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How to Test the Fire Alarm in Your Commercial Building

Fires are devastating disasters that can cripple a commercial establishment. That's why you need to test your fire alarms and know how to test your smoke detectors.

How to Test the Fire Alarm in Your Commercial Building

Fires are devastating disasters that can cripple a commercial establishment and, in some cases, cause irreparable damage. Across the country, fires can cause billions of dollars of damage a year. In Chicago, the statistics are grim in both residential and commercial fires.

Preventative actions can be taken to ensure that your business doesn’t go up in flames. Amongst the preventative measures, the key ones are testing your fire alarms and knowing how to test your smoke detectors.

Why Does Your Commercial Property Need a Fire Alarm Test?

Smoke alarm testing and fire alarm testing are important tasks to perform periodically for several reasons. One of the principal reasons is that as advanced as technology is, these days it may still fail from time to time. These tests must be performed to ensure that all equipment functions correctly.

In the case of smoke alarms, many of these are battery-operated so it is crucial to make sure that no batteries need to be replaced. There are different types of commercial buildings such as offices and logistics hubs for which these tests are a matter of life and death.

How Often Should You Test Your Fire Alarm?

It is recommended to test fire alarms and smoke detectors weekly for commercial properties. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the minimal requirement is once a month. Batteries should be replaced every 6 months and test logs must be kept ensuring fire alarm testing is being performed on a regular basis.

If one smoke detector emits strange beeps, or in the event of false alarms, all fire safety equipment must be tested at that time. This is to make sure that all safety regulations are followed, and that the equipment is up to date.

For commercial properties, it is highly recommended to designate a specific employee who is adequately trained to keep the fire alarm and smoke detector logs up to date.

Testing of Battery-Operated Smoke Detectors

Most modern smoke detectors come equipped with a test button. The test must be done for each smoke detector in the building. You must have fresh batteries on hand ready to replace all the defective batteries. If there is no sound or the fire alarm sound is weak, this is a clear sign that the batteries for that detector must be replaced.

Testing of AC-powered Smoke Detectors

In the long run, AC powered smoke detectors rely on electrical currents to function. This makes them more reliable. However, testing a fire alarm, whether it is AC powered or battery operated, doesn’t change. Both need to be tested on a regular basis. It is required that all AC powered smoke detectors also have a battery backup.

How to Test Fire Alarms and Smoke Detectors?

There are key steps to take when testing a commercial fire alarm. Regardless of whether this is the weekly, monthly, bi-yearly, or yearly test, it is important to log in all the information into a fire alarm test log.

Step 1. Notify Your Employees

It is recommended to perform an annual fire drill, especially for bigger companies, at which the employees should not be notified. However, a fire alarm notification is necessary for the weekly, monthly, and bi-yearly test, to avoid creating panic or chaotic state with the employees. When the tests are being performed, it is important to notify your security system company to avoid triggering false alarms.

Step 2. Make Sure Employees Are Spread Out Across the Building

During these fire alarm tests, employees need to be spread out throughout the entire building, from end to end. This is to make sure that in the event of a fire you will hear the alarm, no matter where you are on the premises.

Step 3. Perform the Fire Alarm Test

Fire alarm test

Once everything is set up for the fire alarm test, it can begin. First, the smoke detectors are a key component of your fire alarm system, so it is important to test them. Most smoke detectors today come equipped with a test button. To perform the test just press and hold down the test button for 5 seconds or so.

If the smoke detector is functioning properly and the batteries are still fresh, then a piercing sound will be heard. If, however, the sound is weak or there is no siren then the batteries need to be replaced immediately.

As mentioned above, it is important that a trained individual be responsible for performing the fire alarm tests within a company and that they keep detailed test logs.

Fire alarm acceptance checklist
Checking Questions to ask
Condition Have all defective batteries been replaced?
Which smoke detector was defective?
Are all links within the fire alarm system functioning properly?
What is the overall condition of your fire alarm system?
Sound Is the sound weak, non-existent, or normal?
Other Any other comments that might be relevant to a fire alarm test.

Do not Forget About Smoke Detectors Maintenance

It isn’t just enough to routinely test your commercial fire alarm, it’s crucial to maintain it so that it works more efficiently. That way you can avoid false alarms and it can save lives.

Replace Smoke Detectors in a Timely Manner

Smoke detectors must be replaced every 10 years or as per the manufacturer’s instructions. In a commercial setting, a company can be found liable in the event of injury or death caused by a faulty smoke detector. After 10 years, dust, dirt, and debris buildup inside the smoke detector and regular wear and tear are the main reasons that require a company to replace old smoke detectors.

Clean Smoke Detectors

Cleaning a smoke detector is necessary; it is recommended to clean commercial smoke detectors at least once a month. When cleaning a smoke detector, Forbel want to make sure that air vents are cleaned so that smoke and carbon monoxide can reach the detector unobstructed. Never submerge the detector in water and don’t use chemical cleaners. Keep it simple: use a microfiber cloth to clean the outside of the smoke detector.

Insert New Batteries

Batteries must be replaced every 6 months in smoke detectors. It is important to make sure the new batteries inserted are fresh, so it is always important to test a smoke detector once the batteries are replaced.


Fire alarms and smoke detectors are tools that can save lives. However, it isn’t enough to just install these fire alarms and smoke detectors. It is crucial to test them and maintain them to ensure your employees’ safety. Contact us today for the most reliable fire alarm solutions, someone’s life may depend on it.

Dzmitry Beliayeu
Dzmitry Beliayeu

Dzmitry Beliayeu is a commercial building security expert, technology consultant, and licensed alarm contractor

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