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A PROPERTY MANAGER’S GUIDE TO BUILDING FIRE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT TESTING! (UPDATED!)
 

 

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 first, 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 had, at one point, required their RFPTs to use their forms (which were largely based on the accepted Standards).  These, apparently, became problematic to maintain so they disappeared from their redesigned website for awhile.  The lack of support for their dues paying members is  almost criminal when you consider that many features incorporated in the newer addressable type of fire alarm systems are not being tested (or documented).  ASTTBC has re-published some of the forms they used to feature, but they’re only served up as “examples” on their website at http://fireprotection.asttbc.org/sample-forms-or-contracts .  They are considerably outdated (the fire alarm inspection form, for example, is based on the 1997 published edition of the Fire Alarm Inspection and Testing Standard, CAN/ULC-S536-97).  But there’s a rather unexpected additional bonus we can derive from this.  When juxtaposed against our forms, the reader is given a fascinating glimpse into the dedicated work of the many individuals that volunteer their time and knowledge in developing and amending the National Standards that keep us all safe. 

NOTE:  Our testing forms are located at http://www.firetechs.net/library/forms.asp (you’ll also find links to download the monthly testing report your building’s designated Fire Safety Director is required to complete and retain on site).  There are a couple of additional features on our Building Annual Inspection Form that will help you in identifying whether-or-not the technician that’s performed inspection and testing service did so in accordance with the requirements of the Standard.  Check out the example involved in determining the number of end-of-line devices they must test on page “2” of the form, and then do your own calculation for the time it should take to actually test your project using our Building Inspection Test Time Calculator.

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 the technicians 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 or elevator shaft 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?  How can you be SURE?!

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

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 some older buildings this often gets overlooked.  They should be making recommendations for their installation and not just “testing what’s there” (which is another one of my particular industry “bug-a-boo’s”).

6.  The new requirement introduced in the published version of the 2015 National Fire Code is going to prove to be a difficult nut to crack.  Division B Section 6.8 introduces a new Canadian Standard (CAN/ULC-S1001-11) that will require your projects to undergo additional testing and inspection of the life safety equipment and systems that are interconnected to (and controlled by) the building’s fire alarm system.  Technicians performing this important test will have to receive additional training in order to ensure your building remains compliant.

 

NATIONAL FIRE CODE 2010 (currently being enforced in many Canadian Jurisdictions)

Division B Section 6 outlines the requirements to maintain building life safety equipment and systems in proper working order (and to have them regularly inspected to a number of nationally adopted Standards).  These are two (2) important requirements in the Fire Code found in Division C Section 2.

Sentence 2.2.1.1 Responsibility

    “1)  Unless otherwise specified, the owner or the owner’s authorized agent shall be responsible for carrying out the provisions of this Code.”
     

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Sentence 2.2.1.2 Records

    “1)  Where this Code requires that tests, inspections, maintenance or operational procedures be performed on a fire safety system, records shall be made and the original or a copy shall be retained at the premises for examination by the authority having jurisdiction.

    2)  The initial verification or test reports for each system shall be retained throughout the life of the systems.

    3)  Records of tests, inspections, maintenance or operational procedures undertake after the initial tests referred to in Sentence (2) shall be retained so that at least the current and the immediately preceding records are available.

    4)  Notwithstanding the conditions stated in Sentence (3), no record shall be destroyed within two years of having been prepared.”

 

SOME LAST WORDS

If you have projects located in a British Columbia community that has adopted a By-Law requiring ASTTBC Registered Fire Protection Technicians (RFPT), may I suggest you have a quick look at ASTTBC’s Practice Guideline.  It’s located at http://www.firetechs.net/library/forms/FPTPracticeGuideline.pdf.  Section “9” is called Provision of Services.  How do your fire equipment provider’s technicians stack up?  If you happen to be a fire protection technician reading this, how do YOU stack up?

And lastly, you may wish to compare ASTTBC’s Practice Guide with the Fire Protection Technicians Network’s Professional Practice Manual (particularly Section 12.10).  The Canadian Fire Alarm Association (CFAA), a national association that certifies fire alarm technicians in Canada, doesn’t have a formal technician Practice Guide.

The really important question you should be asking is:

Why isn’t your service provider employing technicians Certified by the Fire Technicians Network?

 

REFERENCE STANDARDS AND TESTING REQUIREMENTS - NATIONAL FIRE CODE OF CANADA 2010

Fire Alarm Systems/Emergency Voice Communication Systems
- CAN/ULC-S536-04 (Standard for Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems)
Daily, Monthly and Annually

Extinguishers
- NFPA 10 (2007) (Portable Fire Extinguishers) - Except for Clause 4.4.1.  (You’re not required to retire extinguishers with date codes prior to October 1984 at the next six year or hydrostatic test service.)
Daily, Monthly and Annually

Water-Based Extinguishing Systems (Sprinklers, Standpipes, Fire Pumps, Hydrants)
 - NFPA 25 (2008) (Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems)
Daily, Weekly (for projects with a fire pump), Monthly, Quarterly, Sem-Annually, and Annually

Emergency Lighting and Power Systems
 - CAN/CSA-C282 (2005) (Emergency Electrical Power Supply for Buildings)
Daily, Monthly, and Annually

Special Fire Suppression Systems
- NFPA 11 (2005) (Low, Medium, and High-Expansion Foam Systems)
- NFPA 12 (2005) (Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems)
- NFPA 12A (2009) (Halon 1301 Fire Extinguishing Systems)
- NFPA 12B (1990) (Halon 1211 Fire Extinguishing Systems)
- NFPA 17 (2009) (Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems)
- NFPA 17A (2009) (Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems)
(These all have Daily, Monthly, Semi-Annual, and Annual testing requirements.)

 

RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING:

Our new series examines the Fire Alarm Verification process in depth.
Our Editorial EXTRA! (April 2015) - The Wolf on the Board!
Our Open Letter to ASTTBC (March 2014 Editorial)
Our September 2014 Editorial
Our August 2014 Editorial
More comments concerning ASTTBC technicians are in in our May 2012 Editorial
ASTTBC Complaint Outcomes (This actually makes for some pretty scary reading.)
CAN/ULC-S536 DO’S AND DON’T’S - Special Reports

 

QUICK LINKS!

AHJ Training Courses are being offered by two (2) Canadian national associations:

  • The Canadian Fire Alarm Association (CFAA) - Please visit their website (link below) for information on one being held in your area.
  • The Fire Technicians Network (FTN) - Feel free to visit our Training Centre for available dates and cities!  To make arrangements for us to present our two day Course Programme in YOUR municipality, please Contact Us for details!

Canadian Fire Alarm Technician Certification:

Fire Protection Equipment Technicians (Extinguisher Service):

Fire Protection Equipment Technicians (British Columbia):

 

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