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comment on the fire alarm testing issue, AHJ and code compliance and should NFPA be changed June 16, 2018

KEN KIRSCHENBAUM, ESQ 
ALARM - SECURITY INDUSTRY LEGAL EMAIL NEWSLETTER / THE ALARM EXCHANGE 
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comment on the fire alarm testing issue, AHJ and code compliance and should NFPA be changed
June 16, 2018 
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comment on the fire alarm testing issue, AHJ and code compliance and should NFPA be changed
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Ken,
            I want to comment on the fire alarm testing issue.
            Thanks to Dave Miller for providing the code insight. It is informative and accurate. My issue here is with the way these codes are promulgated by the persons on the NFPA staff, the industry, and finally the way it works in the real world. 
            Most fire alarm jobs that are tested 100% go off without a hitch, but there are issues where testing EVERY device is not possible. 14.4.4.5.1 states that 2 detectors on each initiation loop shall be checked annually. What if this is an addressable system with one initiation loop? Personally, I believe the older NFPA code where ten percent of the devices per zone shall be tested should be brought back. Maybe a percentage of devices on the addressable systems and not the zone would be better. How many times I have scheduled to do a test and found other contractors on a job or the customer has their business materials in the way of getting to a room with a smoke head or heat sensor you can’t get to, to test it. Sure you can make a special trip back but at your expense and drive time. Another example is hotel/motel where a guest room you are not allowed in to test or see a system device. It’s not always possible put your eyes on it to verify it does not have tape or a bag over it. In most of these cases, all you can do is to note it on your report but, I am not sure that you will be in compliance with the code.
            On the duct smoke detectors being tested with live smoke, this is typically only done upon system acceptance testing for an AHJ. Anyone that test duct smoke detectors will tell you it generally takes more than one smoke bomb or at least a smoke fog generating machine to trip some of them. Not many customers want their building or office areas filled with smoke while they are working. Some buildings you cannot access before hours as no one is available until they are there with the key to let you in. The manometer test should be allowed when checked annually along with verifying the wiring for fan shut down. 
            Most of my AHJ's prefer the manometer test to live smoke during an acceptance test. Who is correct here, the code or the AHJ? On some very large HAVC units testing the duct smoke detector can damage the starter motor. This was told to me on a job by an HVAC tech. He said the immediate shut down of the motor and then the restarting of that unit can damage the starter windings. I am not an HVAC tech so I have to take his word on it. But if I don't test it I am still responsible, correct? I do know that on some larger HAVC units that the duct smoke when tripped, causes a shutdown signal request on the main HVAC controller board that usually takes about a minute or so for the fan motor to finally stop.  Doesn't the code expect it to shut down immediately?
            Another area of contention was with the annual testing of residential fire alarm systems. It used to be every three years and now the current NFPA 72 says it is yearly per 14.4.6.1. Does this mean that is an alarm company who installs and monitors residential fire alarms that do not go back and test the system annually will be held liable if there is a failure and the annual test was not done? How many of the security companies installing residential smoke or heat detectors out there are in compliance with this code? I suppose you can call the customer and offer it but that's not what the code says. The code says "residential fire alarm system shall be tested annually by a qualified service technician." It did not say you shall offer to service or even offer a service agreement for the testing; It clearly states you must (the certified servicing company) shall test the system. What if the customer does not want it done and there is a fire with an insurance company asking when the fire alarm system was tested by a qualified service technician. If no proof the service was done would this expose the alarm company to a claim?
            It seems the more I read and learn the code the more I realize that complying 100% is becoming more and more difficult. I hope to someday see a day before I retire that the security/fire protection industry, the insurance companies, AHJ's, code writers and customers can all come together for a better understanding of each other and our abilities.
Thank you,
Anonymous   
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Response
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            Lot of thought-provoking issues. I'll leave it to the fire alarm experts to comment on requirements and problems complying.  From a legal perspective, it is your responsibility to inspect and report your inspection results accurately, according to code and AHJ dictates.  Your reports are relied upon by the AHJ, your subscriber, and the public.  You cannot submit false or misleading inspection reports.  If you can't perform your inspection as required then that's what you have to put in your report.

 
 
 
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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
ken@kirschenbaumesq.com
516 747 6700
www.KirschenbaumEsq.com