For many fire alarm technicians, getting the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to sign the Record of Completion [1, 7.5.6] signifies the end of their work. In reality, when a fire alarm system is accepted or put into service, the clock starts and the system is required to be maintained and inspected at prescribed intervals from that day forward. The maintenance and inspection requirements of fire alarm systems are set forth in the International Fire Code (IFC) , which is adopted by most municipalities in their state’s building code. The IFC will reference the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA 72) for direction on maintaining the system. Enforcing the codes that require a system to be maintained is the job of the AHJ, but maintaining the system is the responsibility of the owner.
In all municipalities, it is the building owner’s responsibility to maintain their structure in accordance with local, state, and federal codes. Municipalities will have personnel on staff to ensure codes are being followed and adhered to. The purpose of these codes is the make their building safe for employees and the public. Most cities and towns will have a department with inspectors dedicated to systems in their realm of expertise such as: mechanical; electrical; and the building. The fire alarm system will be scrutinized by the electrical inspector for the installation of equipment and wiring, but the ultimate authority to ensure proper operation lies with the fire department. Specifically, this is the task of the Fire Marshal, commonly know as the AHJ. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure their structure is being maintained, and they can designate a representative to perform those tasks. Commonly, a local fire alarm contractor will be hired to inspect and maintain the fire alarm system. Certain systems, such as Central Station Systems, will require a contract for service be in place before the system will be accepted and put into service.
NFPA 72 Standards
The International Fire Code requires that Fire Alarm Systems be inspected, tested, and maintained according to NFPA 72 [2, 901.6.1]. NFPA 72 describes the methods and frequencies for inspection and testing, as well as requirements for maintaining the system . To ensure the building owner is maintaining their system, and other requirements such as fire extinguishers and clear exits, the AHJ will make periodic inspections.
NFPA 72 requires that documentation of fire alarm system repairs and inspections that are provided to the owner be kept for a certain period of time. During the AHJ’s periodic inspection, they may request the owner to provide them with the documentation for their review. The AHJ’s interest may be a current impairment or the correction of a past impairment. In all cases, clear, concise, and accurate documentation is in the best interest of the fire alarm technician.
“If it was not documented, it didn’t happen,” is a familiar phrase in the construction industry, and the words ring true. Memories fade, people come and go, but the written word outlives them all. NFPA 72 requires inspection, test, and repair documentation be generated and provided to the owner. NFPA 72 lists what information is required and provides example forms to be used.
The building owner is required to be notified in writing when their fire alarm system is not working properly [2, 220.127.116.11.3] after an inspection or repair. In some cases, parts may need to be ordered, or the owner may not authorize the repair. The documentation the technician leaves with the owner can protect their company from liability. Incomplete or inaccurate information may not demonstrate that the owner was aware of the impairment, therefore not liable for improper operation.Fire alarm systems are routinely inspected by the fire marshal to ensure they are operating per code. The building owner is responsible for maintaining the fire alarm system and commonly hires a fire alarm contractor for this task. The most important aspect of a technician who inspects and repairs a fire alarm system is to generate accurate and complete documentation. A Fire Marshal who enforces codes requiring a fire alarm system to be properly maintained will request the owner provide documentation. In the case of impairments, proper documentation will protect the fire alarm contractor for being liable for the system not working properly.
Fire alarm systems are routinely inspected by the fire marshal to ensure they are operating per code. The building owner is responsible for maintaining the fire alarm system and commonly hires a fire alarm contractor for this task. The most important aspect of a technician who inspects and repairs a fire alarm system is to generate accurate and complete documentation. A Fire Marshal who enforces codes requiring a fire alarm system to be properly maintained will request the owner provide documentation. In the case of impairments, proper documentation will protect the fire alarm contractor for being liable for the system not working properly.
 NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, 2016 ed., National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2015.
 2015 International Fire Code, 1st ed., International Code Council (ICC), Washington, DC, 2014.