Understanding the Role of a Fire Marshal with Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Requirements of Water-based Fire Protection Systems.

The Fire Code is not only the handbook for Fire Marshals for enforcement, but it governs the process in in every aspect of life safety, from acceptance to the raising of a building. NFPA 1, Chapter 13 – Fire Protection Systems, is where we find our code requirements for both new and existing Fire Protection System requirements. This chapter allows a fire code official to enforce the fire protection system requirements for local permitting and acceptance testing as required by referencing Standards like NFPA 13 -Standard for the installation of Fire Sprinkler Systems and NFPA 14- Standard for the Installation of Standpipes and Hose Systems. These are “design standards” used for the initial design and acceptance testing of new systems and should not be confused with the requirements for inspection testing and maintenance of existing systems found in NFPA 25- Standard for Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Sprinkler Systems, unless specifically extracted.

The Fire Code requires all building owners to meet the requirements of NFPA 25 for existing buildings and allows the Fire Marshal to enforce those requirements. While the actual notice of violation comes from the Fire Code or a local code amendment, the “What is Required” typically comes directly from NFPA 25. Often there is confusion when a “Notice of Violation” references code language like NFPA 1 Section 13.2.3 Standpipe Inspection Testing and Maintenance, then the owner is directed to conduct a five-year flow test as required in NFPA 25.

The specific requirements should always be referenced by code,but should include clear specific directions written for the building owners in layman terms. The more the building owner is engaged and understands what is required, the more compliant the building becomes. Fire Marshals must continue to remind themselves that NFPA 25 is an owner’s document and that they must use the Fire Code for enforcement, understanding that enforcement is always after education.