Q: Our projects team currently disables our fire alarm control panel each morning during periods of construction and restores the panel each evening. They do this to prevent unwanted fire alarms that would be a nuisance to our staff and local fire department. This doesn’t seem to me to be the best method to deal with construction and the fire alarm panel. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on this topic?
A: Your message did not address whether or not Interim Life Safety Measures (ILSM) are implemented during the time the fire panel is disabled, and that would be my number 1 concern. Section 184.108.40.206 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code® (LSC) discusses alternative life safety measures acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) need to be in place whenever construction, repair, alterations or additions are in progress. Also, section 220.127.116.11 requires the AHJ shall be notified and a fire watch be implemented (or evacuate the entire facility, which is not desirable) whenever the fire alarm system is out of service for 4 or more hours in a 24 hour period. Those are mandatory actions that need to be followed. Other option, in lieu of disabling the entire fire alarm system, is to just remove from service the specific detectors or initiating circuit in the construction area, although you would still have to follow ILSM procedures. Most modern fire alarm systems have the ability to program initiating devices out-of-service to allow construction activities. Another option is to physically remove the detectors from their bases if this is possible. Some hospitals place protective coverings over smoke detectors during time of construction, although I am not a supporter of that practice. I have seen multiple situations where someone forgot to remove the protective cover from the detector and it remained in place long after the construction was completed. The bottom line is this: You need to develop a plan for alternative measures that is acceptable with your AHJ, presumably the local fire department, whenever a feature of fire safety is impaired. You are also required to develop a ILSM policy with written criteria for evaluating when and to what extent you should follow special measures to compensate for an increase risk to life safety, if your are accredited by the Joint Commission.