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Sprinkler System Inspections, Testing, and Maintenance Frequencies Explained

NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems provides the criteria for the routine activities that must be conducted to ensure that water-based fire protection systems, such as automatic sprinklers systems, can be relied upon in the event of a fire. These activities range from simple visual confirmation of some things such as valve position or room or water tank temperature on a more frequent basis to much more complex activities such as full flow tests and internal assessments at longer intervals.

Not only does NFPA 25 specify the activities that must be performed, but it also specifies the frequency at which they need to happen. The frequency can describe both the minimum and maximum time between events. These are given in terms of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semiannual, annual, three years, and five years. But what exactly do each of those terms mean and what kind of flexibility is built into those frequencies to allow for different circumstances? The answer to this is of tremendous value whether you are the building owner or facility manager trying to determine how your systems can comply or if you are an ITM service provider communicating with customers about the criteria for compliance. The following table identifies how the frequencies are defined in NFPA 25.

NFPA 25 Section 3.7

As can be seen in looking at these definitions, there is some flexibility given in different ways. The more frequent activities need to happen within the calendar day, week, or month respectively and do not always need to be done at the same exact time in the given interval. The longer duration frequencies start to give more flexibility but also introduce the concept of minimum times that must elapse between the activity being performed in addition to specifying the maximum amount of time that can elapse. For example, inspection and/or testing could occur on December 31st and again on January 1st. For monthly frequency activities this would be acceptable, but it would not satisfy separate inspections or tests for those activities with longer durations including those with an annual frequency because that is based on elapsed time with minimum and maximum criteria rather than just on the calendar year.

We’ll look to cover ITM requirements in more depth and get into some specific activities and frequencies in the future. What pain points do you see around following the frequency requirements or explaining them to different stakeholders? What would you like to see us cover in greater detail? Let us know in the comments!

Important Notice: Any opinion expressed in this blog is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the official position of NFPA or its Technical Committees. In addition, this piece is neither intended, nor should it be relied upon, to provide professional consultation or services.

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Jonathan Hart
Technical Lead, Principal Engineer at NFPA

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