Unlocking the code of visual and audible fire alarms

By Healthcare Facilities Today
January 22, 2014

In the third part of a series on the FacilityCare website focusing on navigating fire safety codes, the authors take a closer look at the fourth Element of Performance (EP4) within the Environment of Care Standard EC.02.03.05: the testing of visual and audible fire alarms (notification devices).

The purpose of fire alarm notification appliances is to initiate evacuation or relocation of building occupants, the article said. Hospitals only evacuate as a last resort and practice containment and defend in place. Notification appliances mainly are used to alert building staff so they may initiate the building emergency action plan, such as using a coded message to alert responders to the location of a fire without announcing it to the general public in order to prevent unnecessary panic. 

Fire alarm notification appliances are considered part of the “outputs” of the entire fire alarm system, according to the article. The term is commonly interchangeably with “visual and audible alarms” or “notification devices.”

Creating a complete inventory of all devices is a mandatory requirement and this applies to notification devices as well. As an industry, most fire alarm testing vendors do not list test results for every notification appliance individually, but instead document the exceptions to the results as a deficiency item. 

Documented this way, the report will indicate that “notification appliances were tested.” However, this poses a significant challenge for hospitals during a Joint Commission survey in that by only documenting the exceptions there is no baseline to show how many total notification appliance components are installed as part of the system and how many were tested, the article said

Another common practice is to create an inventory of notification circuits and list their test results. It is important to note that notification circuits are different than notification appliances. A notification circuit is the output circuit to which the individual alarm notification appliances are connected. 

As an example, there might be 10 notification circuits integrated into the fire alarm system, but there could be a number of different notification appliances (audible and visual alarm) on each circuit, according to the article. The approach of creating an inventory of notification circuits, therefore, does not satisfy Joint Commission documentation requirements since this inventory does not list the individual devices that are a part of the circuits. If each device is not inventoried, how can you tell if all devices on each circuit were actually tested?

To comply with The Joint Commission requirements, a complete inventory of individual notification appliances has to be created and the test results for each device have to be documented.

Read the article.

Read part one of the series.

Read part two of the series.






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