In 2012, the National Fire Protection Association adopted NFPA 3, Recommended Practice on Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire and Life Safety Systems. Since then, it has been split into two separate documents. NFPA 3 is still a recommended practice on commissioning of fire and life safety systems. The integrated testing portion is now NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing. This adoption cycle is almost complete. Since no Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM) was filed to present any particular issues to the membership at the NFPA Annual Meeting Technical Session, both become consensus documents that will be approved by the Standards Council at its summer meeting, and will be available for purchase this fall.

We have had individual requirements for testing the fire alarm systems in NFPA 72, testing of water-based fire protection systems in NFPA 25, inspection and testing of fire extinguishers in NFPA 10, and so on. NFPA 72, 2013 edition, states in A.14.2.10, “The testing requirements prescribed in NFPA 72 for fire alarm and signaling systems end at the emergency control function interface device.”

NFPA always states that the people doing the testing must be qualified, but there has never been one document that covers end-to-end testing of all the integrated fire protection and life safety systems, such as the fire alarm system, fire sprinkler system, elevator systems, fire pumps, generators, HVAC systems, smoke and fire barriers, fire extinguisher monitoring and other fire-suppression systems. NFPA 4 is not meant to replace any of the above requirements or documentation. Those requirements will still be used for acceptance, re-acceptance and periodic testing of the individuals systems, and their test reports will become part of the NFPA 4 documentation.

The purpose of NFPA 4 is to “provide a testing protocol that will verify that integrated fire protection and life safety systems work as intended.” In addition, this document will apply to both active and passive systems and both new and existing systems when testing is “required either by the design documents, commissioning plan, or governing laws, codes, regulations, or standards.” Obviously, NFPA 4 will more likely be used in large buildings with multiple integrated systems rather than small facilities with only one or two, such as a restaurant or something similar.

Think back about the acceptance tests you have done. How well was end-to-end testing conducted? In all likelihood, it was spotty, depending on the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). NFPA 4 will now provide better guidelines to improve the process. Keep in mind that your state or local jurisdiction will still need to adopt the 2015 NFPA 4 before it becomes enforceable, but it is heading in the right direction.

In the 2013 NFPA 72, a new requirement for a “test plan” was added in Chapter 7 on documentation. NFPA 4 also has a requirement for a test plan that I have extracted from the draft document. This shows the big picture of what will be included: “4.5.1—For new systems the minimum requirements for a test plan shall include the following:

1. “Written verification that the integrated system and its individual systems have been installed in accordance with the approved design documents.
2. “List of the individual systems to be tested
3. “Documentation of the individual systems as required by the applicable codes or standards
4. “Integrated test team and additional entities required to be in attendance
5. “Equipment required for testing
6. “A comprehensive functional matrix depicting all system inputs and associated output functions
7. “List of necessary drawings, including riser diagrams and control diagrams
8. “Narrative description of the test scenarios, including what is needed for record of completion to document approval by the AHJ
9. “The extent of systems to be tested under the direction of the ITa (Integrated Testing Agent)
10. “Test schedule, including individual systems
11. “Periodic integrated systems test frequency”

The test scenarios in item 8 would be a description of all likely situations, including testing under normal and emergency power as well as under likely fire scenarios. It must be a well-thought-out process. The narrative should include detailed information about tests that must be completed prior to the integrated testing, the extent of the testing and how the tests must be conducted.

The layout of NFPA 4 includes chapters on general requirements, test methods, test frequencies and documentation; it also contains Annex A for explanatory information and Annex B that provides a sample integrated test plan.

Copies of the 2015 NFPA 4 should be available in September or October 2014. If you perform commissioning services, get a copy as soon as it is available. However, this document should be helpful even if you only do acceptance or periodic testing of one or more fire protection system(s).