Facts About Fire Watch: What Organizations Need to Know

fire alarm systems in seattle
Stassa Hansen

When a fire system is not in place or functional and evacuating the building is not an option, it’s critical for fire watch protocols to be carried out. The fire watch is a guideline established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), as well as a required ordinance in your city.

At Guardian Security, we confirm that our customers understand their fire watch responsibility anytime a fire system is in test mode for over 24 hours. However, it is important to note that we do not provide fire watch services or direct customers to any recommended agencies. It is the responsibility of the customer to coordinate their own fire watch protocols. To assist with this, here are some fire watch information basics.

When a Fire Watch is Necessary

A fire watch becomes necessary any time a fire and life safety system is not yet installed in a building, or if the system is not communicating for any reason. This may be during construction or renovation of a building. It may also be while the fire system in test mode, or if the panel is dead. If there is a communication failure between your system and the monitoring center, a fire watch is necessary until the matter is resolved. Whatever the reason for the system not working, the fire watch must be maintained until both the fire alarm and sprinkler systems are again properly functioning.

Who Conducts the Fire Watch

Although the fire watcher doesn’t need to be an employee of the organization, fire watchers should be familiar with the buildings they are watching. They should also be well versed in the facility’s fire emergency plan, and know where all the operational fire and communication equipment is located. This includes manual pull stations, fire extinguishers and walkie-talkies. Of course, they should also be fully prepared to use that equipment in the event of a fire. An organization should have more than one fire watcher assigned, as rounds should take place once an hour the entire time a building is occupied. It is possible to hire a professional fire watcher for the time your system will be down.

What Fire Watchers Do

A fire watcher can be anyone who meets the criteria described above; however, there is one caveat. Organizations must be aware that until the system is working again, maintaining that fire watch is the person’s only job. During their rounds, they’ll be thoroughly checking all parts of the building affected by the fire alarm and sprinkler failures, including rooms and spaces that are not normally inhabited.

In NFPA 101-A., the regulation also states: “A fire watch should at least involve some special action beyond normal staffing, such as assigning an additional security guard(s) to walk the areas affected.” If there is a fire, the fire watcher is the person who notifies the fire department and makes sure all occupants evacuate the building.

A fire watch requires use of a log sheet, which the fire watcher should be trained on beforehand. Every fire watcher keeps this log while conducting hourly rounds.

Fire Watch and Human Error

The human element of a fire watch is important, and yet it can also be fallible. For example, experts have cited too much reliance on staff for a critical 31 minutes as one factor in the tragic fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Rather than viewing that as a reason to avoid fire watch, organizations should view it as a reason to get proactive about having a working fire and life safety system. To inquire about installation and servicing of fire systems, Seattle organizations can contact Guardian Security. We will be glad to help.

About Guardian Security

Guardian Security is the first choice for security in the Pacific Northwest for public buildings, office buildings, warehouses, homes, schools, hotels and hospitals. Our customers have included local and national names that you know and trust.