Q: What is the testing requirement for a fire alarm system in a nursing home? Is it annual or semiannual?
A: The testing frequencies for a fire alarm system differ based on the components of the fire alarm system, not where it is installed. A fire alarm system has to be tested at the same frequency regardless of where it is installed: A hospital, a nursing home, a surgical center, a medical office building, a school, etc. Take a look at Table 14.4.5 of NFPA 72-2010 for testing frequencies of different components of the fire alarm system. A quick summary of testing frequencies is:
Quarterly: Supervisory signal devices (i.e. low air pressure switches on dry-pipe systems)
Semi-annually: Waterflow switches, tamper switches, load voltage test on batteries
Annually: Smoke detectors, heat detectors, duct detectors, manual pull stations, occupant notification devices (i.e. strobes, horns, chines), interface relays and modules, charger test on batteries, discharge test on batteries, off-premises monitoring transmission equipment
Every 2 Years: Smoke detector sensitivity test
The time-frame to complete these tests is different for fire alarm systems than it is for other features of life safety. According to section 3.3.106 of NFPA 72-2010, the minimum and maximum times between testing/inspection events are as follows:
- Weekly: Fifty-two times per year, once per calendar week.
- Monthly: Twelve times per year, once per calendar month.
- Quarterly: Four times per year with a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 4 months.
- Semi-annually: Twice per year, with a minimum of 4 months, and a maximum of 8 months.
- Annually: Once per year with a minimum of 9 months and a maximum of 15 months.
I have confirmation from CMS that they will comply with these definitions of frequency for fire alarm testing/inspection, but it does not apply to features of life safety that are not fire alarm systems. The accreditation organizations should also accept these frequency definitions, but to be sure, check with them before implementation.