In a previous "Getting it Right" column, I discussed the fire alarm testing that a code official performs prior to granting a building occupancy permit. I compared the typical testing a code official would perform to fire alarm testing that a commissioning consultant would perform.

In this column, I discuss other facets of fire alarm system commissioning: design intent document (DID), design review, system readiness checklist, O&M manuals, training, and warranty period follow-up. Except for design review, code officials do not participate in these facets of commissioning.

Why Do The Did?

As a part of the commissioning process, the design team will develop the DID. In brief, the DID describes the expected results of the construction effort, in this case, the fire alarm system. The design specifications and design drawings provide the mechanism for constructing what the DID describes. With respect to fire alarm systems, the DID should: list applicable codes, provide a description of the system function including any smoke control strategies, and describe any unique features outside the scope of the codes.

The DID could be used formally by the design team to describe to the code officials the fire alarm system to be constructed. If the fire alarm system description does not meet the code official's expectations, then obviously the necessary discussions can be conducted. This helps to eliminate misunderstandings that may impact and delay the project at a later date. Normally, code officials do not require or ask for a DID.

Static vs. Dynamic

The design of the fire alarm follows the criteria outlined in the DID. Both the code officials and commissioning consultant reviews the design specifications and drawings. The code official design review often focuses on "static" system features, and the commissioning consultant design review usually focuses on "dynamic" system features. The code official checks dynamic system features during the fire alarm test at the end of construction. The commissioning consultant's design review comments are intended to eliminate any ambiguities with respect to dynamic system features. This should reduce or eliminate misunderstandings during the code official testing.

The commissioning consultant usually requires, via the commissioning specification, that the fire alarm contractor perform a system checkout. The fire alarm contractor documents the checkout with a system readiness checklist. A formal system checkout provides some assurance that the fire alarm system will be ready for testing. This helps to prevent disruption of fire alarm testing due to nuisance problems that could have been identified and corrected by the fire alarm contractor. If fire alarm testing is the last "hurdle" prior to building occupancy, successful completion of fire alarm testing on the first try can allow timely move-in of occupants. Code officials usually do not ask for a formal system checkout and documentation of that checkout.

Training And Development Issues

During the course of the project, the fire alarm contractor will develop an O&M manual. The commissioning consultant reviews and comments on the O&M manual to ensure the owner has information that is specific to the project and accurately describes how the fire alarm system functions. The code official does not review the O&M manual.

Commissioning includes training of the building's O&M personnel. The commissioning consultant either oversees the training by the fire alarm representative or the commissioning consultant may provide supplemental training. Training may occur before, during or after testing of the fire alarm system. There should be at least some training of owner's personnel after testing in order to discuss any system peculiarities discovered during testing. Code officials do not perform, review, or witness training.

The commissioning service contract with the owner usually requires the commissioning consultant to perform a warranty period review at about the ten-month mark after substantial completion. If problems are present with the fire alarm system, then the commissioning consultant helps the O&M personnel with reporting and describing the problems to the fire alarm contractor in order to initiate warranty period repair. The commissioning consultant is in a good position to provide this service, since the commissioning consultant had initially tested the fire alarm system. Code officials do not assist the O&M staff during the warranty period. ES