NFPA Required Documentation
Have you ever been caught off guard when the Fire Marshal shows up and asked to see your fire alarm documents? It is not just a good idea to have them handy, it is required by law.
Every step of the process of building, maintaining, and operating a facility has a paper trail. Once designed, every building goes through an extensive review process that ensures it is structurally sound and safe for the purpose it will serve. One of these reviews looks closely at the fire life safety systems: fire alarm, fire sprinkler, extinguisher placement, etc. Once the building permit is issued, allowing the building to proceed, checks are made along the way to make sure that the approved plans are being followed. As-Built documentation is added to account for any changes resulting from unforeseen site conditions and approved by the various authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ), typically the building department, fire marshal’s office, etc.
Once completed, the building’s fire life safety systems are inspected periodically (mostly annually) to visually confirm that the components are in good condition and functionally tested to have confidence that they will function as designed in the case of a fire. The type and scope of this documentation, as it applies to the fire alarm system, is covered in NFPA 72, Chapter 7. Maintaining accurate documentation along the way and keeping it in a place where inspectors can use it as reference materials when verifying operation is essential.
Let’s take a look at the list:
- A written narrative to provide the intent and system description. It is a good idea to state what codes are being followed and why: is it a new system or is an area being renovated? If a system is being replaced, it is best to describe the plan to keep people safe while under construction. The narrative should be detailed enough for the reviewer to understand the full scope of the systems being installed or modified.
- A riser diagram shows the overall layout of the system and the interconnection to other systems. It will show all major control panels and the areas served.
- Floor plans will show the location of all devices and are required to have a north arrow for orientation, a reference to the scale of the drawing, room use designation, and show any building features that might affect initiating device or notification appliance placement.
- Sequence of operation must be clear. For simple systems, a short narrative is fine. In more complex systems, an input/output matrix is generally easier to understand.
- Data Sheets on every product that will be used. These will describe the intended use of the product and confirm the various listing required for fire alarm use.
- Manufacturers’ instructions for operation and maintenance of the system.
- Battery capacity and derating calculations will show the battery capability to provide the required backup power during a power outage.
- Voltage drop calculations confirm that the circuit wiring is not too long and is capable of providing the required power to all devices.
- Mounting height elevations are needed to make sure that pull stations are accessible and notification appliances provide adequate coverage.
- Minimum required sound pressure levels for audible devices indicate that building occupants will be able to hear the alarm sounding.
- Pathway diagrams that show how the signals will be sent to the supervising station (central station transmission path).
- Completed record of completion: it is crucial to have one in your documents cabinet.
- For software-based systems, a copy of the software and the means to access it must be included. Any password must be made available.
- Record (as-built) drawings: include any changes made during (or after) the construction process.
- Records of tests and operation must be retained for two years after completion. The code mentions keeping them until the next test and then one year thereafter.
- Inspection and test documentation: these are the periodic tests discussed above.
Believe it or not, this is the short description of the required documentation that must be available for examination and must be maintained for the life of the system. If you would like to know all the details, feel free to grab your copy of NFPA 72, fill a glass with your favorite beverage and settle in. If that feels like a bit of a daunting task, maybe you should just contact PSI.