By Martin M. King, State Coordinator, National Fire Sprinkler Association – Wisconsin Chapter
(Appeared in the July 2018 issue of The Dispatcher)
The recent National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) training on Understanding, Applying and Enforcing NFPA 25 examines the relationships and responsibilities of the parties that utilize this standard. The scope of the standard establishes the minimum requirements for periodic inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) for water-based fire protection systems. It also discusses the actions for changes in occupancy, use, process, materials, hazard or water supply, which impact performance.
The first part of the training focuses on the general requirements (Chapter 4) of the standard. This is one of the most important chapters because it assigns responsibility for ITM. This responsibility lies with the owner, or designated representative, to assure that the ITM process and recordkeeping follow the requirements in this chapter. The designated representative is generally the occupant, property manager or other agent that is legally assigned these responsibilities. A fire sprinkler contractor is not a designated representative because the owner has not transferred those rights and responsibilities. Once an agreement is signed, the contractor can perform ITM. Their performance is governed by chapters 5–15.
There are usually three parties when talking about ITM under NFPA 25: the owner, or designated representative, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and the fire sprinkler contractor. The owner, or designated representative, is responsible for having the ITM performed and recorded. While the AHJ is responsible for assuring compliance with the standard, the fire sprinkler contractor is responsible for performing the ITM and reporting back to the owner.
There may be some confusion about the role of the fire sprinkler contractor to ensure compliance with NFPA 25. Note that the contractor is responsible for performing the agreed upon services. The owner is responsible for having the ITM performed, maintaining records and responding to noted deficiencies. The AHJ is responsible for assuring compliance and enforcing the standard.
There also may be confusion about what can be enforced under NFPA 25. This standard deals with the existing fire protection system and does not address design deficiencies. Design deficiencies are covered and enforced under the standard dealing with fire protection installation (including NFPA 13, 13R, 13D, 14, 20 and 24). The deficiencies generally occur because of unpermitted construction or change in occupancy, use, process, materials or hazards. These would not fit the scope of NFPA 25 requirements, and should not be listed on the report as a deficiency.
Finally, there are many communities that have placed language in their ordinances that adopt the most recent standard rather than by specific addition. The AHJ should assure that they have a copy of the most recent standard, they have been trained on the standard and that they are enforcing the standard. Failure to enforce parts of the standard, intentionally or unintentionally, may lead to a claim of selective enforcement which reflects badly on the municipality and AHJ.