.

  • How often is the smoke detectors checked in the retail complex (Chemist especially)
  • How often are the fire extinguishers checked in retail area.

Thought I would make sure I was right before responding.

Thanks Russell


Joe - Thank you for your question. The maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment is required by the Building Regulations.

The most common maintenance standard and frequency of inspection stated on an Occupancy Permit is Australian Standard AS1851.

In your building the Standard and Frequency of Maintenance applicable is as follows;

  • Fire Detection & Alarm System (Monthly and Yearly)
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers (6-Monthly and Yearly)

Now to give you some specifics;

Fire Detection & Alarm Systems - Smoke Detector Inspection & Test

Recently I posted an article on how a fire detection and alarm system operates, it is a good background to this discussion.

In general terms these systems comprise four main components or functions;

  • Primary & Secondary Power Supply
  • Control & Indicating Equipment (CIE), sometimes known as the fire panel
  • Fire Detectors
  • Ancillary Control Functions

The monthly requirement for maintenance detailed in AS1851 for these systems generally describes an inspection and test of the power supply and the CIE.

The yearly requirements for maintenance expand on this requirement to include a test of the fire detectors and the ancillary control functions.

The inspection and test regime for detectors is as follows;

  • 100% of all installed Manual Call Points each year
  • 100% of all installed Flame Detectors each year
  • 50% of all Smoke Detectors per circuit each year
  • 20% of all Heat Detectors per circuit each year

The maintenance records for a Fire Detection & Alarm System is generally in the form of a logbook and is required to be stored at the CIE. Unfortunately the Standard does not give any specific guidance on the method to uniquely identify and record maintenance history of each detector.

The practice of Maintenance Essentials is to record the history of each detector which is then stored and readily accessible electronically in our office systems.

Portable Fire Extinguisher - Inspection & Test

For portable fire extinguishers, the requirements are slightly different. There are six different types of portable fire extinguishers listed in the Standard including;

  • Water - including; Soda-Acid, Gas Container & Stored Pressure types
  • Foam - including; Chemical, Gas Container & Stored Pressure types
  • Dry Chemical Powder - including; Gas Container & Stored Pressure types
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Wet Chemical
  • Vaporizing Liquid

Each of these fire extinguishers is manufactured for a specific purpose such, depending the properties of the extinguishing agent they contain, storage pressure and capacity.

On a 6-monthly and yearly basis, portable fire extinguishers should be inspected for any condition likely to adversely affect their operation or any changes in the local area that might adversely affect the effectiveness or use of the installed extinguisher.

The Standard also requires on a less frequent basis (5-yearly for AS1851:2005) for additional requirements to be performed to inspect and test the integrity of the extinguisher container (cylinder).

Some high pressure cylinders (vessels) such as those used for CO2 may also be subject to additional tests to verify the integrity of the cylinder. Carbon Dioxide type extinguishers are to be tested in
accordance with the requirements of AS 2030.1, and the testing is only to be performed by an Approved Gas Cylinder Test Station (described in AS 2337.1 and MP 48).

The maintenance tags and records for portable fire extinguishers are very prescriptive in the Standard and require each portable fire extinguisher to have its own Maintenance Record Tag along with a detailed report indicating the service history of each extinguisher.

I hope this detailed response answers all of you questions Joe and welcome any clarifications you might have.