Water-flow Switch Testing

Q: The 2008 edition of NFPA 25 allows vane-style waterflow switches to be tested semi-annually, but during a recent survey, the surveyor cited us for not testing them on a quarterly basis. Why would they do that?

A: If you were surveyed by an accreditation organization (AO), such as The Joint Commission, HFAP, or DNV, then the surveyor was correct to cite you for not testing the waterflow switches on a quarterly basis. The reason is the AOs are stuck on the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code (LSC) until such time the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decides to adopt a more recent edition of the code. Section 2.1.1 of the 2000 edition of the LSC refers the 1998 edition of NFPA 25 Standard for the Testing, Inspection, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, which requires waterflow switches to be tested quarterly (see section 9-2.7). However, if you were surveyed by an agency not affiliated with CMS, perhaps you have a case for an appeal. Many organizations that are not under the authority of CMS (organizations such as the VA hospitals, DOD hospitals, and private-pay hospitals) frequently adopt a more recent edition of the Life Safety Code, which would reference a more recent edition of NFPA 25. As you indicated, the 2008 edition of NFPA 25 only requires vane-style waterflow to be tested semi-annually. If you are sure your waterflow switches are vane-style, then you have a case to discuss with your surveyor.