Did you know that Massachusetts codes require the owner, tenant or lessee of every building or structure to be responsible for the care and maintenance of all fire alarm systems in their control to ensure the safety and welfare of the occupants? In addition, the city or town may have an ordinance requiring your building or entire association's fire/sprinkler alarm system be tested periodically throughout the year.
AHJ's - If your local community has no ordinance, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) will generally prescribe how often your fire/sprinkler alarm system should be tested. It is well advised that the property owner, manager or board member check with the AHJ, which in most cities and towns is the Fire Chief. In some smaller communities the AHJ will ask that the property manager follow the testing guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for frequency and methodology in testing fire/sprinkler alarm systems. The NFPA is an association of technical committees which formulate safety codes. However, they have no power or authority to enforce compliance of these codes - that is the responsibility of local officials or AHJ. Over time, some cities and towns have written their own requirements for the frequency and methodology of testing and inspection of fire/sprinkler alarm systems. For instance, the Boston Fire Department requires a 100 percent test of all fire/sprinkler alarm devices performed over four quarterly inspections. The Quincy Fire Department requires two 100 percent tests of all fire /sprinkler alarm systems annually. The requirements can be a bit confusing and at times seem contradictory, but it is generally recommended that the owner of a fire/sprinkler alarm system contract with an experienced licensed alarm company that is skilled in interpreting the local requirements for testing alarm systems.
Testing all components - Building fire alarm systems may consist of many devices, including a main control panel, remote annunciator panel, standby batteries, fire department or central station connection, manual pull stations, horn/light units, smoke detectors, heat detectors, door holders and fire department fire-phones. Also, HVAC systems, roof hatches, card access/intercom systems, and elevator controllers may be interconnected with the fire alarm system. All of these devices have recommended testing frequencies and procedures. Complying with the correct testing schedules of all fire alarm devices can be overwhelming for a building owner or manager who may have other issues to contend with in addition to the building's fire alarm system.
The fire alarm system is one of the most important components of a building. However, many times it is also the most neglected and overlooked component. Proper testing and inspection of a building's fire/sprinkler alarm system should not be left to a resident superintendent or property manager who is unaware of the necessary city or town ordinances regarding fire alarm testing. The testing and inspection of the fire alarm system should only be performed by professional alarm companies who are aware, or know how to become aware, of local codes and ordinances. Each of the various devices that make up an alarm system has its own prescribed method for proper testing and inspection. The various local codes and ordinances require diligent monitoring to ensure compliance with the most current standards, which is usually too time-consuming for most property owners, managers or board members. A reliable fire alarm company will not only perform a thorough test of the fire/sprinkler alarm system, but they will supply a written report addressing any problems or defects that may exist in a system. It is their duty to keep updated on all codes and proper methods of testing and operating all fire/sprinkler alarm systems. The responsibility of consulting with a professional alarm company concerning the testing and inspection of a building's fire alarm system should be assigned to either a property manager or board member, if not already done so.
Massachusetts License # A4776
Atlas Alarm Corporation, 1239 Washington Street, Weymouth, MA02189
In Massachusetts: 1-888-337-8866, Outside Massachusetts: 1-781-337-8866