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Comment on subscriber ignoring fire alarm trouble signals

September 14,  2021
Comment on subscriber ignoring fire alarm trouble signals from September 3, 2021
          I’d like to comment on NFPA’s guidance for impaired systems.   
NFPA-72 (2016) addresses “system impairment” in sections 10.20.1 thru 10.20.6 as follows:
10.20* Impairments.
 A.10.20  (This from the Annex)  The term impairments encompasses a broad range of circumstances wherein a system or portion thereof is taken out of service for a variety of reasons. 
Systems are routinely impaired to allow hot work (e.g. open flame operations) to be performed in areas with automatic detection, construction, painting, and so forth,
as well as to conduct normal system maintenance and testing. Impairments can be limited to specific initiating devices and/or functions (e.g. disconnecting the supervising
station connection during system testing), or they can involve taking entire systems or portions of systems out of service. Section 10.20 is intended to help building owners
control impairments of the system(s) in their building(s) and to ensure that systems are restored to full operation and/or returned to service afterward.
          Additional requirements for impairments and out-of-service conditions are in
          Requirements addressing impairments to fire systems provide a program to manage these occurrences. Impairments can be caused by system defects or by out-of-service events. 
          System defects and malfunctions continue to be addressed in the testing and maintenance chapter. Refer to and related commentary.
          10.20.1   The system owner or the owner’s designated representative shall be notified when a system or part thereof is impaired.  Impairments to systems shall include out-of-service events.
          10.20.2   A record of the impairments shall be maintained by the systems owner or the owner’s designated representative for a period of 1 year from the date the impairment is corrected.
          10.20.3   The supervising station shall report to the authority having jurisdiction and system for which required monitoring has been terminated.
          10.20.4*   The service provider shall report to the authority having jurisdiction any system that if out of service for more than 8 hours.
          10.20.4   It is important for the authority having jurisdiction, typically the local fire official, to be informed when systems have been out of service for more than 8 hours so that appropriate measures can be taken. 
The term out of service is meant to refer to the entire system or a substantial portion thereof.
          10.20.5*   Where required by authority having jurisdiction, mitigating measures shall be implemented for the period that the system in impaired.
          A.10.20.5  (This from the Annex)   The need for mitigating measures is typically determined on a case-to-case basis.  This considers the building, occupancy type, nature and duration of impairment, building occupancy
level during impairment period, active work being conducted on the fire alarm system during the impairment, condition of other fire protection systems and features (i.e. sprinklers, structural compartmentation, etc.),
and hazards and assets at risk.   Appropriate mitigating measures range from simple occupant notification to full-time fire watch.  Determining factors vary from testing-related impairments and maintenance activities during
normal business through extensive impairments to high-value, high-hazard situations.
          10.20.6   The systems owner or the owner’s designative representative and the authority having jurisdiction shall be notified when the impairment period ends.
          Keep in mind that items found in the “annex” are advisory, and not enforceable by fire code official. There for guidance.  Also, impaired system is different than a trouble signal which has its own guideline for notice to the subscriber.
          I hope this provides some clarification regarding impairments. 
Joseph Hayes, CPP, PSP, SET
All County Security Inc.
West Palm Beach, FL
          Thank you for your expertise and contributing to this forum.  As you point out, impaired system is different than a trouble signal, though I suppose a trouble signal can mean a system is impaired.
          The original article stressed that central stations must notify subscribers of trouble signals and notify the AHJ of impaired systems.  Failure to comply with these standard operating procedures could expose the dealer and central station to liability for subscriber and third party loss.  Be certain that fire alarm services should be provided only pursuant to the Fire All in One for commercial accounts and the Residential All in One for residential accounts.  Those contracts have specific provisions for fire alarm services and monitoring and together with NFPA should be complied with.

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