Fire Alarm Cause and Effect Testing

Ensuring the safety of a building’s occupants against fire hazards is a fundamental responsibility for building managers and safety engineers. A critical component of a building’s fire safety strategy is its fire alarm system, which requires meticulous testing to guarantee its effectiveness in a real emergency. This blog explores the vital process of Cause & Effect Testing, as mandated by multiple safety regulations like The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO), Approved Document B, BS 9999, and BS 5839 part 1. By understanding the required compliance and processes involved, building managers can ensure their fire prevention systems are up to standard and can operate effectively when needed most.

Fire Alarm Cause & Effect Testing

In accordance with The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO), Approved Document B, BS 9999 and BS 5839 part 1, all modern complex buildings fire detection and fire suppression systems should be designed in association with a fire strategy and fire prevention risk assessment.

The Fire Risk Assessment will determine and record the building hazards and risks and the fire strategy will determine the interactions and interconnections of the various building fire alarm systems with other critical building services to mitigate the risk, such as air handling systems, fire dampers, lift systems, security control systems, fire doors, remote monitoring and with the sounders or voice alarm speakers, and beacons and visual alarm devices that also form part of the fire alarm system.

What is the purpose of Cause and Effect Testing?

The purpose of cause and effect analysis is to document the current Cause and Effect of the fire alarm system within the premises, so that it is understood how the alarm system operates.

The fire alarm systems triggers or inputs – call points, smoke/heat detectors, aspirating detectors, sprinkler flow/pressure switches – are the Cause, and the outputs or Effects are the shutting down of air supplies, opening of vents, closure of dampers, shutting down of fuel supplies, unlocking of access controlled doors, closing of held open fire doors, signalling to fire authorities, phased evacuation operation of sounders and visual indicators or voice alarm speakers.

How often should Cause and Effect Testing be undertaken?

BS 5839-1 section 45 regarding Inspection and Testing states that annually the Cause and Effects should be tested and in particular sites with multiple cause and effects operations more detailed testing should be undertaken.

In order to prove the correct fire strategy operation it is essential that the tests are undertaken and checked as an end to end test, not just a test to fire alarm interface units or relays that provide the signalling mechanism to the critical building systems.

It is important that the fire alarm system service provider can prepare a cause and effect testing matrix that is used to prove end to end function tests from the cause of call points and smoke detectors so that the responsible person can witness the correct effects operation on the associated fire strategy building services systems.

The site inspection focuses on the following items:

Condition report of the current fire alarm detection systems, including all linked systems.

Confirmation of the current cause and effect of the system.

Confirm the current fire strategy to the building and if any changes need to be made.

Make recommendation for system upgrades or amendments to comply with current standards.

What are the benefits of Cause and Effect Testing?

Full visibility of activation locations

Full audit trial of false alarm history

Continuity across the property with regards to equipment and procedures

Reduced need for multiple residents, customers or clients evacuating at one time.

Sounders not being activated throughout property and causing disruption to occupants.

In some case systems having the ability to remote connect to systems for reporting purposes and interrogation


Cause & Effect Testing is not just a regulatory requirement but a crucial safety practice that ensures all components of a building’s fire alarm system are functioning cohesively to safeguard both property and lives. Regular and thorough testing forms the backbone of a reliable fire safety strategy, allowing for immediate rectification of any issues and enhancing the overall security of the building. By adhering to the guidelines and ensuring comprehensive testing, building managers can minimise risks, reduce the potential for disruptive false alarms and provide a safer environment for all occupants.

Ensuring your building’s fire safety measures are robust and reliable is an ongoing commitment to safety that should never be overlooked. If you’d like to partner with experts who can guide you through the complex world of fire safety, why not contact us?

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