Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - 57

SMARTS & PARTS
Fireside Chat by Shane Clary
Testing Smoke
Detectors:
When & How
Any detector
that is found
to be outside
of the listed
range of
the specifi c
detector is
either to
be cleaned,
recalibrated or
replaced.
▶ THIS MONTH'S COLUMN is on a very
sensitive topic ... the testing of smoke detector
sensitivity. All contractors who install and service
fi re alarm systems know that smoke detectors
are required to be tested for the detection of the
products of combustion or smoke. Th is is a fairly
easy test to conduct and the methods are covered
within Chapter 14 of NFPA 72, National Fire
Alarm and Signaling Code. Th ere is also another
test that is required, which is to test the sensitivity
of smoke detectors.
A smoke detector over time will become dirty
or be aff ected by other environmental factors to
which it has been exposed. Th is may cause the
detector to either become hypersensitive, which
could lead to unwanted alarms, or desensitive,
which may cause the detector not to operate
when the products of combustion enter the sensing
chamber of the detector.
Th e testing for smoke detector sensitivity
Shane Clary, Ph.D., has
more than 45 years of
security and fi re alarm
industry experience. He
serves on a number of
NFPA technical committees,
and is Vice President of
Codes and Standards
Compliance for Concord,
Calif.-headquartered Bay
Alarm Co.
securitysales.com
has over the years become simpler to perform,
and now in most cases, can be performed automatically
by the fi re alarm system. Th e requirements
and allowed methods for this test have remained
stable over a number of cycles of NFPA
72. Th ere is within 72 two key components of
which to be aware:
1. When to perform the test
2. How to perform the test
When to perform the test can be a bit confusing
and good record keeping is essential. Th e testing
for sensitivity is in Section 14.4.4 Testing Frequency
of the 2019 edition of 72. (As a sidenote,
at the time that this column is being written, the
NFPA Standards Council will be approving the
release of the 2022 edition. Th e requirements for
sensitivity testing remain the same.)
Th e testing frequency requirements begin
with paragraph 14.4.4.3.1 and continue through
14.4.4.3.3. Th e standard also refers to the test as
a calibration test. Th ese are the same tests. Th e
fi rst test is to be performed within one year of the
smclary@bayalarm.com
installation. Th ere is no set time gap as to when
this is to occur, so long as it is within one year
of the installation of the detectors. If the installation
of the smoke detectors is at the time that
the fi re alarm system is installed, then the sensitivity
test could be conducted at the time of the
fi rst annual inspection of the fi re alarm system,
so long as this occurs within one year.
Good recordkeeping is required if multiple detectors
are installed as part of a tenant improvement
(TI) that may not coincide with the date
of the system installation. In this case, the fi rst
sensitivity test may occur before a full year has
passed, with the tests being performed during the
next annual inspection.
Th e next required test is to be performed two
years after the fi rst. Once more, good recordkeeping
is required if the occupancy has had a
number of TIs that involve the installation of
additional detectors. If all the detectors have a
passing sensitivity test, then the next tests would
be fi ve years later. Th is is the maximum time allowed.
You may still test every two years or even
annually if you so choose.
If the decision is made to extend out to the
maximum allowed time, then there needs to be
in place a method to track unwanted alarms that
may occur that are generated from the system's
smoke detectors. In those locations in which unwanted
or nuisance alarms do occur, then those
detectors would require a sensitivity or calibration
test to be performed.
Any detector that is found to be outside of the
listed range of the specifi c detector is either to
be cleaned, recalibrated or replaced. While this is
personal choice, I have found that replacing the
detector has the best results in resolving the issue.
If the detector is found to be within the approved
range for sensitivity and unwanted alarms are still
occurring, then one should look at either the sensitivity
range that the detectors may be set at, or
the use of smoke detectors versus heat detectors
within that area. Analog smoke detectors can
have the sensitivity adjusted either up or down
within an allowable range.
In these cases, there needs to be comprehensive
records maintained to keep the required
testing frequencies intact. Th ese tests are not
required for detectors that are installed within
one- and two-family dwellings. In next month's
column, I shall cover the methods that are permitted
within NFPA 72 to conduct these test.
OCTOBER 2021 Security Sales & Integration 57
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Security Sales & Integration October 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Security Sales & Integration October 2021

Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - Bellyband Front
Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - Bellyband Back
Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - Cover 1
Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - Cover 2
Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - 1
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Security Sales & Integration October 2021 - Cover 3
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