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NFPA 1: What is NFPA 4? Requirements for integrated system testing.

Blog Post created by kristinbigda Employee on Jun 18, 2018

Today’s post is from NFPA staff, Jacqueline Wilmot (@JWilmot_NFPA). Jacqueline is a Fire Protection Engineer in the Building and Life Safety Department where she serves as Staff Liaison to multiple NFPA Technical Committees, including Commissioning and Integrated Testing responsible for the development of NFPA 3 and NFPA 4. Most recently, Jacqueline co-presented an education session, along with NFPA's Shawn Mahoney, at NFPA’s Conference and Expo on integrated system testing (session T23, handouts are available to download if you attended the conference!) Special thanks to Jacqueline for her contribution!

With the latest edition of NFPA 1 (2018) referencing NFPA 4, Standard for the Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing (2018) it is important to recognize what this standard addresses. The most common misconception about integrated system testing is that it is already being done. Many people assume that when they enter a building, all the fire protection and life safety systems have been tested. This is true, individually. The fire protection and life safety systems that are installed in a building are required to pass an acceptance test in accordance with the corresponding design and installation standard in order for the owner to receive a certificate of occupancy (C of O). What many people may have not considered is that most fire protection and life safety systems in today’s world are designed to work together.

However, reference to NFPA 4 in multiple NFPA and ICC codes is working to change all that: the 2018 editions of NFPA 1, NFPA 101, and NFPA 5000 all include a reference to NFPA 4. The latest edition of NFPA 101 now requires where two or more fire protection or life safety systems are integrated, and where required by chapters 11 through 43 in NFPA 101, integrated system testing must be conducted to verify the proper operation and function of such systems in accordance with NFPA 4. NFPA 1 extracts this language from NFPA 101 into Section 13.1.3.

 

NFPA 4 does not provide a prescriptive lists of test scenarios, or testing frequencies based on the occupancy classification or the types of systems installed inside a facility. Since the level of testing varies from one building to another, NFPA 4 provides a protocol that will verify the integrated fire protection and life safety systems perform as intended.

The major items outlined in NFPA 4 include identifying the people on an integrated system testing team who are responsible for writing the test plan, developing test scenarios and test frequencies, and documenting this information in a final test report to submit to the owner.

TEST TEAM: The standard outlines who could be on the integrated system testing team and lists the required qualifications and responsibilities associated with the specific position on the team.

TEST PLANS: The required test plans are project dependent and will vary in length, but 11 specific items are required to be included in the test plan in accordance with NFPA 4. The concept of writing a test plan is to have a document which the Integrated Test Team can use to conduct the test without having to ask any questions.

TEST SCENARIOS: The test scenarios required by NFPA 4 are not prescriptive to the type of system, but are very common scenarios to conduct for most buildings and require events and combination of events, including but not limited to the loss of normal power, water flow, and presence of smoke. The scalability of a project, the number of systems installed in a facility, the complexity of those systems, the number of zones for each system, and several other factors need to be analyzed to determine how integrated system testing will be conducted and which scenarios will make sense to test.

TESTING FREQUENCIES: Typically testing is required when (1) a new system is installed and integrated into an existing system, (2) existing systems are modified to become part of an integrated system, or (3) changes are made for an individual system that is part of an integrated system. It’s important to recognize the purpose of this testing is not to require testing every time a strobe is replaced, but rather to test the portions of the integrated system that are affected by the modification.

AHJs needs to be involved early in the process to communicate the types of scenarios they would like included in the test plan. For example, if a recent tragedy occurred, the AHJ might want to make sure that if this incident happened again, all the systems would perform in accordance with their intended design criteria. If an AHJ does not feel comfortable reviewing the test plans, a third party review, also known as an Integrated Testing Agent (ITa) can be hired. It would be prudent for the AHJ to accompany the ITa, if possible, to continue learning from an expert who knows the systems.

For more information on NFPA 4, please visit www.nfpa.org/4

 

Thanks again to Jacqueline for this post.

(To view the 2018 edition of NFPA 1 visit www.nfpa.org/1. Follow along on twitter @KristinB_NFPA for further Fire Code news and fire safety stories)

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