How to Properly Document Your Projects

Accurate recordkeeping is essential to be successful in any business enterprise, but for fire systems contractors it could be a matter of life or death. Brush up on the requirements and catch up on new additions to NFPA 72’s Documentation specifications.

Therefore, where the details of a ceiling may be required if smoke or heat detection is to be installed, this level of detail would not be required if the system is to only supervise an automatic sprinkler system. The chapter is very clear on this, so that an installing firm does not come across a plan checker who wishes to have all for every system, regardless of what the system is intended to provide.

4 Rules to Complete Completion

The requirements for Completion Documentation are found in Section 7.5. There are four basic requirements for every system:

(1) An owner’s manual and manufacturer’s published instructions covering all system equipment

(2) Record (as-built) drawings

(3) A completed record of completion form

(4) For software-based systems, record copy of the site-specific software

The record set, or as-built drawings, are very important as they would depict the system as it was installed. In most cases, the way a system is installed is not the exact way the original design and shop drawings indicated. It is vital for any system, no matter the size, for an accurate set of shop drawings to be produced and a copy left onsite.

The requirement for the site-specific software has caused some confusion in the past. This is not the source code for the system, nor is it the programming software. It is the data file that can be used with the proper programming software to recover the system program if the need arises.

The record of completion is to be finalized by the installing contractor and provided to both the owner and the AHJ. Within this document the installer states the system has been installed as designed and that it has been tested prior to calling for the acceptance test. This form has been completely revised for the 2013 edition of 72. The revision allows the installer to use only the sections needed for a particular installation.

I would like to state as well that a standard Record of Completion form is not required to be used. As long as the required information applicable for the installation is provided, an alternative document may be used. NFPA 72 now permits an electronic version of the Record of Completion to be filed, where approved by the authority having jurisdiction.

Chapter 7 also contains the requirements for the documentation of inspections and testing. Please note that Chapter 14, which details to requirements for inspection, testing and maintenance, now requires a test plan to be written. As with the Record of Completion, only the sections required need to be included. In addition, the exact form that is found within 72 is not required to be used.

Section 7.7 details the requirements for document retention. For all new systems, a documentation cabinet shall be installed. All paper documents associated with the system shall be installed within.

I have only covered a portion of the requirements found within the new chapter. Prior to the state of jurisdiction adopting the 2013 edition, you should become familiar with the requirements and provisions that are contained within.

Shane Clary, Ph.D., 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 Pacheco, Calif.-headquartered Bay Alarm Co.

NFPA 72 Documentation (Chapter 7) Sections

• Application

• Minimum Required Documentation

• Design (Layout) Documentation

• Shop Drawings (Installation Documentation)

• Completion Documentation

• Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Documentation

• Records, Record Retention and Record Maintenance

• Forms

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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.

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