Seattle Fire to implement new initiative in 2020 to ensure fire protection systems are in place

To ensure fire protection systems – like sprinklers and fire alarms – work properly, the Seattle Fire Department’s (SFD) Fire Prevention Division is launching a new initiative in 2020. The City is introducing citations of $373 or greater beginning January 1, 2020 for untested or unrepaired fire protection systems.

Sprinklers, fire alarms and suppression systems are among the most important components of any building for saving lives and protecting property in the event of a fire. These systems must be regularly tested and maintained by certified technicians to ensure they work when needed. However, too many buildings in Seattle have untested or unrepaired fire protection systems.

Background: Fire protection systems help preserve lives, protect property and enhance firefighter safety. Many buildings in Seattle have appropriately maintained fire protection systems. However, there are thousands of buildings with untested or unrepaired fire protection systems in Seattle.

The Seattle Fire Code requires the “responsible party” of a building to maintain their systems in good working condition and test their systems annually. The “responsible party” is the building owner, building management company, or lease-designated person.

Fire protection systems testing – also called confidence testing – is performed by private sector technicians holding SFD certifications, or by qualified personnel as specified in the Seattle Fire Code.

Stakeholder communication: SFD has worked to notify building owners to encourage them to voluntarily comply, making over 50,000 attempted contacts by letter, phone, email and in-person in the past 12-months.

Penalties: Beginning January 1, 2020, SFD will write citations when fire protection systems are not maintained or when the companies performing the testing fail to submit testing and maintenance reports to SFD within the required timeframes. The first citation will be $373. For failure to test or maintain fire protection systems, the citation is written to the building owner/responsible party. For failure to timely report testing and maintenance, the citation is written to the company performing the testing.

Resources to help building owners:

  • SFD will send a 30-day reminder notice before a system is due for testing, and another notice when it is past due, or when deficiencies have been found. To help customers transition to the new program, the Fire Marshal will not issue a citation on the first inspection at the property, during the initial implementation phase. However, if SFD re-inspects and the violation has not been resolved, the citation will be written.
  • SFD Client Assistance Memorandum #5971 Testing of Fire Protection Systems and Emergency Responder Radio Amplification Systems provides information about selecting a company to perform the testing.
  • If affirmative steps are taken to address violation(s), SFD may be able to extend compliance timelines.

Resources to help inspection, testing and maintenance companies:

  • SFD sends quarterly statistics on the company’s report submittal timelines so the data is available to compare the company’s performance against the legally required submittal times.
  • To provide a “grace period” and help customers transition, the Fire Marshal will issue one citation per testing company during the first quarter of 2020, instead of one citation per late report.

For more information, please visit our website or contact the Fire Prevention Division at SFD_FMO_SystemsTesting@seattle.gov.