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NFPA 72 Testing Frequency: What Do I Need to Know for my Business?


NFPA 72 Testing Frequency: What Do I Need to Know for my Business?

As a business owner or manager, you should be familiar with NFPA 72. It’s the safety code issued by the National Fire Protection Association with provision for fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications.

NFPA 72 is best known for its focus on fire alarm systems but also includes provisions for mass notification systems for weather emergencies, terrorist attacks, or emergencies involving biological, nuclear or chemical attacks. Business owners who seek to stay up to date on NFPA 72 are concerned about the reliability of their fire alarm and signaling system. They want to make sure these systems are operating properly within their design parameters.

Testing Frequency

One of the main concerns regarding NFPA 72 is testing frequency for sensitivity, or rather, is smoke detector sensitivity testing required? The simplest answer is that testing must be performed annually. However, frequency also depends on the dates and results of the latest test. Further, sensitivity testing will be required unless it’s monitored on a continuous basis on the fire panel and an alert goes out when sensitivity is not within the required range.

Also, the frequency will depend on the type of detectors and the capabilities of the fire alarm control panel.

It may even be possible to avoid costly sensitivity tests on each detector. To quote NFPA 72-2016 (h) (4), “Smoke detector/control unit arrangement whereby the detector causes a signal at the control unit when its sensitivity is outside its listed sensitivity range” is accepted as a means of ensuring that each smoke detector is working properly.

If you have a newer panel, it likely has this capability, but you can confirm this with the alarm contractor, and also determine its capabilities. Some newer systems may also be able to save sensitivity readings from fire panel software after the annual testing. That way, you have a record of the sensitivity at any particular time.

Required frequency will depend on the time and the results of two consecutive tests. Thus, smoke detector sensitivity should be inspected within a year after it is installed, then inspected each alternate year after that. After a second test that shows the device is within the appropriate sensitivity range, then the length of time between tests may be extended to a maximum of five years.

Smoke detectors that have been tested and determined to be outside a certain sensitivity range should be cleaned, and either recalibrated or replaced. Field adjustable detectors should be adjusted as needed.

Visual Inspections

Visual inspections of fire alarm components may be done at various times, according to the schedules in table 14.3.1 of NFPA 72. Local jurisdictions may have some authority over when these visual inspections occur. Visual inspection includes inspection of batteries for corrosion or leakage; inspection of duct detectors, heat detectors and smoke detectors; and inspection of fuses, LEDS, and power supply.

Training for NFPA 72

Obviously, complying with NFPA 72 provisions can be challenging. Good training can help you stay on top of such issues as frequency of testing, installation requirements, avoiding errors, and other concerns.

Depending on the type of business or industry you are in, you may want to assign key personnel to undergo training. Among those who might benefit:

  • Facility and plant maintenance technicians
  • Building engineers
  • Fire alarm contractors
  • Fire Alarm technicians
  • Electricians
  • Safety directors
  • Stationary engineers
  • Plant and facility managers
  • Building managers and superintendents

Trainings will vary widely in organization, focus, and presentation of course material, but you might want to look for some of these:

  • Installation requirements
  • Avoidance of errors
  • Fire alarm systems fundamentals (terminology, phases of a fire hazard, system operation, compatible components)
  • Codes applicable to fire detection and alarm systems
  • Building occupancy requirements and how they affect a fire alarm system
  • Fire warning equipment for dwelling units
  • Initiating devices (operation principles of various automatic devices; choosing the right detector; and environmental factors in smoke detection)
  • Inspection, testing, maintenance
  • Notification appliances for fire alarm systems (NFPA and ADA requirements; location with audio and visual requirements; proper wire sizes)
  • Protected premises fire alarm systems
  • Supervising station fire alarm systems

Hands-on lab exercises should be included in the training. Some examples of these:

  • Voltage-drop calculations
  • Computing air changes for high air-movement areas
  • Sizing strobes in varying room sizes
  • Battery charger sizing, recharge periods
  • Required battery supply calculations
  • Wiring and testing systems, and observing repetitive deficiencies
  • Determining proper wire sizes to deliver power to notification appliances

Do your employees need formal training in NFPA?

NTT Training‘s 3-day, hands-on NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code course will get your team members well on their way to ensuring your fire alarm system is in good working order, and that sensitivity testing occurs right on schedule.

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