Fire Watch Requirements

You asked for it, and we have more information about the SFD fire watch requirements for impaired systems. SFD just released SFD Memo #5991 clarifying fire watch requirements. There’s no change to the current approved requirements; we just wanted to pass the information on that SFD recently released on the current requirements in a more reader-friendly way. SFD Memo #5991 explains these requirements. Also, see Section 7 of SFD Administrative Rule 9.04.19 for additional information.

Fire Watch-When Is It Required?

Code requires a fire watch every time a fire protection system is out of service. Examples include:

  • Planned maintenance– Taking a system offline for scheduled maintenance
  • An emergency malfunction– The system may be down due to a malfunction, such as fire pump failure.
  • Excessive accidental activations or nuisance alarms– If an alarm system has too many nuisance alarms or accidental activations, the building owner must provide a fire watch until the alarm company can repair the system. 

For more information, see the Fire Watch Duties section in the memo. Information on exceptions to the code can be found under “Fire Watch Exceptions” in the memo.

Responsibilities of Building Owners

Building owners must make sure that their fire safety systems are tested routinely at the intervals required. It’s the owner’s responsibility to regularly maintain and repair the system as necessary.  Client Assistance Memo #5971 (CAM) has more information on testing fire protection systems. The form for reporting impaired systems is here.

Building owners must also guarantee that they have properly trained and available personnel for fire watch duty as necessary. When a fire protection system will be out over eight hours, building owners must take the following actions:

  • Alert SFD that the building’s fire system is out of service. The above link to CAM #5971 has more information on notifying SFD and the required timelines.
  • Notify the alarm company monitoring the system.
  • Notify the insurance company for the building.
  • If applicable, notify the manager of the building.
  • Notify any tenants in the affected building and let them know an estimated time frame that the alarm will be out of service.
  • Contact the alarm repair company to fix the issue.
  • Initiate a fire watch.

Fire watch duties are listed in CAM #5991.

Types of Firewatch

There are essentially two types of fire watch.

Dedicated Fire Watch

This fire watch is the most common and is a dedicated position where the personnel serves only as fire watch with no other duties. Fire watch personnel must remain on duty 24/7 and continuously patrol the building with the impaired alarm and the surrounding areas affected.

Fire Watch

With this type of fire watch, occupants of the affected building can perform their normal duties, including construction workers alternatively to dedicated fire watch in certain occupancy types.  These types include offices, restaurants and bars, public stores, buildings with hazardous materials, and moderate industrial and hazard factory occupancies. Once building owners notify all occupants, it is up to them to call 911 in case of a fire. The conditions of fire watch must remain in effect during the times the building is open to the public, for general occupancy, or otherwise per the fire code official.

Cancelling the Fire Watch

Once the fire safety system is back in service, it’s the building owner’s responsibility to cancel the fire watch. SFD considers the system restored when an SFD certified technician confirms that the system is functioning properly. The technician will then remove the red tag from the system and replace it with a white flag. Next, the technician must email a copy of the normal test record to as well as the SFD through their website

All the information provided above came directly from SFD Memo #5991 so refer to it for more detailed information. Thank you for helping us achieve well-maintained fire protection systems in Seattle to preserve lives and protect property.  If you have questions, you can reach us by phone at 206-386-1340 or email

About Guardian

Based in Seattle with service centers across the state, Guardian is a locally-owned and operated company with a strong commitment to the people and communities we serve. Established in 1976, Guardian specializes in comprehensive security, fire, and life safety systems for installations ranging from single-family homes to major retail centers.

Guardian Staff
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