Grill The Fire Expert

Confused About Compliance
Several years ago I installed a properly listed combination burg/fire panel in a factory for one of my customers. The fire portion monitors the building’s sprinkler system. This customer recently notified me that he wants to discontinue the monitoring of his system. He states the city fire inspector said it was okay as long as his alarm company (me) removes the fire alarm system components so as not to give anyone the misleading impression that the building is protected with a fire alarm system. I have problems. First, since the building has a sprinkler system in it according to code it is required to be monitored. Can the inspector allow less than the code requires? Do I have to notify the inspector personally of this discontinuance? Since there is a combination panel that my customer owns already in the building, and my customer wants to keep the burg system working with a local alarm, what exactly should I “remove” if this discontinuance is allowed?

A: You’ve brought up several hot topics. First, since the International Building Code requires the sprinkler system, the owner cannot discontinue the monitoring service without being in violation of the state’s building code. In the 2003 Edition of the IBC 901.6.1 it states, “automatic sprinkler systems shall be monitored by an approved supervising station.”

Since you have a business relationship with this customer, and since it is not up to you to enforce the code, I would have an informal talk with the local fire official. There may be an “out” provided for your client in the 2003 Edition of the IBC at 903.4.1, where it requires that alarm, supervisory and trouble signals be automatically transmitted to a central station, remote supervising station or proprietary supervising station as defined in NFPA 72 “or, when approved by the building official, shall sound an audible signal at a constantly attended location.” If your customer has a “constantly attended location” then this might be an option for them.

If the city states you can disconnect the fire alarm monitoring service, then have the customer put the request in writing, on company letterhead. Send a certified letter, including a copy of your customer’s letter, to the fire official’s office stating the service will be discontinued per their approval, Request the client be there when you disconnect the service and have a Testing and Inspection Agreement signed stating that the sprinkler system is no longer being monitored. This document is required to keep a fire system in compliance.

In answer to the second part of your first question, you are required by law to notify the Fire Department anytime required service is disconnected for any reason.

Regarding what needs to go, removing the wiring connecting the waterflow and supervisory switches, then updating the fire alarm programming to address only the burglary portions of the system would be all that is required. It is advisable to cut the FPL wiring about two feet from each sprinkler connection and make a small coil of wire to hang from each switch. This way there is no mistaking the fact that there is no longer any connection to an alarm system when the inspector comes through.

Greg Kessinger, SET, CFPS, president of an alarm installing company since 1981, teaches NICET training classes to fire alarm system designers and installers and continuing education seminars for Ohio’s fire alarm inspectors. You can reach Greg Kessinger at 888-910-2272; e-mail:; or visit his website at