How Service Providers Should Deliver Quality Fire Alarm Service

Tech Electronics Service Supervisor Mark Bicknell relays tips and responsibilities for fire alarm service providers to remember.

As fire alarm technology becomes more advanced and self-diagnostic, one element that remains unchanged is the importance of proper functionality testing of the system. Building owners and property managers often view the responsibility of updating documentation and organizing routine inspections as a costly burden placed on them by Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs). However, these measures directly contribute to the ability of the service company to effectively manage the inspection process.

Per code, it is the building owner’s responsibility to ensure fire alarm systems’ documentation is properly maintained and kept current. Often it is assumed that this process is completed in a new construction environment or that the service provider maintains this documentation for the life of the system, which is not necessarily the case.

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In order to help building owners avoid potential occupancy issues due to noncompliance, a service provider must have extensive knowledge of the codes and inspection process, keep accurate documentation and be willing to take the needed steps to provide quality service to their customer. A service provider that understands what the building owner needs in order to comply with code can help build strong customer relationships and, as a result, help protect their facility and occupants from harm.

Compliance with Code(s)
Fire alarm inspections and testing requirements are driven by codes that are set in place by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). As a service provider, it is important to be well-versed in these codes to ensure compliance and fulfill the requirements of the local AHJs. If a customer is unaware of the code requirements, then the service provider may need to act as the liaison between the customer and AHJ. 

Code compliance starts with system design; taking the building type, use group, occupancy load, square footage, height and any other factors into consideration. Next, construction permitting is applied and the proposed fire alarm system is reviewed by various code officials. After the review is complete, permits can be issued, the design drawings can be updated to installation drawings and the installation can begin.

The NFPA sets codes for fire alarm inspections and testing requirements.

Throughout the installation process the working drawings (installation set) are updated with any wiring or device placement alterations. All components must be initially tested and documented per NFPA during the installation process. This documentation has to be extensive because it is the base of comparison for the design criteria to the actual system performance. This as-built/record documentation is also used during the inspection and testing process for the site.

The NFPA publishes more than 350 code standards for different buildings and system(s) requirements, as well as installation and testing documentation. The standard requirement and regulations for automatic and manual fire alarm systems are found in NFPA 72 and NFPA 101.

Guiding Accurate Documentation
One of the most important yet sometimes overlooked code requirements is the documentation of the system and the interfaced systems. Building owners or facility managers are responsible for maintaining the proper documentation. With the advancements in fire alarm technology and the capability to interface multiple systems, maintaining precise documentation can become a complex task. But if the interfaced systems are not documented, the sequence of operation cannot be confirmed and the system is in jeopardy of not being compliant with code requirements.

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