International Code Council Adopts Electronic Monitoring of Fire Extinguishers
By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff
The International Code Council (ICC) voted unanimously in June to amend its International Fire Code (IFC) in order to permit electronic monitoring of fire extinguishers in lieu of 30-day physical inspections.
According to the ICC, 32 states use the IFC. Utah was the first state in the nation to adopt standards for the electronic monitoring technology. Moreover, state fire marshals in Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Jersey have also given the go-ahead for occupancies to install such equipment while the necessary code changes are in process.
The new code language, which is endorsed by the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), does not mandate the use of electronically monitored fire extinguishers; instead it allows its use as an alternative to thirty-day physical inspections. IFC Section 906.2 was revised to include a second exception that reads, “The use of a supervised, listed electronic monitoring device shall be permitted in lieu of 30-day interval inspections, when approved.” The IFC change takes effect January 1, 2005.
Fire equipment industry studies show that 90% of 30-day physical inspections simply do not happen, according to John McSheffrey, vice president of MIJA, a manufacturer of this technology. “Large office towers can have hundreds if not thousands of extinguishers that must be checked manually each month—costing building operators both valuable time and money,” said McSheffrey. “In the event even one extinguisher is not properly inspected and it is not available in an emergency—the liability costs could be enormous. By implementing 24-7 electronic monitoring, safety is increased and liability is reduced.”
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code NFPA-10 for commercial facilities requires physical inspections of fire extinguishers every 30 days for presence, position, pressurization and unobstructed access. McSheffrey says that extinguishers equipped with electronic monitoring exceed these requirements by monitoring constantly for presence and position while checking every 15 hours for pressure and obstruction to access. Fire extinguisher monitoring systems are also capable of generating a log of extinguisher readiness and impairment history, which is useful to both building owners and fire inspectors. For more information, go to www.iccsafe.org .
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