No fire protection strategy is complete without a plan for regular inspections, testing, and maintenance — and no regular inspection, testing, or maintenance services are complete without proper documentation. When it comes to building safety, documentation is needed to prove that a facility is compliant with all regulatory requirements and that it is doing everything it can to protect people and property in the case of an emergency.
However, many organizations have trouble keeping up with their fire sprinkler documentation and/or knowing what needs to go in it. Below, we’ll share nine of the most common fire sprinkler documentation issues we’ve seen, so your facility can make sure to avoid them.
9 Common Fire Sprinkler Documentation Issues
1. Failing to Document a Complete Device Inventory
Fire sprinkler systems consist of many different components and devices, all of which need to be documented in a complete device inventory report. This inventory acts as a checklist for the professional who inspects, tests, or maintains your system.
Unfortunately, many facilities fail to document this information properly. Their device inventory is either missing a few devices or was never started in the first place.
But while it can be tricky — especially in large facilities with complex fire sprinkler systems — to keep track of every battery, control panel, communication line, etc., it’s an important piece of documentation to have for ensuring no component of your system malfunctions in the event of a fire.
2. Forgetting to Document Parts of Your Fire Sprinkler System that Were in Compliance
During a routine fire sprinkler inspection or test, it’s easy to remember to document parts that aren’t in compliance, as those are usually top-of-mind. However, a step that many facility managers often forget or overlook is documenting the components that are in compliance, or the ones that the inspector found nothing wrong with.
Whether they don’t realize they need to, or they just forget to, this is one of the most frequent fire sprinkler documentation mistakes that facilities commit — but it’s also a pretty simple one to accomplish once reminded.
3. Forgetting to Update Your Fire Sprinkler Documentation After You’ve Corrected a Reported Deficiency
Say you’ve hired an inspector, and they found a few deficiencies in your fire sprinkler system. After that, you’ve gone through and made all the necessary changes they recommended. You’re all set and can move on until the next inspection, right?
Wrong. Don’t forget to update your fire sprinkler documentation after you’ve made the correction(s)! It’s important, and mandatory, to keep a trail of all the corrective actions you’ve taken following deficiencies found in inspections and tests. That way, any regulating authorities are aware that your facility is now in full compliance.
4. Forgetting to Update Fire Sprinkler Documentation When You’ve Made a Change to Your System
Have you upgraded your fire sprinkler system lately? Maybe added a new extension onto your facility? Don’t forget to document the changes you’ve made!
Unfortunately, this is an aspect of documentation that’s often forgotten due to the excitement of whatever new upgrade or addition is installed. There are many things to keep in mind throughout the installation process, which always seems to put documentation on the backburner. However, it’s important to leave no stone unturned and to remember that everything within your fire sprinkler documentation should be complete and up-to-date.
5. Failing to Have Backflow Preventer Testing Documentation
If your facility has Backflow Preventer Devices, you’re required to have them tested annually by a certified professional — and, of course, you’re required to document the details of that test.
Most of the time, your AHJ will require this documentation to be sent to them directly. Other times, your AHJ will look for the documentation when they complete your onsite survey. They may ask to see the report that details exact results, just look on the device tag, or both.
6. Failing to Document Less Frequent Inspections & Testing
The NFPA requires multiple 3-year, 5-year, and one-off inspections and tests that your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) will want to review, so make sure you’ve documented them! It can be easy to forget a task that occurs so infrequently, but having these reports completed and accessible will save you many headaches in the long run.
Just few of these less frequent or one-off inspections and tests include:
- ½ inch fire hose valve test (3 years)
- Occupant use fire hose pressure test (5 years, then every 3 years)
- Check valve inspection (5 years)
- Pressure gauge calibration (5 years)
- Standpipe water flow test (5 years)
- Dry head sprinkler replacement (10 years)
- Spare sprinkler list (one time)
7. Failing to Document Code and Standard References
Buildings and facilities must remain up-to-code and compliant with any standards set by industry authorities. That said, an important part of documentation is ensuring those codes and standards are referenced throughout, wherever they are applicable.
For example, a majority of hospitals hold accreditation status from at least one of the following accrediting agencies: Det Norske Veritas, Inc. (DNV), the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP), and/or the Joint Commission (JC). Therefore, their fire sprinkler system documentation should be sure to reference the relevant standards set by those agencies, and whether or not their system complies with them.
8. Failing to Complete & Document Inspections & Testing within Acceptable Compliance Windows
Both the NFPA and Joint Commission have established their own guidelines for when inspection, testing, and documentation needs to be completed, which they call “compliance windows.” These guidelines help provide a more exact schedule for completing these activities, defining terms like “weekly,” “quarterly,” and “semi-annually” more specifically. It’s important to become familiar with these guidelines, so you can ensure you’re hitting all documentation deadlines and staying compliant.
9. Failing to Include All Aspects Required to Be Documented in Any Report Per TJC
The final common mistake facilities make in their fire sprinkler documentation is failing to provide basic details, such as dates, signatures, and more that are required by The Joint Commission (TJC). It’s a simple, yet easily forgotten task. However, it’s important that after all the work you did to get your system inspected, tested, or maintained, you complete the final step. Once the report is done, make sure it includes all of the following information:
- Name of the individual performing the activity
- Affiliation of the individual performing the activity
- Signature of the individual performing the activity
- Activity name
- Date (month/day/year) that the activity was performed
- Frequency that is required of the activity
- NFPA standard that requires the activity to be performed
- Results of the activity (“Pass” or “Fail”)
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Looking for help solving fire sprinkler documentation issues at your facility? Connecting with an experienced fire protection expert at Vanguard Fire & Security Systems can help. BuildingReports®, our proven building safety documentation system ensures you never miss a notation. Contact us today to learn more!