Q: What is actually required in order to perform a Fire Watch when the fire alarm system is inoperative? How often should a Fire Watch be performed?
A: The Life Safety Code (LSC) section 220.127.116.11 requires an approved fire watch be conducted whenever the fire alarm system is out of service for 4 or more hours in a 24 hour period. The Annex section A.18.104.22.168 explains that a fire watch should at least involve some special action beyond normal staffing, such as assigning an additional security guard to walk the affected areas. These individuals should be specially trained in fire prevention and in occupant and fire department notification techniques.
NFPA 601 (1996 edition) Standard for Security Services in Fire Loss Prevention provides examples of procedures for fire loss prevention:
- Check permits for hot work
- Check for obstructed sprinkler heads or closed control valves
- Check portable fire extinguishers for availability
- Check temporary fire alarm equipment
- Check affected area is clear of discarded packaging
- Check affected area for clear path of egress
- Check for any forms of ignition
While there is not a specific requirement that fire watches be performed by security personnel, it is strongly recommended that you do not leave this important responsibility to someone who does not have an active stake in the safe operation of your facility. There is not a prescribed frequency in any NFPA code or standard on how often a fire watch should be conducted, so it is left up to the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) to make this determination. Joint Commission has indicated that two fire watch rounds per 8 hour shift would be acceptable, however it is recommended that you contact your local and state authorities to determine what frequency they require.
NOTE: Whoever you choose to perform the fire watch, they will need to have basic training on what to look for and what action to take. The Fire Watch form under the “Forms” page can be used for not only documentaing that a fire watch has been initiated, but also serves as an education tool for just-in-time training for the individual who conducts the fire watch.