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Fire Protection Impairment Programs

May 29, 2019

A fire can be extremely damaging to your organization, and while a fire protection system may be able to protect against many threats, impairments are an inevitable part of a fire protection system’s life cycle. An impairment is any time that a fire detection, alarm or suppression system is out of service or unable to operate to the full extent of its intended design. During an impairment, the chances of a fire developing and causing major damage is greatly increased.

There are two types of impairments: planned (the system is purposely put out of service for maintenance) and unplanned (the system is unintentionally out of service). These are further grouped into two different levels of severity—major and minor:

1. Major - The impairment lasts more than ten hours and/or affects multiple systems.

2. Minor - The impairment lasts for fewer than ten hours and is limited to a single system.

Ensuring safety and efficiency during an impairment requires a great deal of work, planning and coordination. To be prepared for an impairment, organizations should develop a written program, assign responsibilities to staff and train employees in the procedures to be followed during an impairment. The written program should outline exactly what to do before, during and after an impairment based on its type and severity, as well as assign and detail the role and responsibilities. The most important role to consider is that of the impairment supervisor, who will implement and manage the fire protection impairment program, take care of scheduling planned impairments and carry out the plan during unplanned impairments.

Above all, the goal of a fire protection impairment program is to minimize the risk of a fire developing and spreading during an impairment while maintenance, repairs and tests are performed to the system. Before an impairment period, or upon discovering an unplanned impairment, the impairment supervisor should obtain a copy of the organization’s fire protection impairment program form and fill it out. This form must be updated as progress is made to include further details of the impairment and repair process.

The following parties should be notified in the event of an impairment as soon as possible:

  1. insurance company
  2. the local fire department
  3. safety managers, or relevant managers and supervisors
  4. staff
  5. building owners or their designated representative