In a previous blog post, "Evolution of Fire Alarm, Software Driven Systems" I took you for a brief stroll through the history of software based fire alarm and the evolution of the documentation and revision control that occurred. Today, documentation is more and more important because we are integrating systems, and knowing the current version of hardware, firmware and software of our fire alarm system is only a small piece of the puzzle.

Fire Alarms integrate with Elevator Controls, HVAC/Smoke Control Systems, Access Controls, Paging, Email, Mesh Networks...all kinds of systems that our current interconnected technologies allow. Be it over Ethernet, WiFi or through proprietary system interfaces, these integrated systems need to be able to interact when required. 

Our need for documentation is essential -  not just so that the team of field technicians and their laptops will know how to program and test these systems together - but Narratives and Matrixes must be created and updated so that future testing teams can enter the building and perform the required tests to assure that the individual systems and their associated links are still in operational condition.

NFPA 72 2016 Edition has taken more steps towards requiring the on-site storage of documentation that will allow technicians to test, repair and re-program the systems as time passes and failures occur.

In the code, the following is required:

  • Written Narrative (sequence of operation)
  • Riser Diagram 
  • Floor Plan with Device Location 
  • Sequence of Operation
  • All installed equipment Manufacturer's Data Sheets
  • All instructions including Operation and Maintneance
  • Battery Calculations
  • Voltage Drop Calculations
  • Mounting Height on all Wall Mounted devices
  • Sound Pressure Levels for Occupants
  • Pathway Diagrams between the control and the Supervising Equipment
  • Completed Record of Completion (along with additional copies to show when and how the systems was modified)
  • Copy of the Site-Specific Software, including instructions on how to get the Passwords to access programming
  • As-Built Drawings 
  • Record Retention of Maintenance
  • Testing and Inspection Reports to include a test plan and any re-acceptance testing done as the system was modified

These documents are to be housed on premise in a System Record Document box which is to be mounted adjacent to the Fire Alarm.

Something new (2012) that has come out of the National Fire Protection Association is NFPA 3. This is the first attempt at a comprehensive look at commissioning and testing integrated systems within a building. This means that the need for proper and updated documentation extends well beyond the auspices of the Fire Alarm and its components. NFPA 3 covers fire protection, suppression and control, fire alarm, emergency communications, power, fire doors, commercial cooking operations, elevators, HAVC and more. It is a highly adaptable document. Imagine a high-rise building with all of it's systems and interconnections, taken one at a time. Each can be installed, programmed and tested by those familiar with the operation of the system within their discipline. As a building owner tasked with the testing and maintenance of all of the systems in the building, having a plan and the team to cover the logistics of that plan is imperative.

NFPA 3 outlines:

  • Qualifications of the Commissioning Personnel
  • Commissioning Integrated Systems
  • Integrated System Testing
  • Re-commissioning and Retro-commssioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems
  • Commissioning Documentation and Forms

Although NFPA 3 is not yet universally accepted, it is an extremely good resource for the building owner who wants to know the depth of effort required to maintain his/her building systems at their highest efficiency.

TC LifeSafety carries Space Age Electronics' range of System Record Document boxes to help you meet code requirements. From the SRD box that can be mounted adjacent to the Alarm Control to the 3-foot long DSB that can handle the most complete electrical As-Built drawings for any sized building, Space Age Electronics designs products with life safety code in mind.

In addition to physical document storage, Space Age Electronics offers FAD and FDB boxes, which include a 4GB "thumb drive" with a Read/Write Switch so that software can be read, but not changed.

To view the wide variety of document storage solutions we carry, visit our Document Storage page at