by Brad Keyes, CHSP, on Jul 3, 2020 12:00:00 AM
Q: Our disaster manual reads "An emergency fire watch will be initiated in the event the facility fire alarm/sprinkler system is out of service for more than four (4) hours in a 24-hour period". I have been seeing other places that the requirement is that an emergency fire watch must be initiated immediately in the event of fire alarm or sprinkler failure. Those same sources say that you only must contact the fire department and the state agency if the sprinkler system has been out for ten hours and if the fire alarm system has been out for four. Hopefully you can help me make sense of what the requirement actually is.
A: Different AHJs may have their own individual interpretations regarding when to start the fire watch. But the Life Safety Code, 2012 edition, section 126.96.36.199 is very clear: “Where a required fire alarm system is out of service for more than 4-hours in a 24-hour period, the authority having jurisdiction shall be notified, and the building shall be evacuated, or an approved fire watch shall be provided….” That’s pretty clear to me; the fire watch does not start until the first 4 hours in a 24-hour period is up.
Otherwise, you would have to start a fire watch exactly when the fire alarm system (or a circuit) is turned off to replace a device. The code is allowing a 4-hour window before you need to start the fire watch. NFPA 25-2011, section 15.5.2 says something similar for a sprinkler system impairment but allows 10 hours before a fire watch is required. But if you have an AHJ that is interpreting this differently, then you need to comply with the requirements that they set for you. You can always appeal their decision using logic, common sense, and code references, but don’t count on it.