A schedule of inspections of your Company’s fire protection system can help you avoid the cost and hassle associated with major problems down the road. When your fire protection systems receive regular maintenance, small issues are likely to be found before they become big ones that could cause a lot more damage in an emergency!
Naturally, as with most things, when you need to inspect your Company’s fire protection system has a simple answer, and another that is more complicated.
The simple answer is to follow the code that has been adopted by your State. NFPA standards specify how often systems need to be inspected, and the most referenced codes are:
- NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
- NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code
- NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
- NFPA 17A Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems (Kitchen Systems)
- NFPA 17 Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems (Paint Spray Booths)
- NFPA 2001 Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems
Note that different states reference different NFPA standards from different years.
With so many different types of systems, it’s a wonder that any one person can keep track. Depending on the type you have and where in your building they are installed (elevator vs fire alarm), some aspects need more rigorous inspection than others. For example, every five years for an HVAC unit or less often depending on what else needs attention.
How do we know when it’s time to check out these components? That depends largely upon who sets up each system:
- code makers with provisions built into their regulations
- owners looking after themselves by conducting weekly inspections unless otherwise specified by law.
Some jurisdictions require annual inspections in any case. For instance, the currently adopted code in New Jersey (NFPA 25 2014 edition) requires weekly, monthly, and quarterly inspections on sprinkler systems. Certain towns only have an annual inspection as a requirement.
Below you will find an overview of the components that should be inspected and tested, as well as how often they need to get checked. Please note, this list does not cover everything required for all systems. For a comprehensive review on what is needed during your Fire System Inspection call AFP or another trained professional.
Fire Alarm System Inspection and Testing Schedule
The guidelines laid out in NFPA 72 provide the framework for regular inspections of all the component parts of your fire alarm system.
Fire System Inspection Schedule
- Weekly inspection: LEDs, power supplies, fuses, control panels, trouble signals (for alarms that are unmonitored)
- Monthly inspection: power sources including batteries. Also check that central station is receiving signals
- Semi-Annual inspection: check the functionality of remote annunciators, perform a battery load voltage test
- Annual inspection: All fire components and equipment should be reviewed annual. This includes functional tests of all smoke detectors and any other initiating devices, as well as notification appliances and associated equipment.
Sprinkler System Testing and Inspection
Here’s a limited overview of what is required under NFPA 25:
- Weekly: check the gauges in dry, pre-action and deluge systems and that control valves are sealed
- Monthly: check gauges within wet pipe systems
- Quarterly: supervisory signal devices, water flow alarm devices, valve supervisory alarm devices, hydraulic nameplates, control valves, hand-wheels, signage and fire department connections.
- Annually: sprinkler heads, pipes and fittings, seismic bracing, control valves, main drain, spare sprinklers, partial trip test and inspecting dry valves internally. Also test waterflow alarms, control valves and main drain. Fire pumps and hydrant flow should also be tested annually.
- Three years: flow trip test dry valve systems
- Five years: internal inspection of piping and alarm valves. Gauges will need to be tested and replaced if necessary. Testing of pressure reducing valves, hydrants and hose connections, and fire department connection.
- Ten years: fast response sprinklers that are more than 20 years old, dry sprinklers and standard response sprinklers that are more than 50 years old.
Can you Inspect Fire Systems Yourself?
It is recommended by the NFPA that experienced fire protection experts are used by building owners to inspect all sprinkler systems at least four times per year, especially checking that they will operate correctly in the event of a fire emergency. The owner or occupant can use trained people on a monthly and weekly basis for inspections.
While these regular checks may seem simple, sprinkler systems have a lot of parts, so inspection by trained professionals is always best.
A trained professional will inspect all components and ensure they are properly sealed or locked, in their correct positions, free of leaks, accessible, labelled appropriately and undamaged.
Fire Extinguisher Inspections
Your fire extinguisher is often considered your first line of defense against fires, so it’s important that they are inspected annually. There is also a requirement that your fire extinguisher is inspected visually on a monthly basis. This visual inspection can be undertaken by the owner of the premises.
- Monthly: Visual inspection is required.
- Annually: Inspection and maintenance by a fire protection company required.
- 3 years: AFFF and FFFP foam extinguishers require inspection.
- 5 years: Carbon dioxide, wet chemical and water extinguishers must be hydrotested.
- 6 years: Dry chemical extinguishers require internal examination.
- 12 years: Dry chemical and halogenated extinguishers must be hydrotested.
Although there is nothing in the NFPA documentation that stops owners or managers from performing inspections. There is a recommendation that inspections are performed by a licensed company.
If they complete the necessary training, there’s no reason that owners can’t perform the monthly and weekly visual inspections.
It would be smarter, however, to use a qualified professional for quarterly and annual inspections, for two very important reasons:
- There may be specific rules within your local standards and codes on who can and who cannot inspect fire protection systems.
- Ensure you are familiar with the law in your area. The major advantage of a professional is that they will know quickly if anything is awry and be able to fix the issues promptly.
Fire System Testing Schedule: How Often Should Systems Be Tested?
If there is any doubt; Inspect!
The Frequency of Fire System Inspections
If you develop any concerns, there’s no reason why you can’t have your fire protection system inspected more frequently. Perhaps your building’s water supply has been changed, or your building has undergone renovations or structural changes. These would be a good example of times when you should undertake an inspection.
Use a Professional
If there have been any changes or additions made, particularly to the system itself, it’s a good idea to have a fire protection expert conduct an updated inspection. Remember to use a reputable company to ensure the job is done right. This will also give you peace of mind that you are operating safely.
Remember Local Code Requirements
You will be required by some local governments to do more to ensure your fire protection systems are in good order, and in other jurisdictions, you many not be required to perform maintenance as often. Bear in mind also that your insurance company may require a more robust inspection program.