What do you check for when doing a routine yearly inspection. How do you price it out? I have never done this and I now see the error of my ways. I need to get a program started and would like some guidence. Thanks PAul.
How long has it been since the last inspection? You're probably in for at least a 100% system check, cleaning and maybe bi annual obscuration test. You'd better know what your scope of work requires before trying to figure a price. Don't forget a lift if necessary or after hours charges etc.
Sorry, but I am a bit confused. . .are you a building owner looking to have a facility inspected? or a person who wants to start doing fire alarm inspections?
If your a building owner, easist thing would be to call a couple companies to get quotes (Fire Marshall in your area can probably give you a few names.
If your a alarm company owner and you are wanting to start doing fire alarm inspections--Stop. Hire someone who has, at least, a level 2 NICET certification in Fire alarm technologies. You realize these are LIFE-SAFETY systems. You can't wake up one morning and decide "I'm gonna start inspection fire alarms, today."
If you still feel like this is something you want to do, memorize NFPA
Then, you will, at least, have an idea of what questions you need to be asking.
Paul Brew> What do you check for when doing a routine yearly inspection. How do
OK, Heres the scoop. I am an alarm company. Been in business 10+ years. I have only installed about 15 systems. Just too busy doing other things to go back and inspect. Yes I do have a fire alarm license issued in this state. No I do not have a nicet certification.
Here's the situation, The area these systems are in were never required to be inspected. Now they require a yearly inspection. So now other companies are inspecting the systems and seem to be charging a very hefty fee. Since I have the monitoring on these systems, I know this is happening. Other companies are having the owner to put the system in test and call back for the results.
It just annoys me that I sold and still service the panel, but someone else makes more money on the inspection than I do on the monitoring.
Before all the licensing and Nicet requirements, I use to do fire inspections for 200+ customers in my area. I followed NFPA guidelines to the letter, before anyone else in my area did. I charged a decent rate, $150 flat fee for a small daycare, ALF, etc...$300+ for an apt complex or small office complex...life was good.
After I tallyed all the local fees, licensing, Nicet requirements and courses, etc...I decided that it was a huge waste of time trying to keep this going. I would have to triple my nominal $150 fee just to stay in business. Plus all the courses and useless continuing education classes that never end, made me feel like I was going back to school for the rest of my life. So I stopped doing fire altogether.
Shortly afterwards, I stopped doing new burg installations, in favor of takeovers. Which makes more economic sense. Builders in my area expected me to do full prewires on new construction for $300, in hope that the homeowner would give me a bread crumb and have me complete the alarm installation for a $500 fixed fee. Then I find out the builders are reselling the $300 prewire for $1200-1500, and $3000-5000 for a completed system direct to the homeowner. So until a builder is required to carry an alarm license on such an upsell, I refuse to do them anymore.
Afterall, licensed electrical contractors are now required to have a seperate fire license. For years these guys gave the industry a huge black eye with their shoddy installation practices. And even with these new guidelines, most electrical contractors in my area just don't have a clue. But, they have a license that says they do...go figure. I believe that if one person is required to have a license, so should they all. I mean all employees, service techs, sales perople...let's clean up this mess.
Companies like Ranger Amercian, though they do excellent work for the most part, hurt the industry with their low ball prewires. Their employees earn close to minimum wage, no overtime, and must work 3 Saturdays a month. Most of them are foriegn immigrants, They are forced to drive their own vehicles, and are poorly compensated. I feel Ranger takes advantage of their situation, but that's my opinion. I believe that the state labor board already fined Ranger Amercian numerous times for violating state labor laws, but yet it still goes on...
Basically you want to be sure all devices work. Batteries are OK. Signals are sent as they should be including trouble and zone signals. For smoke detector type devices, test per manufacturer's instructions.
High rise buildings have the fire alarm tied into the elevators. All elevators are sent to the 1st floor when the fire alarm trips. The building manager will not be happy if you trip the alarm and leave all the elevators on the 1st floor for 15 minutes! (Needs to be tested, then bypassed for further testing of system.)
Also some fire sprinkler "flow detector" switches are also tied into the main electrical circuit breaker. If you open a test valve (which simulates one sprinkler head popping), then the flow switch trips, it activates the alarm *and* trips the main building breaker! (If it is a grocery store and they have a lot of compressors for refrigeration, they will not be happy.)
Basically know the entire system and what is connected to what before testing. Know how to properly test smoke detection devices per the manufacturer.
In the past I have found smoke detectors which did not work and needed replacement and frequently batteries need replacement.
That may not exactly be the case. I know of one or two sprinkler companies that basically go door to door offering free inspection of sprinkler and fire systems, and then make a list of reccomended repairs and upgrades. Its a sales tactic.
I can't quite picture how that works. Generally speaking if you are required to have a fire alarm, most times it must be monitored and under an inspection contract where we are. If the end user has any warranty on a system, a third party involvement might void that. If the customer knows he has a bad system what would be his motivation to let them inspect? Here you have to turn in red tags to the state and the AHJ. Best thing the customer could hope for is to lose his CO for free. Who has time for that anyway? Most of the time it is all you can do to inspect what is out there under contract already.
Hmm. That's one I've never seen. How and why would one wire the building mains to the fire panel? I've connected commercial fire alarms to shut down HVAC air handlers but the air handlers start up again as soon a the test is complete. It's best to stick around and check to be sure it restarts though.
Whatever you do during testing, always inform people on site first so they don't panic.
One person mentioned NICET certification. In some locales that is a requirement. Other places, the license is all you need. As to continuing education, if you plan to stay in business, it's a wise investment. I don't install any more. I only sell online, but I take manufacturer training courses at trade shows every year to stay on top of new technology. In Jim Rojas' case it was a business decision to disengage from certain aspects of the trade and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you do wish to tap into what can be a lucrative market, ignore Mugford and definitekly take all the related CEU classes you can.
It's called a shunt trip breaker. I did a fire alarm system at a night club that required all power for certain devices or areas to be shutdown. I don't remember the specifics. I do remember that the DJ booth & sound system would be shutdown, besides the normal shutdown of all HVAC.
It makes sense to shut down the sound system. An evax system we installed in a church was rigged to override the sanctuary audio system though it didn't kill power to the sound booth. It cut out the amps.
You do this to make certain the audible alarms are heard. But shutting down the building mains? I don't think so.
Shunts are used for alot of different things in different occupancies. One that catches my guys every once and awhile is we have a Lexus dealership and when they do the body shop the paint booths shut down. They are at the other end of the body shop in a separate area. They can always tell because the painters come out screamin. Ooops! We try to do after hours but no one wants to pay anymore. OK, lets kill two birds and use it as a fire drill. This is good for some occupancys, especially at day cares.
Your "yearly inspection" must have a proscribed format (you need inspection forms). NFPA would no doubt be able to give you some direction as well as the local AHJ. You must know the equipment (and I don't mean which buttons to push to "lamp test" or "reset"). Most fire alarm systems are integrated to key building equipment like fire pumps, elevators, generators, air handling units, floor dampers, stairwell pressurization, etc. If you don't know what to look for during your inspection you won't be able to properly sign off on the equipment as being "safe" or operating normally (or within Code). Get yourself a copy of the local building codes, NFPA, and be familiar with local bylaws and ordinances which might affect the system. Get yourself involved with any local fire prevention organization. You can pick up a lot there. Download equipment manuals at the manufacturer's websites (Notifier, FireLite, Edwards - now GE Security, Simplex/Grinnel - now Tyco, Siemens). Around here (Vancouver, B. C.), fire inspections involve a good deal more than just the Fire Alarm System. Hoses, extinguishers, sprinkler systems, fire pumps, fixed extinguishing systems (engineered systems), etc. all require annual testing and service.
Most importantly, check with your insurance agent. Let him know what you're planning to do and be aware that signing off on some of the buildings you might be called in to inspect could expose you to levels of liability your present carrier may not wish to be exposed to.
Let me know if you'd like to look at some of the forms we use. I can email them to you or upload them to our website for you to view.