NFPA Fire Watch Requirements and How to Avoid Failures

By Andrew Erickson

December 11, 2022

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the organization that sets safety standards for fire suppression and prevention.

A "fire watch" is not normal, but rather a requirement whenever automated fire detection and prevention is offline

The NFPA doesn't expect you to perform a fire watch much under normal circumstances. The purpose of a fire watch is to replicate, via sheer manpower, the functions of your automated detection and extinguishment systems.

If you spread enough people around an area who have received the proper training, they can detect and respond to fires. As you can see, this is inefficient and expensive, but it does preserve the integrity of your fire detection when other options aren't possible.

According to the NFPA code, a fire watch is required if any of the following are true:

  1. One of your core fire detection systems is offline for more than 4 hours in any 24-hour period.
  2. Your fire sprinklers (or other water-based protection system) is offline for more than 10 hours in any 24-hour period.
  3. Another regulation established by your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) applies to your situation.
  4. So, if you do have a failure that exceeds these limits, how do you go about your "fire watch"?

If you must execute a fire watch, here are the rules you must follow

The NFPA has established stringent requirements when it comes to fire watch services at construction sites, industrial facilities and other locations where there are potential fire hazards.

To ensure compliance with NFPA regulations, here are some of the most important requirements that must be followed when it comes to fire watch services:

  1. Fire watch personnel must have received adequate training in the prevention, recognition and extinguishment of fires. This includes providing a thorough understanding of different types of combustible materials, proper use and maintenance of fire protection equipment and general safety procedures.
  2. Each fire watch must be conducted by a minimum of two or more individuals who are trained in fire safety and able to take appropriate action in the event of an emergency.
  3. Fire watches must be carried out at regular intervals throughout the day and/or night as determined by NFPA regulations.
  4. A written record of all fire watch services must be kept and include the names of personnel on duty, locations inspected, time of inspection, any incidents or hazards observed and corrective actions taken.
  5. Fire watch personnel must have access to a reliable source of communication in order to report incidents or hazardous conditions quickly and effectively.

Following these requirements will ensure that you are in compliance with NFPA regulations when it comes to fire watch services. Failure to do so could result in penalties, citations, or even legal action. It is important to always refer to the latest version of the NFPA standards and consult a professional for any specific questions or concerns about fire watch requirements at your location.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you are providing a safe environment for personnel and protecting your property from the risk of fire. With the right training and procedures, it is possible to comply with NFPA fire watch requirements and protect your business or organization from costly damages related to fire.

How can good fire alarm monitoring prevent the need for a costly fire watch?

If a fire watch is an expensive problem to be avoided, how can we do that by improving our fire alarm system?

The most effective way to prevent the need for a fire watch is to ensure that your fire alarm system is properly monitored. A good fire alarm monitoring system can detect potential fires quickly and reliably.

Hardware and software reliability is absolutely imperative here, so look for a system with a proven track record of high uptime. The incremental cost of a quality system is relatively small compared to the massive inconvenience and expense of running a fire watch.

In addition to preventing the need for a costly fire watch, monitoring your fire alarm system can also help you reduce insurance costs and provide other benefits such as increased safety for building occupants, improved response times in an emergency and faster damage control.

By investing in a reliable fire alarm monitoring system and staying up to date on NFPA regulations, you can minimize the need for a fire watch and keep your building safe from potential fires.

How do you get started planning an upgrade for your fire alarm monitoring system?

As I've learned during my time in this industry, there are a lot of small details that you need to learn and consider whenever you're planning a fire alarm system. That's easy for me and other engineers here at Digitize to say, since we do this work every day.

When fire alarms is just one of many jobs you have to do (like it is for most of my clients), the best thing for you to do is consult an expert. You have to make the final decision for your company, but you'll save a lot of time by speaking to someone with years of experience.

Here are the steps I recommend for planning an upgrade to your fire alarm monitoring system:

  1. Research current NFPA regulations and consult with a fire alarm engineer about what would be best for your business.
  2. Make sure you have an adequate budget set aside for the project before you begin.
  3. Create a detailed list of requirements for the new system.
  4. Finalize installation and ensure proper training on the new system is provided to relevant personnel (ex. we commonly send Digitize engineers out to your location for installation and training).
  5. Monitor the system on an ongoing basis for any changes that need to be made.

Following these steps can help you get started planning an upgrade to your fire alarm monitoring system and ensure that it meets NFPA requirements. A quality system will help you avoid the need to ever establish an expensive fire watch. Ideally, you'll never need to review my list of NFPA fire watch requirements again!

To discuss your obligations before and during a fire watch, and to talk about fire alarm monitoring systems, call me at 1-800-523-7232 or email me at

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More