Keeping Your Fire Alarm System up to Code
Your fire alarm system is one of the most critical systems in your entire building. If impaired and unable to perform its job, the building owner could be faced with denied insurance claims, lawsuits from tenants, and a local fire marshal "red-tagging" your building. For these reasons keeping your fire alarm system up to code is paramount.
What you can do:
There are things you can do today to make sure your fire alarm systems meet the requirements of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA 72).
- Maintaining proper humidity and temperatures of control equipment:
Control equipment must be listed as suitable in environments no lower than 32 degrees and no greater than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your fire alarm control equipment is in a room that is outside of these limits, you are most likely exceeding the equipment's listing and the equipment may be subject to premature failure.
- Maintaining proper clearances.
Three feet of clearance is required in front of all fire alarm control equipment. Often, the room storing the fire alarm control equipment tends to also become used for storing other things, such as janitorial supplies. We recommend painting or taping off that section of floor with reflective black and yellow stripes and the words "no storage" clearly posted for all to see.
Similar rules hold true for fire alarm pull stations, which must be visible and accessible to the public. We often see foliage or furniture blocking these devices in common areas.
- Periodic testing
The building owner is required to have periodic testing performed by qualified testing personnel. Most devices are required to be functionally tested annually, although some are required to be checked quarterly, and sometimes even more frequently than that.
- Battery replacement
Sealed, or valve-regulated, lead-acid batteries (SLA / VRLA) need to be replaced every 3-5 years, or sooner if they fail to test properly. If your testing organization is also your service organization, a replacement can usually be performed in conjunction with periodic testing.
- Record retention
The building owner is required to maintain testing and maintenance records "until the next year and for 1 year thereafter". We recommend keeping these records for the life of your building, and in both digital and paper formats.
What a qualified service organization can do:
A qualified service company can offer code compliance service calls by a state-licensed, NICET-certified code-compliance technician. They can check things that should have been inspected at the original system acceptance, although many of these are often overlooked. These are not necessarily things that would be checked during ongoing annual testing. Things they can check for include:
- Inspect the system devices and wiring for proper supervision
- Check the existing database programming to ensure input and output mapping is in compliance with current codes
- Verify device placement throughout your building meets current codes and standards
- Verify proper labeling of circuit disconnects, service organization, and central station information
- Verify system transmission times to the central station
Partner with the experts
A building owner does not have the time to become an expert in NFPA code publications; they are complex and hard to sort through. They are also most likely assuming that the system was installed and programmed properly in the first place, and it generally takes a subject matter expert to point out where deficiencies exist. By partnering with a qualified service organization such as Point Monitor, you get peace of mind knowing your systems will receive the attention they deserve. Your building, and the people inside of it, will be safer because of this. Click here to contact us and learn more.