NFPA 25 and the Building Owner

NFPA 25 is the Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. Chapter 4 outlines the general requirements of the standards, which includes the building owner’s responsibilities. Most owners are not aware of NFPA 25, nor their responsibilities contained in chapter 4. This chapter has a great deal of information and is one of the most important chapters in the standard.

NFPA 25 (2020)

4.1 Responsibility of Property Owner or Designated Representative.

4.1.1* Responsibility for Inspection, Testing, Maintenance, and Impairment. The property owner or designated representative shall be responsible for properly maintaining a water-based fire protection system.

Section 4.1.1 is quite possibly the most important rule in the entire standard. This clearly designates the owner as the entity responsible for ensuring that all inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) tasks pertaining to the type of fire protection system installed in their building are to be completed. This includes all ITM tasks at their specified intervals such as daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. In many cases, the building owner only completes that which is being enforced by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which is usually only an annual inspection.

This chapter also covers many other very important topics such as:

Freeze protection – sets the requirements for maintaining a minimum of 40 degrees (F) where there is water filled pipe.

Accessibility -the owner must provide clear access to all components of the fire protection system that require inspection, testing, and maintenance.

Notification of system shutdown – in many cases, the contractor will make notifications to the proper stakeholders prior to conducting any ITM, however this section states it is the owner’s responsibility to do so.

Corrections and repairs – requires the owner to be notified in writing of any deficiencies found, requires the owner to make the corrections and repairs to the system in a timely manner and mandates that this work must be completed by a qualified maintenance personnel or contractor.

Changes is occupancy, use, process, or materials – this is one section that commonly is overlooked and unenforced. This section states that, when anything within a building changes, an evaluation must be done to ensure the fire protection system can still provide adequate protection for that building.

Changes in Hazard – where changes in the occupancy, hazard, water supply, storage commodity, storage arrangement, building modification, or other condition that affect the installation criteria of the system are identified, the property owner shall have the adequacy of the installed system evaluated in order to protect the building or hazard. Where the evaluation reveals that the installed system is not adequate to protect the building or hazard, the owner shall make the required corrections. It also states these changes shall be “approved,” which means approved by the AHJ. This evaluation is outside the scope of normal ITM performed in accordance with NFPA 25.

Valve Location – requires the valve locations shall be identified at the system riser, essentially each shut off valve must be identified.

Information Sign – mandates a permanently marked sign to be placed at the system control riser supplying an antifreeze system, dry system, preaction system, or auxiliary system control valve. Each sign shall indicate the following information:

  1. Location of the area served by the system
  2. Location of auxiliary drains and low-point drains for dry pipe and preaction systems
  3. Presence and location of antifreeze or other auxiliary systems
  4. Presence and location(s) of heat tape

Antifreeze Information Sign – this sign was new to NFPA 25 in 2017 and requires a sign at the antifreeze system stating the manufacturer, concentration, and type of antifreeze installed in the system.

Impairments-tells the owner that when an impairment occurs that the requirements in Chapter 15 shall be followed.

Manufacturer’s Corrective Action – allows the manufacturer to make corrections to its product in the field without replacing the entire component. This action is in response to the voluntary sprinkler replacement program.

Records – requires the owner to be responsible for maintaining the system records and providing a copy to the AHJ upon request. The as-built drawings, including acceptance test and manufacturer sheets, shall be maintained for the life of the system, and ITM reports shall be maintained for a minimum of one year after the next ITM.

Water Supply Status-the water supply must not be interrupted during ITM unless attended by a qualified person or the requirements of Chapter 15 are followed, this includes shutting down the fire pump for normal flow testing.

Inspection – states that components shall be inspected in accordance with the prescribed frequencies with in NFPA 25.

Testing – states components shall be tested to verify that they work as intended.

Automated inspection and testing – this is relatively new to NFPA 25, but it is a technology that is rapidly growing in the fire protection industry. This section allows for building owners to conduct ITM remotely, through automated devices, and allows frequencies, such as flowing water for an inspectors test, to be done on greater frequencies.

Performance based compliance programs – NFPA 25 allow for alternate programs to be implemented subject to approval by the AHJ.

The remaining sections refer to maintenance, safety, confined spaces, fall protection, hazards, hazardous material, and electrical safety. Since NFPA standards are recognized internationally, the standard does not go into great detail, because many of these requirements change from country to country.

As we can see there is a copious amount of important information, guidance, and placement of responsibilities in this chapter. Owners and all parties involved in the ITM of fire protection systems should thoroughly understand this chapter of the standard and fully comprehend their role, as well as roles of the other stakeholders involved in the ITM process.