5 NFPA Codes to Consider When Maintaining Fire Alarm Systems
How you maintain a fire alarm system could be the difference between life and death. Here’s how to address this matter.
A fire alarm system can employ the best design and have been installed by a top-notch installation crew.
However, if the system is not maintained in accordance with Chapter 14, Inspection Testing and Maintenance as found within NPFA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, after it has been accepted by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) during the final acceptance test, it will decay over time.
I’ve written several articles over the years regarding the importance of maintaining a fire alarm system after it has been installed. The impact of following through on this critical aspect has not changed.
Onus Is on the Fire Alarm System Owner
I own a library of photos that I have taken over the years featuring various fire alarm systems that were not maintained in accordance with NFPA 72.
I have seen everything from dead batteries, smashed manual pull stations, smoke detectors hanging by their connecting conductors, painted heat detectors and many more offenses.
In some of these cases, the harm done resulted in the alarm system not operating when there was an actual fire and was a contributor to extended property damage. It is the owner of the building who has the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the system.
Let’s take a look at how the industry’s various standards and codes literature addresses this matter. NFPA 72 includes the following requirements in Chapter 14:
220.127.116.11 The property or building or system owner or the owner’s designated representative shall be responsible for inspection, testing, and maintenance of the system and for alterations or additions to this system.
Similar language is also found in NPFA 1, Fire Code. Within Chapter 13, Fire Protection Systems, the following is stated:
13.1.2 The property owner shall be responsible for the proper testing and maintenance of the equipment and systems.
The language offered within NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, requires that fire alarm systems be maintained in accordance with NFPA 72, but has no direct reference to the owner’s responsibility:
18.104.22.168 Fire alarm systems required by this Code shall be installed, tested, and maintained in accordance with the applicable requirements of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, and NFPA 72, unless it is an approved existing installation, which shall be permitted to be continued in use.
22.214.171.124 To ensure operational integrity, the fire alarm system shall have an approved maintenance and testing program complying with the applicable requirements of NFPA 70 and NFPA 72.
The International Fire Code uses the following verbiage, which like NFPA 72 and NFPA 1, places the responsibility of inspection and testing upon the building owner:
907.8.5 Maintenance, inspection and testing. The building owner shall be responsible to maintain the fire and life safety systems in an operable condition at all times. Service personnel shall meet the qualification requirements of NFPA 72 for maintaining, inspecting and testing such systems. A written record shall be maintained and shall be made available to the fire code official.
Fully Address Subscriber’s Inspection & Testing Needs
If your business involves the installation of fire alarm systems, then your services portfolio should include the inspection and testing of these systems. The requirements for the same are found in both of the model fire codes that are used in the United States as well as NFPA 72.
A lot of building owners would prefer not to think about the system that was required to be installed within their building, until it does not operate during a fire. Installed systems also need to be maintained on a regular basis so as to prevent unwanted alarms. Provide the total package to your subscriber base.