NFPA 25 Chapter 1, Administration
Chapter 1, the administration chapter of NFPA 25 The Standard for Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, provides guidance on the application of the standard. It tells us what type of systems are covered, the scope and purpose of the document as well as what is and is not intended to be inspected.
The first section in the chapter and the standard is the scope.
1.1 Scope. This document establishes the minimum requirements for the periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems and the actions to undertake when changes in occupancy, use, process, materials, hazard, or water supply that potentially impact the performance of the water-based system are planned or identified.
This section is one of the most important sections in the entire standard. Many users of NFPA 25 take the first few words; “establishes the minimum requirements” as a suggestion. Often the frequencies for inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) tasks are not conducted at the required intervals. There can be several reasons for this, such as enforcement, cost savings, and lack of knowledge or ability. Unless an alternative testing program has been approved, the minimum requirements must be met in order for a system to comply with this standard, as well as the fire codes. Section 1.1 also states that actions are required to be taken if there are any changes to the building or water supply that impact the performance of the sprinkler system.
One reason for conducting the required tasks at proper intervals is to ensure to a reasonable degree that the system will work in the event of a fire, this happens to be the purpose (Section 1.2) of NFPA 25.
1.2.1 The purpose of this document is to provide requirements that ensure a reasonable degree of protection for life and property from fire through minimum inspection, testing, and maintenance methods for water-based fire protection systems.
The most important point when using NFPA 25 is that the purpose of the standard is to verify the operational status of a system and to provide a reasonable degree of certainty that the system will perform when needed. There is no guarantee that the system will work, however, if the sprinkler system is properly maintained, the chances of the system operating as designed is likely. The ITM requirements address “wear and tear” items by conducting visual inspections and functional testing of components installed in the system.
Sections 1.1.1 thru 220.127.116.11 dictate how to interface the testing requirements of NFPA 72, The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code within NFPA 25. Flow and tamper switches are commonly installed in sprinkler systems, but technically are fire alarm devices. Testing of these devices as well as other fire alarm devices interconnected sprinkler systems must comply with the ITM requirements of both standards. In order to keep interruptions to a minimum and to ensure systems operate as intended, coordination between the requirements of the standards is necessary. This also is intended to address full functional testing of the integration between fire alarm and preaction or other type of electronically released sprinkler systems.
The inspection and testing tasks required by NFPA 25 are not intended to reveal installation flaws or code compliance violations. The ITM requirements in the standard only apply to systems that have been installed properly in accordance with the acceptable installation standards like NFPA 13, and only apply to water-based fire protection systems, with the exception of one- and two-family dwellings (13D systems):
1.1.3* This standard addresses the operating condition of fire protection systems as well as impairment handling and reporting and applies to fire protection systems that have been properly installed in accordance with generally accepted practice.
1.1.5 Unless required by Chapter 16, this standard shall not apply to sprinkler systems designed, installed, and maintained in accordance with NFPA 13D
Chapter 1 consists of 17 sections and one page of NFPA 25, but it contains a great deal of important information. If companies conduct inspection and testing requirements that do not fall within chapter 1, they can be opening their companies up to liabilities. An example is when conducting a visual inspection of sprinklers, the inspecting company may make a note on their deficiency report that a specific space within a building is not properly sprinklered. By doing this they imply that every other portion of the building meets all installation and design requirements. This is clearly not within the scope of NFPA 25 and most likely is not within the contract agreement between the building owner and fire protection company.
18.104.22.168* This standard does not require the inspector to verify the adequacy of the design of the system.
All parties involved with NFPA 25 should take time to know what is and what is not required by the standard. It is easy to blur the lines of NFPA 25 when conducting ITM. Often, the building owner and the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) rely on a fire protection contractor to conduct inspections that are beyond what is required in NFPA 25. As a fire protection contractor, you are providing a service to your customer and many times you may want to note items outside the scope and purpose of NFPA 25. This is part of providing a good service to your customer. This can be accomplished with a clearly written contract and reporting your findings while at the same time limiting your liability. For further information on this topic, NFSA offers a class on limiting liability.