What is a Fire Watch and How To Conduct One

Does your building have a fire alarm system and/or a water-based fire protection system? Then you’re likely required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to implement a fire watch. While this can feel like an overwhelming task, conducting a fire watch is fairly simple and straightforward if organized properly. In this article, we take a look at what a fire watch is and how to conduct one, so you are able to put it into action should your fire system become impaired.

What is a fire watch?

So, what exactly is a fire watch? According to the NFPA, a fire watch is the “assignment of a person or persons to an area for the express purpose of notifying the fire department, the building occupants, or both of an emergency; preventing a fire from occurring; extinguishing small fires, or protecting the public from fire or life safety dangers.”

Looking for a layman’s terms definition? Associated Fire Protection breaks this down for us:

“In layman’s terms, the purpose of a fire watch is to identify and control fire hazards, detect fires, raise/activate an alarm, notify the fire department, and assist in the evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire within an unprotected building. This person could also be classified or known as a Fire Watch.”

What does a fire watch involve?

While a fire watch generally requires those who are in charge to do the work of a fire alarm system, this can vary depending on your building. Those who are conducting the fire watch must make sure that occupants are aware that they need to evacuate immediately, as well as ensuring that methods of exit from the building are easily accessible and clear.

AAA Fire Protection tells us more about what a fire watch involves:

“Precisely what is involved in a fire watch could change depending on the needs of your building, the building size, and the size of any crowds who will be present. In general, a fire watch requires a qualified individual to diligently keep a watch for fires while monitoring any hazards that are found. The person conducting the fire watch should be prepped and ready with what to do in the event of any emergency, which starts with contacting the fire department and grabbing a nearby fire extinguisher.”

When should a fire watch be terminated?

If you’re in charge of your building’s fire watch, when do you know when your job is done? This is highly dependent on the situation and is dependent on when the building’s occupants can safely return.

ORR Protection Systems explains more on how to determine when a fire watch should be terminated:

“The answer depends on the reason for the watch. For system outages, the watch can be finished after the affected system is restored to service. For hot work and construction-related watches, the rule of thumb is the watch can be finished a half-hour after the hot work is completed. For watches required during large crowd events the watch can be ceased after the event has ended and the crowd has left.”

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