July 9, 2021
Authored by: Greg Hedrick, Alarm System Auditor I, CET, Certificate Services
Central station fire alarm service and UL’s Certificate Services program provide confidence that fire alarm systems are monitored, installed, tested and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72. Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) around the United States that have mandated central station service through code adoption of NFPA 72, 26.3 utilizing UL’s fire alarm service certification in their jurisdictions, noted increased in fire alarm system reliability and alarm service company accountability. Some of the key benefits of the UL certification program include identifying and enabling correction of issues in fire alarm systems such as those described in this article.
System Programming Error
A UL auditor was performing a runner service test with a local fire inspector at a property protected with a fire alarm system. The fire inspector activated a manual pull station and awaited notification from the communications center confirming the alarm signal was transferred for fire department dispatch to the location. In a few minutes, a police officer arrived at the location and informed the fire inspector and UL auditor that local law enforcement were dispatched for a burglar alarm at that address. Upon further investigation by the UL auditor, the central station had incorrectly set the account signal as a burglar alarm rather than a fire alarm system.
Code Compliant Testing
While completing an annual audit of an alarm service company, a UL auditor requested that an alarm technician perform a functional test of a smoke detector installed above a fire alarm control panel. When the detector activated, the building’s elevator – located some distance away from the activated smoke detector – recalled due to fire alarm activation. When the UL auditor asked why the elevator recalled from a smoke detector activation not programmed for that function, the technician had no explanation. The technician then informed the auditor that the elevator recall had never occurred during previous testing that had been routinely performed using the fire panel walk test feature. The auditor explained to the technician that the walk test feature is not an accurate indication of all fire alarm system functions, and that functional testing of system devices must be done in accordance with NFPA 72.
Secondary Power Requirements
During a system audit, a UL auditor noticed the batteries installed seemed much too small for the systems size. The auditor had the tech hit the breaker and put the system in alarm – and the batteries didn’t even last a full 30 seconds. The auditor had the alarm service company recalculate the battery calculations and install the proper size batteries to supply the system to meet NFPA 72.
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