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.

RELATED: Heat and Smoke Detectors: The Latest Trends and Tech

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:

14.2.3 Responsibilities.  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:  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.  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.

READ NEXT: Smoke and CO Detector Workshop Reveals Alarming Industry Issues

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add sales to your bottom line.

A free subscription to the #1 resource for the residential and commercial security industry will prove to be invaluable. Subscribe today!

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters