Any building system requires regular inspection, testing, and maintenance to ensure it can do what it’s expected to. Fire and life safety systems are no different.
When properly maintained and inspected, fire protection systems are among the most reliable means to ensure the safety of your building and everyone in it. Trusting that your systems will optimally perform in the event of an emergency depends upon the quality of the service and inspections performed on them. If done thoroughly and correctly, organizations can expect to see many benefits.
Benefits of Regularly Inspecting Fire and Life Safety Systems
Regular inspections can provide advantages for an organization including reduced maintenance costs, avoidance of fines and penalties from non-compliance, insurance discounts, and the opportunity to identify and address vulnerabilities. The number one reason, without hesitation, will always be the prevention of lost property and/or human life.
Here is a complete breakdown of all the benefits your organization can enjoy from consistent fire and life safety system inspections.
Ensure Systems are Functioning Properly
A clear reason to regularly inspect fire and life safety systems is simply to ensure that all systems are functioning properly.
Fire Sprinkler Systems
One of the most important aspects of an organization's fire safety plan is their fire sprinkler system. This automatic system acts as the first line of defense for businesses, which is why it is vital to ensure they are performing optimally. Inspection and maintenance of sprinklers are required on a monthly, quarterly, semiannual, annual, and five-year basis.
By working with fire safety technicians, organizations can ensure that pipes are checked frequently for corrosion or other damaging aspects. As cities grow and use more water, water pressure to any specific facility can drop. A water-based sprinkler system installed ten years ago that requires 70 pounds per square inch (PSI) may now be receiving only 60 PSI. Therefore, It is crucial that organizations make sure the fire protection servicer conducting the test and inspection of the sprinkler system also monitors water supply availability.
Most of the time, sprinklers are static systems, meaning water doesn’t regularly run through them. If it did, most problems would come to light more quickly, however standard testing is the only way to catch issues before they prevent the system from properly operating in the event of an emergency. Consistent testing will also ensure companies are not paying for unnecessary maintenance fees, or worse, entire system replacements.
A portion of businesses' budgets are allocated for installation of fire alarm systems, but if it is not working properly, what’s the point?
Regular inspection and appropriate tests will ensure that all NFPA regulations are met, and will help identify any potential problem areas that might compromise the functionality of components in the overall system. Fire alarm systems can save lives and should be regularly maintained to guarantee their continued reliability and proper functionality. Items to be inspected and tested include but are not limited to:
- Smoke and heat detectors
- Annunciators and zones
- Output relays and activations
- Flow switches, tamper switch, and low-pressure alarms
- Supervised control valves and switches
Fire Suppression Systems
Fire suppression systems should also be regularly tested. There are several types of fire suppression systems such as:
- Water-based suppression system
- Inert gas suppression system
- Chemical clean agent suppression system
- Carbon dioxide suppression systems
Remain in Compliance
Life safety codes cannot be ignored, but managing all of the different testing, maintenance and inspection requirements is a challenge for most companies. While it's easy to see the importance of fire and life safety systems, it's just as important to understand the installation, testing, and maintenance requirements set forth by national and local authorities to ensure optimal safety and compliance.
A lack of documented inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) for existing fire and life safety systems can be a frequent barrier for organizations seeking to remain compliant. For instance, it’s not uncommon for businesses to have a fire extinguisher that has not had documented testing in years. In order to be confident in a fire safety systems functionality, it is important to understand what ITM is required, how frequently, and what healthy results should look like.
The best way to remain compliant is to delegate inspection of fire and life safety systems to a professional fire protection company. These companies have the proper tools and training to guarantee compliance while recognizing and correcting any potentially hazardous situations.
Recognize Opportunities for Updates and Upgrades
By engaging in consistent and regular inspections of fire and life safety systems, businesses can identify parts of their systems due for upgrades. A continued mindset of improvement can provide benefits that have positive ripple effects throughout an organization.
For example, a simple upgrade to an automatic sprinkler system can greatly improve a building’s overall fire protection system through increased reliability and efficiency. Furthermore, the upgrade can have huge implications for insurance premium discounts.
Regular maintenance and inspection of fire and life safety systems provides businesses the opportunity to upgrade these integral fire protection and life safety systems.
Receive Insurance Discounts
One of the major benefits of regularly inspecting fire and life safety systems is the potential for premium insurance discounts. In order to start reducing insurance costs and increasing discounts, an organization first needs to be familiar with how commercial property insurance rates are determined.
Insurance premiums are set by the value of the building as well as its contents. Risk assessments of these factors determine the rates. According to Nationwide, most of the time, properties with high risk have higher property insurance rates, while lower risk properties cost less to insure. While there are many complicated factors that go into this calculation, a simplistic overview can be broken down into the following variables:
Commonly, insurance carriers offer discounts for properly installed, maintained and professionally monitored fire-protection systems. However, if a business wants to ensure that a potential claim isn’t rejected, they must present the necessary proof of completion for all regular and required fire inspections.
Some insurance companies will offer discounts and incentives for property owners who not only meet NFPA and OSHA requirements, but go above and beyond basic requirements. For example, if a business were to install a fire sprinkler system in a highly hazardous or hard to reach area as an extra layer of protection, their insurance company may offer a discount for the extra security efforts.
According to the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO), a majority of buildings with an automatic fire sprinkler system are currently not receiving potential insurance premium discounts that could be available. These insurance premium discounts can range from 10 to 60 percent depending on the insurance provider.
Research your specific facility type and potential hazards, and work lock step with a fire protection company to maximize opportunities for insurance discounts and premiums.
Fire and life safety system inspections ensure fire prevention first and foremost but can also help businesses:
- Save costs associated with unmaintained, corroded, or damaged equipment
- Prevent large nuisance fees for false alarms and fines for noncompliance
- Stay operational and avoid long-term losses
- Avoid fines associated with non-compliance
By taking the time to inspect their fire and life safety systems, organizations gain the benefits of a cost-effective and refortified fire protection system.
For example, here are two hypothetical organizations. Organization A fails to address oxygen corrosion in their sprinkler system, while Organization B takes the time to inspect their faulty pipes in a timely manner.
Which organization do you think is more successful?
The answer seems obvious, and it is, but many businesses still fail to see the benefits regular inspection can have on cost efficiencies. Organization B can avoid the major costs associated with a complete overhaul of their sprinkler systems and focus their attention and money elsewhere.
Organizations can help further reduce costs associated with fire and life systems by avoiding fines due to non-compliance. If an organization fails to pass testing requirements, even if it's a first time offense, and can’t supply any testing records, the consequences can be thousands of dollars worth of fines.
The best way to avoid fines altogether is through consistent and regular inspection of fire and life safety systems by a trained and certified fire safety technician. Here is a short list of some of the fire and life safety codes your business needs to adhere to to avoid fines:
NFPA 72, also referred to as the National Fire Alarm Signaling Code, fire alarm inspections and tests are necessary to ensure that all existing alarms are compliant.
NFPA 101, also referred to as the Life Safety Code, all commercial buildings are required to have emergency and exit path lighting.
NFPA 75, also referred to as the Standard for the Fire Protection of Information Technology Equipment, provides standards for automatic fire protection systems, automatic detection systems, portable fire extinguishers, and other safety features.
OSHA Requirements include but are not limited to tests and inspections for portable fire extinguishers, exit routes, emergency action plans (EAP), fire prevention plans (FPP), fire detection systems and employee alarm systems.
Fire and Life Safety Compliance for Your Organization
Consistent and regular inspections of fire and life safety systems allow companies and employees to mitigate the stress and anxiety associated with managing compliance of these systems.
While paying a fine for non-compliance may be a hassle, the bottom line is always the protection of human life. This is what is always at stake when it comes to fire safety system inspections and should be the guiding principle to your business' fire protection priority.
Proper installation, inspection, and maintenance is a must to avoid code violations and costly fines. These highly important inspections and tests should be left to trained fire and life safety technicians to guarantee proper completion and documentation.