Showing posts with label Fire Alarm Inspections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fire Alarm Inspections. Show all posts

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Importance of Quality Inspection & Testing

Smoke detectors are one of the most important life safety items in commercial office buildings, retail businesses, schools, and other facilities. They are commonly called “early warning devices” because that is what they do, give us early warning of a fire in progress. For this reason, smoke detectors are extremely important to include in your facility maintenance and service scheduling. The lives they save cannot be measured.

Unfortunately, far too many facility managers fail to take a pro-active position with regards to their smoke detector inspection and testing. There are cases on the books where deals are struck to issue false inspection/testing reports for a fee, which is generally a lot less than a full inspection.

Case in point, one of our staff members was approached by the facility manager of a large company in North Central Ohio about issuing a false inspection/testing report for the fire alarm system in his building, which included a full-compliment of sprinkler heads. Because the building was fully sprinkled, the only smoke detector in use was above the fire alarm control panel, per code, but there were a dozen or two duct-type smoke detectors. When our employee said no, the manager’s reply was, “Then we’ll find another company that will,” and we never heard from them again.

Another case in point, a second member of my staff, while working for another burglar/fire alarm company in city up north, encountered a situation. According to him his boss routinely provided false inspection/testing reports to this company. Then, one day, a fire took place in a section of the facility and the fire alarm did not work. An investigation by the local fire marshal revealed that there were major problems at which time a full inspection was ordered.

The burglar/fire alarm company in question found that over 60% of the smoke detectors on site were not working within the sensitivity range specified by fire code. In the end, the facility manager dropped the alarm company and chose another to do the actual work. To make matter worse, I’m sure that the local fire authorities knew that the alarm company in question had issued false reports, otherwise that many smoke detectors could never have become defective so soon since the last inspection/testing report was issued.

There are several kinds of smoke detectors in a typical commercial building:

  • Spot-type smoke detectors
  • Duct-type smoke detectors
  • Projected beam-type smoke detectors

The test frequency associated with each is the same, once a year. In addition, someone must visually “inspect” each component in your fire alarm system every six months. The fire alarm company you hire to do the actual inspection/testing, such as Electronic Systems Consultants (ESC) of Columbus, Ohio, will arbitrarily “inspect” the system visually as they test the necessary devices. On the off six month inspections, however, you can have a member of your own staff perform them.

Testing for all of these smoke detectors includes a sensitivity check using a test device or method listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratory, Northbrook, Ill). That can include an internal means of calibration, an external tool sold and/or specified by the maker of the smoke detector, or using a third-party-made sensitivity testing tool, listed by UL for that purpose. In some cases sensitivity testing is conducted continually by a sophisticated addressable fire alarm panel.

ESC offers inspection and testing services not only to our current customers, but also to those who may not be totally happy with their present fire alarm company. ESC has the finest technicians available, factory trained, certified, and ready to assist you at a moment’s notice. ESC also services burglar alarms, access control systems, camera systems, and others.

In addition, ESC holds the following certifications and licenses for your convenience:

  • City of Columbus Contractors License
  • City of Columbus MBE
  • Columbus City School LEDGE
  • Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council
  • Ohio Turnpike MBE Certification
  • State of Ohio DBE
  • State of Ohio EDGE Pg. 1 of 2
  • State of Ohio EDGE Pg. 2 of 2
  • State of Ohio MBE Pg. 1 of 2
  • State of Ohio MBE Pg. 2 of 2

Give us a call at 614-754-1393, email us at electronicsystemsconsultants@gmail.com, or use the handy contact form below and let us prove to you the power of ESC

John Larkin, ESC Senior Partner

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Whose Responsibility is it to Notify Me About Fire Alarm Inspections?

It's natural for our clients to have questions about the sophisticated electronic systems they use on an everyday basis. I believe it's the responsibility of Electronic Systems Consultants to help answer those questions and to provide help in whatever way possible, even when it was one of our competitors that installed these systems.

The following question concerns the point of responsibility where it involves routine fire alarm inspections. If you should have a question of your own, send it to ESC at electronicsystemsconsultants@gmail.com or use our Contact Us page.

Question:

As a business owner, several years ago the city fathers forced us to install a new fire alarm system even though we had gone more than two decades without one. We’ve never had a fire and nothing bad has ever happened. Yesterday a fire inspector came to our offices and did an inspection, which they have never done before. I’m told that I’m out of compliance because no one has been inspecting the system.

I know your company did not install my system, but whose responsibility is it to do this, mine or the alarm company that installed it in the first place? The original sales guy did not tell me that we would have to do this and then they didn’t call to let me know when it was time. I guess I got a little upset and the fire inspector has cited us and he’ll fine us as well if we don’t get this done in 30 days.

Well, it’s been over 30 days, and perhaps I’m a little to blame because it slipped my mind and I called the alarm company about two or three weeks after the citation. Shouldn’t the alarm company who put this thing in pay the fine because they didn’t warn us in the first place?

Answer:

Thank you for contacting Electronic Systems Consultants about your fire alarm inspection issue. The bottom line to your question is simply this, if you are the property owner, then it’s your obligation to see that your fire alarm system is fully code compliant on a regular basis, and there are specific requirements for this. Code in general requires a visual inspection twice a year and a functional test once a year. In general, this means that your fire alarm company will have to visit your facility twice a year.

In Section 14.2.3.1 of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, 2013 Edition, it says, “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.”

No matter what you do to escape responsibility for this fine, the city you are in will most likely send you the bill as the attitude in government is invariably “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” You might appeal to a higher authority within city government to forgive the fine, throwing yourself on their mercy, so to speak, but in general, they do not have to do that, and they will not fine the alarm company that installed it in the first place. In all fairness to the alarm company, in your original installation contract it probably had an option for yearly inspections, which you did not choose to accept.

So far we’ve looked at your situation as though you are the property owner. If you are merely a tenant, it may very well fall upon the landlord who owns the building(s) to take care of these inspections and maintenance issues. Check the terms of your lease to see if this is the case. If not, you need to contract with the fire alarm company right away so they can place your inspections on their calendar so you can avoid a repeat of the same situation next year and every year thereafter.

To read the entire section of NFPA 72 that pertains to fire testing and inspection from a party of responsibility standpoint, click here.

John Larkin, ESC Senior Partner

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Must-Have Information on Fire Inspection Requirements

It's another great day in Columbus, Ohio! Today we're bringing you more helpful information on fire inspection requirements in commercial and government settings. We want you to know what's required so you can avoid problems, penalties, etc.

On January 2nd., we addressed one of our client's question regarding what it takes to do a fire inspection. The second part of that question related to whether they can do the inspection themselves: Fire Code and Fire Alarm Testing and Inspections.

Recently we received another question related to fire inspections:

"I just purchased an office building and I'm told that we have to do a fire inspection twice a year, once visually and the second by testing each device. Can you assist me by explaining what we have to do to make this happen? Also, what does the fire inspector look for when he or she comes out to inspect our facility?"
In a subsequent article, Inspection & Testing of Common Fire Alarm Devices, we provide the frequency of inspections and testing for all popular fire detection and notification devices as well as basic fire systems. It's your responsibility as the owner of the building to see that this is done on a routine basis. You should find a competent fire alarm firm in your area to do this and have them sign a contract.

ESC provides this service for our government and commercial clients on a routine basis. We track and schedule all inspections and testing procedures with your approval. If your building is in Ohio, or in the Louisville, Kentucky areas, please give ESC a call for a no-obligation consultation and quote. Call 614-754-1393 or use our convenient response form (on the right). You also can send an email to ElectronicSystemsConsultants@gmail.com.

To answer the last part of your question, the following video provides an up-close view of what the fire inspector in your area will do when he comes to your building. Most inspectors are very thorough and helpful in that they'll advise you as to what you need to do to be code compliant in any specific area.

If you or any of our other clients and readers have any further questions, please call 614-754-1393 or use our convenient response form (on the right). You also can send an email to ElectronicSystemsConsultants@gmail.com.

John Larkin, Senior Partner, ESC

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Inspection & Testing of Common Fire Alarm Devices

I ran across the following videos on fire alarm testing and inspection and thought I'd add them to this article on the ESC website. ESC believes it's important that our clients fully understand what must be done and why we do it. These videos will give you a good idea about both. Sometimes it may see redundant that we have to do this on such a regular basis, but your fire alarm system is an important part of your safety program. Without a working system, lives could be lost.

The second video is a training video on a specific fire alarm panel, a Notifier 3030 system. The value of this video is the general explanation of how fire alarms work, what the various devices are called, and what to do under certain conditions. It's a good, general training video that I believe can make a huge difference in your understanding of fire alarm systems and the issues surrounding testing and inspections.

The remainder of this article pertains to frequency of testing and inspection:

As most facility managers know, there are fire codes at the local, state, and national level that require the testing and inspection of all fire alarm systems installed in commercial and government settings. The following test and inspection frequency chart comes from information contained in the National Training Center (NTC) Chuck Notes publication. For more information on NTC, go to: http://www.nationaltrainingcenter.net/index.xml.

Remember, only qualified, licensed fire alarm technicians are authorized to test fire alarm devices and systems. Inspections can be performed by end users, but you must adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of Quincy, Mass. per NFPA Chapter 10.

 

Testing & Inspection of Common Fire Alarm Devices

Device

Inspection

Testing

Audible Devices

Semi-Annually

Annually

Visual Devices

Semi-Annually

Annually

Manual Pull Stations

Semi-Annually

Annually

Heat Detectors

Quarterly

Annually

Smoke Detectors

Semi-Annually

Annually

Testing & Inspection of Common Fire Systems

System

Inspection

Testing

Monitored Fire Alarm Control Panel

Annually

Annually

Non-monitored Fire Alarm Control Panel

Weekly

Quarterly

Voice Evacuation Systems

Semi-Annually

Annually

Primary Power Supplies

Annually

Annually

Secondary Power Batteries

Annually

Annually

Secondary Power Chargers

Quarterly

Quarterly

 

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Fire Code and Fire Alarm Testing and Inspections

It's natural for our customers to have questions about the sophisticated electronic systems they use everyday and I consider it the responsibility of Electronic Systems Consultants to answer them for you. The following question concerns fire alarm testing and inspections. If you have questions of your own, please send them to ESC using our Contact Us page.

Question:
We have a fire alarm system and the local fire inspector says we have to have it inspected. Can we inspect it ourselves? What's involved in doing an inspection?

Answer:
No, you cannot perform your own fire alarm inspection, unless you have an employee on staff that has a State of Ohio fire alarm license.
"Personnel, either individually or through their affiliation with an organization that is registered, licensed, or certified by a state or local authority, shall be recognized as qualified and experi4endced in the inspection, testintg, and maintenance of systgems address within the scope of this code." (NFPA 72, Section 10.5.3)
Per the fire code, all fire alarm systems must have an annual inspection of the system to ensure all field devices (smoke, heat and duct-type smoke detectors, manual pull stations, and audible/visual notification devices) are in good working order and can respond in case of emergencies.

An inspection also must be performed on the fire alarm panel to ensure all wiring is in good working condition and back-up batteries are ready to support the fire alarm system in case of loss of primary power. All of these inspections must be done by a state certified technician that holds a state alarm license to perform inspection, testing, and maintenance.

You can find additional information on our website on the ESC Inspection Services page. If you have additional questions, please call the office at 614-754-1393 or feel free to contact me at any time using the Contact Us page. I and the ESC staff are at your disposal.

John Larkin, Senior Partner
Electronic Systems Consultants

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