BY WAYNE D. MOORE
THROUGHOUT MY CAREER, I have found contractors that attempt to perform fire alarm system installations by the seat of their pants. A contractor typically has grown up in the industry with some valuable
training resources. But, as time goes by, they can start relying on others and taking input from fire alarm
supplier salespeople, often with wrong information. This has proven especially true as the fire alarm system
technology has developed and become more complicated.
A contractor often takes the information on the equipment sales sheet
as gospel. Unfortunately, it was written by a supplier’s marketing team,
which may have taken liberties. Additionally, the NFPA technical committees add requirements based on the seeming inability of contractors
to “get it right” when installing fire alarm systems. Then, to muddy the
situation further, the NFPA adds internal procedures that says the codes
and standards technical committees cannot require anything that might
be beyond the scope of the particular technical committee.
This unintentionally causes confusion in the field as to what a contractor must price and quote to meet all of the codes and standards
requirements that relate to fire alarm systems. Sometimes, actions by
other code-making bodies further complicate the issue. The recent editions of the International Building Code ( IBC) and the International Fire
Code ( IFC) have adopted by reference NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated
Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing.
So what does this mean the contractor? It means that even when the
jurisdiction in which you work has not yet adopted the most current IBC or
IFC, you should expect the fire official to want all fire alarm and associated
systems tested in accordance with NFPA 4.
Many contractors assume that once they install a fire alarm system,
and perform an acceptance test on it, the work is done. Nothing could be
further from the truth. The old statement by contractors that their instal-
lation will “meet code” takes on a whole new meaning.
NFPA 4-2015 defines an integrated systems test as “a test performed
Contractors may normally test a fire alarm system connected to an
on fire protection and life safety systems to confirm that operation, in-
teraction, and coordination of multiple individual systems perform their
“Life safety systems” can include either active and passive fire
protection systems, devices or assemblies. Generally, these systems
include several items of equipment, processes, actions or behaviors,
grouped or interconnected to reduce injuries or death from fire or other
life-threatening event. Life safety systems often integrate systems that
intend to enhance or facilitate evacuation, smoke control, compartmen-
talization or isolation.
elevator recall system to ensure that, when the smoke detector is actu-
ated, the elevator recall took the elevator to the appropriate floor. But, an
integrated systems test can include many other life-safety-related systems
beyond a simple elevator recall test. Integrated testing will include other
building systems whose designs intend to integrate other fire and life
safety systems, such as HVAC control, smoke control, fire damper release
and smoke door closure.
As stated in the Annex A of NFPA 4-2015, “Integrated tests might also
be referred to as end-to-end tests.” When performing an integrated test
of fire alarm and other life safety systems, the contractor must ensure the
actuation of all individual system inputs and observation of all individual
system responses or outputs. Generally, I would not recommend standing
at the fire alarm control unit (FACU) and testing specific inputs and outputs,
or responses, without actually testing the devices, FACU response, and
the response of the integrated life safety system.
Typically, the electrical team will not do the integrated system test-
ing. The standard requires establishing an “integrated system test team”
and developing an integrated test plan. For new systems, the minimum
requirements for a test plan include the following:
( 1) Written verification that the integrated system and its individual
systems have been installed in accordance with the approved design
( 2) List of the individual systems to be tested
FOCUS | FIRE
who moved your
The evolving world of testing