Understanding Fire Watch Regulations and Procedures If your building has a fire alarm system and/or a water-based fire protection system, such as a sprinkler system, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code (LSC) may require you to put in place a fire watch if that system fails. Also see about: Fire Watch Guards
Chapter 15 of the NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, which specifies the requirements for how to respond to sprinkler system impairments, lays out the specific requirements for responding to impairments in your fire protection system. The requirement to respond to impairments in your fire protection system comes from the LSC. A fire watch may also be required in instances where the fire alarm signaling system is compromised, as stated in Annex A of the NFPA 72 Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
This post will help you learn more about fire watches, including what they are, what they entail, and the circumstances under which they must be carried out. It will also talk about the options building owners have for carrying them out.
A fire watch is defined in Chapter 3 of the LSC as the assignment of one or more individuals to the following tasks:
1) Notifying the fire department, the building’s occupants, or both of an emergency
2) preventing a fire
3) putting out small fires
4) shielding the general public from fire or life safety risks.
Emergency impairments can include an interruption in the water supply to the system, frozen or ruptured pipes, equipment failure, and any impairments that are identified during inspections of the system. Emergency impairments can also include an interruption in the water supply to the system, frozen or ruptured pipes, and any impairments that are identified during inspections of the system. The Code also covers preplanned impairments that occur when the system must be shut down for open flame operations, like welding in an area with automatic fire detection systems, or when the system needs to be disconnected for testing and maintenance.
NFPA 72 defines an impairment for sprinklers and other water-based fire protection systems as an “abnormal condition” that renders your system or a component or function inoperable. A fire watch might be necessary if any of your system’s equipment or parts are damaged in any of the following ways:
The NFPA standards do not specifically address the question of how much of the fire protection system must be impaired to trigger the fire watch requirement; however, a fire watch should be implemented whenever the system or a significant portion of the system cannot operate as intended.
Sprinkler systems, including water spray, water mist, and foam-water systems
Fire pumps and fire hose systems.
Water storage tanks and underground fire service mains.
Water supply interruptions.
It is also essential to keep in mind that the length of time the system is impaired triggers the requirement to implement a fire watch regardless of the nature of the impairment.