If your building has a fire alarm system and/or a water-based fire protection system, you are required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to implement a fire watch should any part of your fire alarm system malfunction. This regulation falls under NFPA code 101, Life Safety Code (LSC).
This article will help walk you through fire watch requirements and regulations so that you have a clear understanding of your duty when it comes to the fire safety of your building.
Fire Watch Requirements & Regulations: The Basics
Under NFPA regulations, if your fire alarm systems are impaired for greater than 4 hours in a 24-hour period, you are required to hire fire watch. For water-based fire protection systems, that window is a little bigger. If your water-based system is impaired for more than a 10 hour timeframe, fire watch services are required. In any case, the local fire department must be notified.
While these are the requirements under the NFPA, there are other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) in your area that may also have requirements. The requirements from AHJs may be either stricter, or less strict and may also include additional requirements based on local coding. In these cases, the strictest requirements would apply.
Many times, there is confusion around when a fire watch can be implemented. There’s a misconception that fire alarm systems must be out of service for more than four consecutive hours before the building owner can call in a fire watch. This, however, is not the case. This requirement applies in situations where the sum of all outages in a 24-hour period exceeds four hours.
Fire watch requires the continuous patrol of all areas of the building affected by the fire alert system outage. These services are on guard, looking for evidence of fire, smoke, or any other abnormal conditions that may jeopardize the building or those inside of it.
If a dangerous or life-threatening situation is discovered by fire watch personnel, they are required to immediately contact emergency authorities and alert occupants to the emergency, while ensuing their safe exit of the building.
Fire Watch Service Duties
Fire watch guards are in charge of checking all occupied areas of the building, as well as the unoccupied areas. Unoccupied areas include storage rooms, closets, crawl spaces, and any other concealed area. For this reason, it is important that those conducting the fire watch be very familiar with the building and the equipment inside it.
Additionally, fire watch requirements and regulations state that fire watch patrol must also know the location of all fire alarm station and fire protection equipment in the building should they encounter a fire.
Finally, all activities associated with fire watch must be documented properly inside a designated log. Any fire watch personnel hired must be trained on proper logging techniques.
Fire watch services must remain in effect until the entire system is restored and until all necessary inspections and tests have been conducted to verify that the systems are fully operational.
When it comes to understanding fire watch requirements and regulations, policies can sometimes become complex due to the multiple AHJs that have jurisdiction and must be notified. If you’re a building owner, it would be in your best interest to get familiar with the local jurisdictions that govern your fire watch rules and regulations before you’re in a situation that requires fire watch services.