Smoke control maintenance is essential to the health and safety of smoke control systems, especially in high-rise residential buildings. Most importantly, smoke control systems keep escape routes clear of smoke to allow safe exit in an emergency. Moreover, they allow firefighters clear access to stop the fire and carry out rescue operations.

As with all mechanical and electrical services within buildings, smoke control maintenance is essential to keeping smoke control systems in good working order.

Smoke Control Maintenance Regulations

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Reform Order (RRO) 2005 details the requirement for the smoke control maintenance of life-safety systems. However, it can often be overlooked or not fully understood.

According to the RRO (2005), the responsible person must ensure that the premises, facilities, equipment, and any devices for use by or for the protection of firefighters and relevant persons, are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order, and in good repair.

Furthermore, the RRO (2005) states that it is an offense for any responsible person or any other person with control of premises to fail to comply, where that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in the case of fire. Evidently, life-safety systems must be maintained by law. Failure to do so could result in death or injury and prosecution for failing to comply.

BS EN 12101 and BS 9999

BS EN 12101, Smoke and heat control systems and BS 9999, Code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings set out the frequency of tests and what should be checked during a smoke control maintenance visit.

Weekly smoke control system tests

Carry out weekly tests to check the operation of the system. For mechanical systems, in particular, determine whether the fans are running satisfactorily and that the ventilation system has operated. Where there is a backup generator in place, check and top up the fuel level as necessary.

Monthly smoke control system tests

Carry out monthly tests in addition to weekly tests. During the monthly test, simulate the failure of the primary power supply to check that the system automatically switches over to the secondary power supply. Where the secondary supply is via a backup generator or power cell (battery or UPS), the secondary supply must be able to power the system for a minimum of three hours. Additionally, simulate a zero-airflow condition to check that the system switches automatically to the standby fan/s and that they are running satisfactorily.

Typically, general maintenance personnel carry out the weekly and monthly checks for a building. Usually, they have received basic hands-on training from the manufacturer/installer of the system. If your systems are maintained by a competent organisation, they will at best be tested at six-month intervals during smoke control maintenance visits.

Smoke Control Maintenance Competency

Without a doubt, regular smoke control maintenance is essential. More than just performing checks, this means ensuring the correct person is doing the maintenance. A qualified person is fully competent and has the correct knowledge to carry out the smoke control maintenance checks.

Unfortunately, it is common for smoke control maintenance to be bundled in with fire alarm maintenance. However, there are vast differences in the skill sets of the people who operate and maintain such systems. We put together a comparison of skills to illustrate the differences in skillsets.

Smoke Control Engineer vs Fire Alarm Engineer

Overall, the skillset of a smoke control engineer is very different from that of a fire alarm engineer. In encompasses air flow and pressure differential measurement, fan, damper, and ventilator testing, as well as smoke and CO detection. In many cases, a fire alarm engineer may not be equipped to carry out the checks required to confirm the correct operation of most mechanical smoke control systems.

A table comparing the skill sets of a fire alarm engineer and a smoke control engineer

Third-party certification

The standard BS7346 Part 8, Components for smoke control systems. Code of practice for planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance gives details of maintenance requirements and templates for test records and service certificates. Overall, it recommends that third party certification is used as a measure of competence of specialists.

The Smoke Control Association (SCA) is the voice of the smoke control industry. Its members have to adhere to a strict code of conduct that includes being third-party certificated under the IFC SDI 19 Certification Scheme (developed by the SCA in partnership with IFC Certification).

Remote Smoke Control Maintenance

Smoke control systems need to be checked and tested weekly, monthly, and annually. Although the weekly and monthly checks are usually performed by the general maintenance or site management personnel for a building, they can often be overlooked or forgotten. Routine checks might not always be mandatory, however, they are essential to the wellbeing of smoke control systems and building residents.

In practice, the weekly and monthly tests are problematic, particularly for high-rise residential buildings. Due to the lack of on-site smoke control maintenance presence, they are frequently overlooked. This means that if a fault occurs during the period between visits, it may go unnoticed, and leave systems inoperable until the next scheduled maintenance visit. In order to resolve this issue, a remote monitoring and testing solution is recommended in addition to mandatory checks by qualified personnel.

The Benefits of Remote Monitoring

Monitor systems constantly

A key advantage of remote monitoring is its ability to be carried out 24/7. This way, systems can send an alert any time of the day so that any issues and failures can be addressed immediately. Without remote monitoring or regular checks, an issue might go unnoticed for days or weeks. Therefore, if a fault occurs, the system or component would remain inoperable until the next scheduled maintenance visit, impacting the fire safety of residents.

Save time on lengthy maintenance visits

Scheduling regular weekly and monthly tests of every system component substitutes the need for manual checks. Maintenance visits usually involve performing checks on every floor in a multi-storey building, which takes up a large amount of time that could be spent on more important work.

In contrast, a remote monitoring solution can substitute some of these checks and let you focus your efforts in other areas. With a remote monitoring and self-testing solution, smoke control systems automatically self-test and send smoke control maintenance reports to the building operator or facilities manager.

Direct maintenance personnel straight to the area of concern

By being able to securely access, test and diagnose any issue remotely, buildings can avoid unnecessary visits. Moreover, maintenance staff can go straight to the affected system components, thus saving time and effort that they would otherwise spend looking for the source of the problem. For example, if a head of stair vent is stuck open because someone had used the override switch, then the system could be reset remotely avoiding an unnecessary visit. Additionally, control panels can have remote software updates from a service centre without the need for a site visit.

Increased testing effectiveness

Regular testing, including the opening and closing of actuators and the operation of fans (where appropriate), is essential to overall fire safety. Should any issues arise during testing, then prompt action can be taken to resolve problems before they become incidents. Being able to schedule regular weekly and monthly tests of every component on the system overcomes the time-consuming and expensive task of manually checking every floor in a multi-storey building on a regular basis. A monitoring solution that can automatically self-test a smoke control system on a scheduled basis helps avoid the potential issue of such tests being overlooked due to budget pressures or lack of personnel.

Peace of mind and compliance

Remote monitoring can provide organisations with essential insights into the overall health of their system. This way, system failures are detected and rectified promptly in a cost-effective manner. Moreover, regular test reports can be issued to the building operator or facilities manager to certify that the system is healthy for compliance with RRO 2005.

Remote monitoring does not replace the need for annual service visits but will give building owners peace of mind that the life safety systems are being monitored and tested.

Eyeball Advanced Self-testing & Remote Monitoring

eyeball system schematicThe Eyeball advanced monitoring solution can be programmed to schedule weekly tests of every component on the system and to issue a compliance report to the building operator or facilities manager to certify that the system is healthy. This can be by email or SMS. Any faults occurring are detected, and a message is sent to the facilities manager and the smoke control maintenance specialist. Remote interrogation and testing can be carried out at any time via the internet.

This unique product reduces visits to site, ensures that system failures are detected and rectified promptly, and is a cost-effective way for building owners to fulfill their obligations under the Regulatory Reform Order.

Our Eyeball self-test system can be added to all Group SCS standard systems to provide automatic testing and reporting. Eyeball lets you schedule regular automatic system testing and reporting, which saves time and allows you to focus on new projects whilst ensuring the safety of building occupants. Our software ensures that any system failures are quickly detected and dealt with promptly.

The benefits of remote monitoring

The system is connected to a cloud-based server with Eyeball hardware providing web access via PCs, tablets, and smartphones for monitoring and diagnostics. Data on test results, system status, and alarms are sent to the cloud to generate reports and send alerts via email or SMS. With support for all UK networks, Eyeball – which is a subscription service – is designed to work in any geographical location with 3G/GSM/ GPRS service.

  • Scheduled automatic system testing and reporting
  • Broadband or 3G mobile connectivity
  • User login for remote testing and diagnostics
  • Support centre access for remote software diagnostics and updates without a call-out
  • Secure remote access and data transfer to the cloud
  • Installed within and powered by the shaft system main control panel

Eyeball Classic and Basic Remote Monitoring

Eyeball is also available with reduced capabilities for use with older and 3rd-party smoke shaft systems:

  • Classic Remote Monitoring Service that provides monitoring of component and system alarms/events for existing installed SCS/Easivent EV-300 shaft systems and legacy ASI systems
  • Basic Remote Monitoring Service that provides a basic alarm monitoring solution for all SCS/Easivent legacy shaft systems and most 3rd-party systems.

These solutions do not offer self-test capabilities. If you are not sure on the suitability of your equipment please contact our Service Team.