A PROPERTY MANAGER’S GUIDE TO BUILDING FIRE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT TESTING!
By Frank Kurz
Vancouver, British Columbia - I receive a number of emails during the course of the day, but the ones that grab my attention are the ones that are asking for help. In one such email, I was asked how a building owner (or manager) can ascertain whether-or-not the life safety equipment in his/her building is being properly tested (after all, as the building owner, you are ultimately responsible pursuant to provisions in the Fire Code). There are several ways you can check up on the fire service company (and the technicians they employ). Even though your project may not be in Vancouver (or any Lower Mainland municipality that requires ASTTBC Technicians to perform your life safety systems inspections), these basic steps would still apply:
1. Check out and compare the forms they’re using to document the fire alarm testing. ASTTBC suggests using their forms (which are largely based on the accepted Standards), but they haven’t been updated recently to reflect the testing challenges faced by the new Installation Standard for Fire Alarm Systems (CAN/ULC-S524-06) or, indeed, many of the newer addressable type of fire alarm systems that might have more than one set of stand-by batteries or utilize fault isolator modules. ASTTBC’s forms are located at http://fireprotection.asttbc.org/forms.php. Our forms are located at http://www.firetechs.net/library/forms.asp (and includes the monthly testing form your building’s designated Fire Safety Director should be completing as well).
2. If you can access the fire alarm system’s original Verification report, compare the Individual Device Test record sheets on that with the test report you’re receiving from your service provider to see that they are testing ALL of the devices listed. This includes end-of-line plates and isolators. You have no idea how many times I see duct detectors being ignored because they’re too difficult to get to or the testing agency doesn’t have the right tools to access them (or worse - their technicians don’t know what to look for). The aforementioned end-of-line plates and isolators are another issue. I often see them painted over with layers of paint which tells me that they’ve not been opened (or tested) in YEARS. Have they recently replaced the system’s batteries? Are they correctly sized?
3. Fire extinguishers require regular servicing. On an annual basis, the technician should be weighing each one. If he/she doesn’t have a scale to perform this function, they’re simply not performing the annual test properly. Check the labels on the back of your extinguishers. You’ll often see shiny aluminum coloured stickers there with either a “six year” or “hydro-test” box punched out. To perform these important tests, the service company has to be Transport Canada certified in something called “cylinder requalification”. The individual performing the actual testing also has to be Transport Canada certified. The link to check whether-or-not the agency identified on the label is properly certified is at http://wwwapps.tc.gc.ca/saf-sec-sur/3/fdr-rici/cylinder/requalifier.aspx.
4. Does your building have sprinkler stand-pipes? Are they being properly flow tested? The sprinkler testing form is available at either one of the above referenced FORMS pages. We happen to group our sprinkler, extinguisher, fire alarm, and emergency lighting testing into something we call the Building Annual Inspection Form. There are a couple of additional features on our form that will help you in identifying whether-or-not the technician that’s performing your annual test is doing it correctly. Check out the calculation involved in determining the number of end-of-line devices you can expect to see on page “2” of the form and do your own calculation using our Building Inspection Test Time Calculator.
5. Are the technicians your provider employs documenting the testing of the emergency light packs? Are they performing the proper testing in accordance with the requirements of the Fire Code? Do you have emergency lighting installed in some key areas like mechanical rooms, electrical rooms, etc.? On