Write This Down

Some of us have grown up in the trades hearing this statement over and over. Some of us never get it. Others finally realize that, indeed, without the properly completed paperwork, the project never gets completed, and the payments are delayed. But paperwork takes on a whole new meaning when dealing with fire alarm systems and the National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 72, requirements for documentation. The requirements begin in Chapter 4 where Section states in part, “Complete information regarding the system or system alterations, including specifications, type of system or service, shop drawings, input/output matrix, battery calculations, and notification appliance circuit voltage drop calculations shall be submitted for approval (by the authority having jurisdiction).”

According to the annex material provided for Section 4.5.11, fire alarm system shop drawings are intended to be provided by the equipment supplier, combined with the design drawings and “are intended to provide basic information consistent with the objective of installing a fully operational, code-compliant fire alarm system and to provide the basis for the record (as-built) drawings.”

“Shop drawings should include, to an extent commensurate with the extent of the work being performed, floor plan drawings, riser diagrams (except for systems in single-story buildings), control unit wiring diagrams, point-to-point wiring diagrams, and typical wiring diagrams as described herein. All shop drawings should be drawn on sheets of uniform size and should include the following information:

1. Name of owner and occupant

2. Location, including street address

3. Device legend

4. Date

5. Input/output programming matrix”

Floor plans should be complete and accurate. Control unit wiring diagrams should be provided for all control equipment, power supplies, battery chargers, and annunciators showing all field wiring and interface connections.

Annex A.4.5.11 also states that “Typical wiring diagrams should be provided for all initiating devices, notification appliances, remote alarm light emitting diodes (LEDs), remote test stations, and end-of-line and power supervisory devices.”

Right from the start, there is more documentation required for a fire alarm system than most other systems installed by a contractor. Some fire officials require the installing contractor to furnish a written document stating that the system has been installed in accordance with approved plans and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s published instructions and the appropriate NFPA requirements. The wise contractor will review the Record of Completion form provided in the code and use it to supply the fire official with the information required in the written statement of compliance.

The code requires every system to include the following documentation, which must be delivered to the owner or the owner’s representative upon final acceptance of the system:

1. An owner’s manual and manufacturer’s published instructions covering all system equipment

2. Record drawings

3. For software-based systems, a record copy of the site-specific software for addressable or addressable analog systems. Addressable systems provide a unique address for each detector; addressable analog does the same but also can provide sensitivity readings of smoke detectors and allows the fire alarm control unit (FACU) to assign a sensitivity setting to each detector to accommodate differing environments.

It should be apparent that the authority having jurisdiction will expect more than equipment specification sheets, so the professional contractor will need to work closely with his or her equipment supplier to ensure the required documentation is in place before the final acceptance testing and system commissioning begins.

There is more code-required documentation that must be supplied upon completion of the system commissioning. Record drawings are by far the most important documents a contractor should prepare for an owner. The code defines record drawings (as-built) as “drawings that document the location of all devices, appliances, wiring sequences, wiring methods, and connections of the components of the fire alarm system as installed.” Properly executed as-built drawings will provide the contractor and the owner with the necessary tools to maintain the system in the years after the initial installation.

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.


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