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March 2012: NFPA 3 Commissioning and Integrated Test of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems

This is a new NFPA recommended practice, as opposed to standard. It outlines a systematic approach to provide documented confirmation that the fire protection and/or life-safety systems, as envisioned by an owner and/or their design team, will function as intended. NFPA 3 was developed at the request of the National Bureau of Standards, as they are looking to have a total commissioning program. Some terms will be introduced that though specifically described here, will apply to commissioning (Cx) as a whole.

NFPA 3 is meant to cover commissioning of active and passive fire protection systems and life-safety equipment systems such as: fire alarm systems, automatic sprinkler and other fixed fire suppression systems, emergency communications, smoke control and management systems, firestopping, site power systems (normal, emergency and stand-by) and site infrastructure the supports these systems. Commissioning also involves integrated systems, such as an operating sprinkler activates a waterflow alarm, which in turn acts as an initiating device to a fire alarm system, which in turn acts as an initiating device for a smoke control system.

The documentation that is developed is meant to cover the planning, design, construction and occupancy phases of a project. A Commissioning Team that develops the documentation can consist of but not be limited to:

At the planning phase, the team is established, though not all of the above members will be immediately identified. Tasks can include: an Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) is developed; an FCxA is selected; a commissioning plan is initially developed, reviewed and approved; the regulatory code's are analyzed; and the plan is initiated.

At the design phase, tasks can include: Developing the Basis of Design (BOD) for the fire protection system(s); review and approval of the sequence of operation; review of project drawings and calculations affecting fire protection and life safety systems; documentation of the scope for commissioning activities in the construction documents; documentation of the commissioning procedures; developing a commissioning schedule; verifying that the construction documents comply with the requirements of the BOD; documenting issues and changes; updating the commissioning plan; and developing construction checklists.

At the construction phase, tasks can include: confirming that the commissioning schedule is still valid, and update if required; verify that submittals are in conformance with the BOD and have been reviewed; verify that materials, construction, and installation are in conformance with the BOD; document any issues and changes to the project and update the plan; complete commissioning construction checklists; perform required observation procedures or cause them to be performed by the responsible party; update related documents to record and adjust for any revisions and/or changes; and verify and document testing performed in the construction phase.

At the occupancy phase, tasks can include: documentation and completion of remaining acceptance testing and inspections; testing conducted for modifications made during the construction phase commissioning; submission of the system manual, operation and maintenance manuals, and vendor emergency contact list; training on the use and operation of the fire protection and life safety systems; delivery of the record set drawings and documents; delivery of the test and inspection records for the fire protection and life safety systems; delivery of warranties for the systems and equipment; submission of recommended preventative maintenance; and delivery of a list of required inspections, tests, and maintenance for fire protection and life safety systems.

In subsequent articles we will be expanding on some of the commissioning team positions and on the phases.

Risk Logic, Inc. can be of assistance on using this new practice for your projects.