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Codes and Regulations

This is an attempt to consolidate the complex inspection and testing requirements for Life Safety Systems into an easy to understand summary.  We hope this will be helpful for everyone involved in the maintenance of Life Safety Systems to make better informed decisions.

National Fire Protection Association
In the late 19th Century, the NFPA was formed to develop safety standards and building techniques to reduce losses caused by fire.  Over the years, the NFPA has released numerous standards, called chapters, that cover all aspects of design, installation and testing of building life safety systems.

Other Codes and Standards
In addition to NFPA Codes, there are other organizations that have their own set of codes that are often sited by building inspectors and fire marshals.  These include the California Building Code (CBC), the California Fire Code (CFC), the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Fire Code (IFC).  In general, buildings that are maintained to the NFPA guidelines also satisfy the requirements of these other standards.

Relevant NFPA Chapters

  • NFPA 10 – Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • NFPA 25 – Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 72 – Fire Alarm Systems
  • NFPA 80 – Fire Doors
  • NFPA 101 – Life Safety Devices, especially Emergency and Exit Lighting

NFPA 25 – Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
On January 1, 2008, “NFPA 25 2006 California Edition” took effect is now the standard by which Fire Sprinkler Systems, Private Fire Hydrants and Hoses, Fire Pumps and other water-based fire protection systems must be inspected and tested in the State of California.  These standards replace the previous California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 19 and include new test procedures and reporting requirements.  This includes sending copies of each Test and Inspection to the building owner or manager and the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction.

NFPA 25 helps insure that mechanical components in a water-based fire protection system are functioning properly and that water is free to flow through the system and has adequate pressure.  In addition, safety features, such has shut-off valves are tested for proper operation.

Testing and Inspection Requirements
In general, Fire Sprinkler Systems are inspected quarterly, the main components are tested annually and the complete system is recertified every five years.  Other components generally have a semi-annual or annual testing frequency.

NFPA 72 – Fire Alarm Systems
NFPA 72 provides that minimum standards for testing Fire Alarm Systems in the State of California.

NFPA 72 tests and inspections are designed to help insure that the electronic components in a Fire Alarm System are functioning properly and will provide the intended responses in the event of a fire.  Many of these systems include audible devices to warn people in the vicinity of the building that there is a fire and communication devices to notify emergency personnel.  In addition, there are other devices that interface with the fire alarm system that can control elevators, release fire doors and turn on exhaust systems.  These ancillary systems are also tested for proper operation, but only from the prospective of the fire alarm system and additional testing by qualified personnel is usually require for proper code compliance.

Understanding The Difference Between NFPA 25 and 72 Inspections
A common misconception by many people is that the Fire Alarm System and the Water-Based Fire Protection System are part of the same system and are tested as one.  While it is true that these systems can be tested at the same time, each system has its own testing procedures, different required forms and different licensing requirements for companies working on the systems.  An example of the difference between the two tests and an example of how they may seem to overlap is the testing a water flow device.  This is a device that is installed in a Fire Sprinkler System to detect water that is moving through the pipes when a sprinkler head is spraying water on a fire.  NFPA 25 is concerned that when water flows through the device that a switch is activated.  A NFPA 25 test or inspection would also look for leaking devices, signs of damage or corrosion and other problems such as inadequate water pressure. The NFPA 72 test is focused on whether or not the attached device, usually a fire alarm panel, responds appropriately, for example by sounding alarms or sending an alarm signal to the central monitoring station.

NFPA 80 – Fire Doors, Trash Chutes, Elevator Doors, Fire Shutters and other fire controlling devices
NFPA 80 focuses on mechanical devices that are designed to hamper the spread of fire and smoke in buildings.  These devices include a variety of doors and shutters.  As with other NFPA Code sections there is an overlap between this code and other sections.  Often people believe that these devices are tested during the annual fire alarm test and inspection because aspects of their operations are tested under NFPA 72.  During the annual NFPA 72 test and inspection the technician confirms that in the event of fire, the door or shutter releasing mechanism is activated by the Fire Alarm System, if it is a function of the fire alarm system.  Beyond that, important safety features such as proper closing and latching are tested by NFPA 80 guidelines. Another area of regular confusion is the testing and inspection of fire doors and other similar devices.  Because fire door release mechanisms are tested under NFPA 72, there is an assumption that the Fire Doors are “tested.” 

NFPA 101 – Life Safety Devices, especially Emergency and Exit Lighting

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STATCOMM INC. • 939-C San Rafael Ave., Mountain View, CA 94043 • Tel: 888-988-9508 • 650-988-9508 • Fax: 650-988-9509