If you live in one of our high-rise blocks or schemes with communal areas, you may be familiar with the sound of the fire alarm system when it is tested. These systems are known as life safety systems, designed to give customers a means of early warning in the unlikely event of a fire.

BCT, part of Karbon Homes, is responsible for ensuring these systems are adequately tested, maintained and serviced by competent persons in strict accordance with relevant guidance.

First and foremost, we have a legal duty to ensure that the fire alarm system is tested weekly. This weekly test will either be completed by one of our fire alarm maintenance contractors or perhaps by the Scheme Co-ordinator if you live in one of our staffed schemes.

This test usually takes place at around the same time on the same day each week and the fire alarm should only sound for a short duration, typically just a few seconds to check that the system is operating as it should.

More thorough servicing will take place on these systems on a 6-monthly basis during which time, the fire alarm may sound more frequently or for longer. Our maintenance contractors who carry out all of these tests, are expected to give you notice prior to these service visits, which is often done by postcard.

If you have fire alarm devices within your flat linked to the communal fire alarm system, the contractor will require access to test these devices, ideally at least once a year. These devices differ from the smoke or heat alarms that are fitted within your home, and you can test yourself.

You may also notice our fire alarm maintenance contractors carrying out testing on emergency lighting in your building.

Emergency lighting is designed to do exactly as you would expect – to provide lighting in the event of an emergency and will typically be needed if there is a power failure, which may occur during a fire or otherwise. Emergency light fittings have a battery back-up and are designed to operate for a minimum of three hours following a power failure, this can provide critical illumination to help occupants of a building escape in the event of a fire.

Testing of these systems involves a short test on a monthly basis to check emergency lights function as they should. These short tests often take place during the same visit as a weekly fire alarm test, especially when they are both carried out by the same contractor.

More thorough servicing will take place on these systems on an annual basis, during which time the mains power will be turned off to simulate a power failure when the emergency lights are expected to continue to operate for a minimum period of three hours. You may notice the communal areas of your building are darker than normal during this time as any light fittings which are not emergency fittings are turned off, this is why our maintenance contractors will normally carry out this longer testing earlier in the day – please take care when moving around your building during this time.