Batteries in the Fire Alarm System
by Brad Keyes, CHSP, on Feb 15, 2019 12:00:00 AM
Q: We have a difference of opinion in our organization that I hope you can settle for us. I believe the sealed lead-acid batteries in our fire alarm system are supposed to be tested per the requirements of NFPA 72 (Charger Test and Discharge Test annually and Load Voltage Test Semiannually). However, another point of view is that, since they're a stored emergency power supply, they're supposed to be tested the same as our Emergency Lights (30-seconds a month and 90 minutes annually). We want to be sure we're in compliance, but we've reached the point where we're turning in circles trying to figure out what we're supposed to comply with. What are your thoughts on this question?
A: Based on NFPA 110-2010, section 184.108.40.206, the definition of a stored emergency power supply system is a system consisting of a UPS or a motor generator, powered by a stored electrical energy source, together with a transfer switch designed to monitor preferred and alternate load power source and provide desired switching of the load, and all necessary control equipment to make the system functional. That does not sound like batteries for a fire alarm system.
The Life Safety Code is the document that governs whenever there is a conflict or a disagreement. Section 220.127.116.11 of the 2012 LSC requires compliance with section 9.6 in regards with the fire alarm system. Section 18.104.22.168 says the fire alarm system must be installed, tested and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72. Table 14.4.5 of NFPA 72-2010 says sealed lead acid batteries used on fire alarm systems must have a charger test and a discharge test conducted annually, and a load voltage test conducted semi-annually. This eliminates any thought that the batteries must be tested monthly.
The requirement to test battery powered emergency lights on a monthly basis is found in section 22.214.171.124.1 of the 2012 LSC, and this applies to emergency lighting systems… Not fire alarm systems. In this situation, you are clearly correct. Tell the others they owe you an ice cream cone for being right.