During the MCFP Virtual Conference series, expert Steve Nelson, covers the basics of fire alarm panel inspection, testing, and maintenance. In the video below, watch as Steve dives in-depth on what you need to know on how to make sure your alarm panel is up to code.
I’m Steve Nelson, the director of operations for ORR Protection. I would like to go over the inspection testing and maintenance of your fire protection systems. The biggest question we always have is will our system perform.
You see the panel on the wall many times and just walk by it and not think anything about it, but will it really perform for the inspection testing and maintenance standards of fire alarm systems. We use testing to determine whether our systems will perform as designed when they are needed.
Why does it matter?
The objective of inspection and testing is to discover component failures that could prevent adequate performance on demand and to discover those failures prior to a demand. One would expect that the frequency of these activities should be adjusted to the expected frequency of demand and failure rate of components. NFPA documents are the minimum standards for inspection, testing, and maintenance.
They provide the methods and frequencies and it answers the questions. What is the minimum accepted level of operational reliability? For this protection system, we can find these requirements for fire alarm and NFPA72 for clean agent systems, NFPA 2001 for sprinkler systems, NFPA 25 for fire extinguishers, and NFPA 10 and for emergency lights and exit signs.
Who's responsible for the inspection testing and maintenance of their fire protection systems, for the property building or system owner? They may delegate responsibility in writing such as the landlord or tenant. The owner may hire a person or an organization with a written contract required according to NFPA72.
NFPA72 states that the property, building or system owner or the owner's designated representative shall be responsible for inspection, testing, and maintenance of this system. And for alterations or additions to the system where the proper property owner is not the occupant, the property owner shall be permitted to delegate the authority and responsibility for inspection, testing, and maintenance for the fire protection systems to the occupant management from or managing individual through specific provisions in the lease written use agreement or management contract.
Who's qualified for the inspection and testing and maintenance of fire protection systems. They shall be performed by qualified and experienced personnel, trained for the task, perform the service personnel repair replacement program and maintain systems.
People who are factory trained on specific type or brand of equipment are certified by nationally recognized certification organization, either state or local government licensing or UL listed service organization. Let's start with what is an inspection. Many people get the terms confused between inspection and testing and many think that they are the same, but they're not.
According to NFPA, inspection is a visual examination of the fire protection system. The visual examination of the fire protection system ensures that there are no changes have occurred that would affect system performance. If the system is in good operating condition and free from physical damage visually.
What is testing?
Testing is validating the functionality of the fire protection system. It's a physical check to determine operational status inspector will simulate events or conditions experienced during a fire and may require measurement using calibrated equipment and reading of gauges, which we'll get into like when we test, we record results and compare to pass tests, it requires advanced planning, such as notifying the occupants. If we need to inspect a high-rise or a place that has a lot of occupants in it, we need to make sure that those people were notified that we will be testing. We notify the monitoring services; fire department. We don't want an unwanted call from the fire department and them to roll the trucks just because we are testing. We want to disable control functions and want to prepare for noise, water, discharge, or other interruptions, and have the sufficient personnel to do the testing. Again, we wouldn't want to inspect a high rise and sound the horns for a whole day when we could use multiple people to test the horns much faster.
What is maintenance?
Maintenance is the work necessary to keep the system operating property properly, properly. Repairs should be made immediately after the failure of an inspection or tests there's re routine preventative maintenance, and there should be performed in accordance with the equipment manufacturers requirements. What do you do if you find something that's wrong during an inspection or a test, there are corrections or repairs will be often be found during inspection testing and maintenance activities. We should notify the owner, a designated representative in writing within 24 hours of her problem. The preference is to repair during the inspection, testing and maintenance. That way, the deficiency doesn't prolong and also to cut costs, and it should be repaired by qualified personnel contractor.
What are deficiencies?
Deficiency is a potential to impact system performance or critical deficiencies such as impacts an important feature of the system and non-critical deficiencies. It needs to be correct and meet requirements of the code, or be able to perform during the inspection, testing and maintenance covered in NFPA25 and 2017. Chapter three describes deficiency as for the purposes of inspection, testing and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems and conditions that will, or has the potential to adversely impact the performance of the system, but does not rise to the level of an impairment.
What is it impairment?
The system is out of order and emergency impairment is unplanned or found during the inspection, testing or maintenance. A pre-planned impairment is planned in advanced as covered by NFPA 25 & 2017. It says an impairment is a condition where fire protection systems or units are out of order. The condition can result in the fire protection system or unit not functioning in a fire event, which is exactly what we do not want to happen.
What should the response to impairments be based on local or state regulations that may require the following notification of state fire Marshall for red tag conditions, notifications to local fire department for system impairment to assist them with conditions within a given timeframe. Trouble signals, or supervisory signals for reference are the task frequency definitions, as far as how often they live courses; every day, weekly, once per calendar week monthly, once per calendar month, quarterly, four times a year, between two and four months, sometimes that those can fluctuate semi-annual is twice per year, between four and eight months and annually, once per year, between nine and 15 months.
Refer to NFPA 25, 2017 in section 3.7 for inspection, testing and maintenance task frequencies. Let's look at fire alarm systems for alarm system inspection, testing and maintenance as found an NFPA 72, the national fire alarm code, specifically in chapter 14. In there you can see the specific, different sections of the chapter going over the application, general requirements, inspections, testing, maintenance, and the records that need to be kept for the inspection, testing, and maintenance fire alarm panel inspections.
What takes place during a fire alarm panel inspection?
You semi-annually check for normal conditions. We want to see that green light on that panel saying system normal. We want to annually inspect the fuses, the interface equipment, the lamps, and LEDs, the main power supply, the dollar, the decks, the rat during an annual test, you want to test all functions, LEDs and button function, fuses sequence of operations, circuit supervision, power supply, and batteries, network panel communication, and remote.
Enunciators are very important to have the as-builts for the panel and the building during this inspection so that we can actually see this information, the sequence of operations in the actual batteries. The battery calculations should be provided along with them, and then test the primary power supply should be 120 volt AC for many panels. They can differ in some countries in the world. Some areas detect loss of primary AC power. We can use the circuit disconnect or the breaker and the main control. The electrical panel to disconnect the circuit for the fire alarm control panel to see if it switches over to batteries, which should switch over to batteries instantaneously. We can turn that back on and then we can disconnect the secondary power and operate under load. We can see, we can test the batteries to make sure that they operate under, under load. All our implants is simultaneously operating and activate by zone and large systems.