Why do you need to maintain, test and inspect?
The governing code for fire alarm systems testing and inspection is the NFPA 72 – National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. This code is produced by the NFPA (the same organization that is responsible for life safety, electrical, and other codes.) The International Building Code Council produces the codes most commonly used for building permit requirements and maintenance requirements; per International Fire Code section 907.20 it is a requirement that all fire alarm systems be tested and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72. This started with NFPA 72 code in 1999 and has existed since.
What does this mean? It means that any building that has a fire alarm (single family homes excluded, or non-system tied 120V smoke alarms) must be functioning and tested in accordance with NFPA 72 testing and inspection requirements by “qualified personal” who are then required to produce a report that is available to reviewers and insurance companies upon demand/request. NFPA 72 dictates that only service personnel qualified and experienced in the testing and maintenance of alarm systems can perform the tests. This includes factory trained and certified for the specific fire alarm system, NICET fire alarm certified, International Municipal Signal Associated fire alarm certified or testing laboratory certified personnel are considered qualified personnel.
NFPA 72 requires functional testing and sensitivity testing as well as routine visual checks of the system to verify it is in operating condition and free from visible defects or damage. In the IBC’s Fire Code special knowledge and tools are not required to conduct most visual tests, the visual inspection may be performed by any “reasonably competent person”, however they must still be recorded in compliance with NFPA 72 and be part of the annual testing and inspection report.
The intervals for functional testing, sensitivity testing, visual inspection and any other required testing and inspection components are spelled out in the NFPA 72 and are device dependent. A survey of the devices in the facility would allow a full testing and inspection plan to be prepared.