It’s not enough to simply buy a fire extinguisher or install a fire safety system and forget about it.
Especially in buildings with tenants, service and maintenance agreements are vital to risk mitigation efforts, so facilities managers must have all fire and life safety systems and equipment inspected and maintained regularly.
“Testing and maintenance agreements reduce your risk and exposure by keeping equipment and systems running efficiently, helping to protect your business against unfortunate events like a fire, significant water damage, or even loss of life, all due to damaged fire and life safety systems and equipment components that are poorly maintained,” said Mario Lopez, Vice President of Sales at Fortis Fire & Safety.
Not only are routine inspections important — they’re required by the municipality and the property’s insurance underwriter.
What Is Involved in an Inspection?
Fire and life safety inspectors will visually inspect and physically test safety systems, including all components of sprinkler systems, alarm and detection systems, and fire extinguishers to ensure they are in operating condition.
A property’s fire safety systems testing and inspections can include other systems that are connected and monitored by the fire alarm system, including:
- Elevators – recall testing
- Kitchen Hood Systems
- Smoke Evac/Management Systems
- BDA/DAS/ERRCS two-way emergency communication systems
- Emergency lighting systems
- Emergency generators
The frequency of testing and inspections will vary by system, jurisdiction, and insurance underwriter requirements. Depending on the type and the components of the systems, NFPA code-required frequencies for testing and inspections include but are not limited to weekly, monthly, semi-annual, annual, three-year, and five-year certifications.
Risks of Delaying Inspections and Maintenance
Keeping fire protection and life safety systems in good working order goes beyond simply remaining compliant. This is all in an effort to avoid tragedy and loss of life.
One such disaster that could have been avoided is the Deer Park, Texas, chemical fire that burned for three days in 2019. “I received numerous calls from our oil and gas clients during and after that fire,” Lopez said.
This fire caused over $150 million in property damage. It significantly impacted the environment, discharging hazardous chemicals into the air, which led to several shelter-in-place advisories throughout the area and health hazards for weeks. Chemicals also flowed into the nearby ship channel, killing wildlife.
“The investigation showed this event could have been prevented if proper safeguards had been in place at the facility,” Lopez added. The Texas Tribune and Public Health Watch revealed that for years before the 2019 fire, federal and state regulators documented repeated problems at the chemical facility tank farm along the Houston Ship Channel.
“The best way owners and property managers can stay on top of their testing and inspection requirements is to hire a professional fire and life safety contractor who can provide and manage all their fire and life safety systems testing and inspection frequency requirements,” Lopez advised.