Q's and A's on Fire Code Requirements for Fire Alarm Testing
Q1 What fire alarm testing restrictions does Article 188.8.131.52. of the Ontario Fire Code place on persons that have not completed a fire alarm training course acceptable to the Fire Marshal?
A1 These persons are limited to doing only the daily and monthly testing/inspections required by CAN/ULC-S536, except when supervised on-site by a person that has completed an acceptable fire alarm training course (see Q7 for description of daily, monthly and annual testing/inspection requirements in CAN/ULC-S536).
Q2 Can "authorities having jurisdiction" conduct spot tests of fire alarm systems during fire safety inspections if they have not completed an acceptable fire alarm training course?
A2 Persons wishing to provide a spot test to determine the operability of a fire alarm system may carry out any of the monthly testing functions listed in CAN/ULC-S536. This includes the testing of manual pull stations, detection devices and audibility devices for operability, the silencing, acknowledging and resetting of the fire alarm panel, and the testing of fire alarm panel lights.
Q3 What fire alarm servicing/repair restrictions does Article 184.108.40.206. of the Ontario Fire Code place on persons that have not completed a fire alarm training course acceptable to the Fire Marshal?
A3 Fire alarm maintenance tasks that include the altering of the internal components of a fire alarm panel, wiring operations, or the replacing of an external device shall only be carried out by technicians that have successfully completed an acceptable fire alarm training program. Tasks such as "pulling" alarm or detection circuit cards/modules in the alarm panel, and the replacement detectors are also placed in this group. An exception to this is when on-site supervision is being provided by persons that have completed an acceptable fire alarm training course.
There are some fire alarm system maintenance tasks however that are repetitious, relatively simple to do and generally not susceptible to faulty workmanship. It is not intended that these tasks be restricted to persons that have completed an accepted fire alarm training program. Examples include silencing, resetting and acknowledging of fire alarm systems, and resetting of manual pull stations. These are all functions that persons conducting monthly testing/inspections as called for by CAN/ULC-S536, would be routinely required to carry out.
Q4 Does the replacement of a plug-in or screw-on type smoke detector require a fire alarm technician that has successfully completed an accepted training program?
A4 Yes, as it is possible to install an improper smoke detector under these conditions. This is especially critical in an addressable fire alarm system.
Q5 Does the removal of a plug-in or screw-on type smoke detector for cleaning purposes require a fire alarm technician that has successfully completed an accepted training program?
A5 No, as long as the smoke detector is removed, cleaned and replaced immediately.
Q6 Do single station or interconnected smoke alarms, usually found in dwelling units, require a fire alarm technician that has successfully completed an accepted fire alarm training program to replace or service them?
A6 Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code is intended to only deal with fire alarm systems. Single station or interconnected smoke alarms are generally not deemed to be fire alarm systems.
An exception however is interconnected smoke alarms (usually with manual pull stations) installed in lieu of a traditional fire alarm system in existing residential buildings, for compliance with Fire Code Part 9 retrofit. Under these conditions the interconnected smoke alarm system shall be tested and serviced in conformance with Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code.
Q7 What do the daily and monthly fire alarm testing requirements of CAN/ULC-S536 consist of?
A7 CAN/ULC-S536 requires the following daily and monthly testing and inspections of fire alarm system:
Consists of confirming the operability of the fire alarm system by visually checking for trouble signal indicators on the alarm panel status of the "power on" indicator.
Monthly Inspections and Testing -
Conduct a series of tests with the fire alarm operating on emergency power supply. Tests include the initiating of at least one field device or manual pull station on a rotational basis, while confirming the alert or alarm signal in the zone of activation (and annunciator panel if provided) operation of common audible and visual trouble signals inspecting of battery for clean and lubricated terminals, secure terminal clamps and electrolyte level and specific gravity to manufacturer's specifications (unless sealed battery) test one emergency telephone on rotational basis for two-way communication and correct indication at the control unit (where provided)
test voice paging capability to one zone confirmed on a rotational basis (where provided)
Q8 Can sprinkler system technicians service/repair or conduct monthly sprinkler alarm testing as required by Article 220.127.116.11. of the Ontario Fire Code if they have not successfully completed a fire alarm training program acceptable to the Fire Marshal?
A8 Sprinkler systems are a life safety component that may be separate from or an integral part of a fire alarm system. In the first case, technicians not trained in conformance with Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code can test or service the sprinkler system. Where this sprinkler system is monitored by the fire alarm system, sprinkler technicians shall not manipulate the fire alarm panel (with the exception of alarm reset or silencing) in order to conduct the sprinkler testing or servicing. Only appropriately trained fire alarm technicians may manipulate the fire alarm panel. The same criterion also pertains to persons testing special extinguishing systems, fire pumps and emergency generators.
In the second case, sprinklers are often installed in lieu of heat detectors in conformance with the Building Code (see Article 18.104.22.168. of the 1997 OBC). In this case monthly testing of sprinkler flow is permitted by persons not trained in conformance with Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code. Where malfunctioning sprinkler flow switches, valve supervisory switches or pressure switches are serviced or replaced by a sprinkler technician, a properly trained fire alarm technician shall verify that the work has been done without effecting proper function of the fire alarm system.
Q9 Are persons who test on-site equipment for the transmittal of fire alarm signals to a central alarm station subject to Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code?
A9 No, unless the interface equipment is an integral component within the fire alarm panel. In most cases however, this interface equipment is separate from the fire alarm panel and there is generally no need to manipulate the fire alarm panel to conduct this test.
Q10 Are persons that install central alarm station interface panels on site subject to Article 22.214.171.124. of the Fire Code?
A10 Yes, if this work requires that they hardwire this interface unit to the building fire alarm panel. An improper electrical connection can damage the fire alarm panel.
An exception to this is if the work is being conducted under a building permit, in which case the Building Code applies and verification of the alteration is required under Sentence 126.96.36.199.(2) of the 1997 Ontario Building Code.
Q11 Where fire alarm upgrades or modifications are made as a result of retrofit requirements in Part 9 of the Ontario Fire Code, do the requirements of Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code apply?
A11 In cases where a significant revision or addition is made to an existing fire alarm system as a result of application of Fire Code Part 9 retrofit, a building permit is generally required by the municipal building department. Building officials should apply the Building Code to the work being done without exceeding the requirements of Part 9 of the Fire Code. Good installation practices as prescribed in CAN/ULC-S524 and verification requirements in conformance with CAN/ULC-S537, as called for in the Building Code are applicable. If done in this manner, Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code does not apply. If the building official chooses not to apply the Building Code to this work, then Subsection 1.1.5. applies.
If the retrofit alteration requires an Initial Inspection and Test (see Part 4 of CAN/ULC-S536) be done in lieu of a Verification, then Subsection 1.1.5. also applies.
Q12 Where a heat detector or smoke detector is included as part of a monitored security system does Subsection 1.1.5. of the Fire Code apply to security technicians testing the system?
A12 Security systems are not deemed a fire alarm system, and therefore do not fall within the scope of Subsection 1.1.5.
Q13 What other fire safety steps should fire alarm technicians take when the fire alarm system is taken out of service for alterations or repairs?
A13 Article 188.8.131.52. of the Fire Code requires building supervisory staff to be notified when the fire alarm system is being taken out of service in accordance with Section 2.8 of the Fire Code. This would include fire alarm systems controlled through CPU's as well. Supervisory staff may then take additional life safety measures during this period.
Q14 Some buildings use central processing units (CPU) to control and monitor building functions. CPU's may control building HVAC systems, fire alarm systems and ancillary equipment, elevators, door locks, etc. If the on-site CPU operator has limited access to the programming functions of the fire alarm system does this operator need to be qualified by completing a training program acceptable to the Fire Marshal?
A14 On-site CPU operators are generally provided with access to fire alarm programming functions that enable them to silence, acknowledge or reset fire alarms. This level of access does not require the operators to have completed a fire alarm training program acceptable to the Fire Marshal.
The next level of programming access is more restricted; allowing temporary programming input changes to the fire alarm system (i.e. zone disabling, alarm device disabling, or isolation of fire alarm ancillary systems). This level of access is generally limited to persons well trained on the operation of the CPU. These function changes shall only be carried out by persons who have completed an acceptable fire alarm training program or are supervised by such persons. Where persons making function changes have not completed an acceptable fire alarm training program, then persons supervising the work shall do so through on-going review or a comprehensive evaluation immediately following completion of the work.
The building owner is responsible for ensuring that only personnel trained to operate or service the computer hardware, software and programming make changes that affect the operation of the fire alarm system.
Q15 Where fire alarm programming, hardware or software changes are made on CPU controlled fire alarm systems, does this have to be done by a fire alarm technician who has completed a training program acceptable to the Fire Marshal?
A15 Persons who install or upgrade computer programming or software affecting the fire alarm system are required to have successfully completed or be supervised by someone who has completed a fire alarm program acceptable to the Fire Marshal. An exception to this is if the work is being done under a building permit in conformance with the Building Code.