Frequently Asked Questions


Here are some of our more frequently asked questions.

West Coast Fire Protection, a family-owned business, has provided over 30 years of service to the fire protection industry. West Coast Fire Protection is relied on by thousands of customers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for all of their fire and life safety needs. It's the service after the sale that separates us from other Fire Protection companies. We've built our business around excellent customer service, passion for fire safety and quick response times.

Fire Alarm FAQs

Q:How Often Does My Fire Alarm System Need Inspection?

A:As per CAN/ULC- S536;

  • A minimum of one initiating field device shall be operated and both an alert signal and alarm signal shall be confirmed in intervals no greater than 1 month.
  • Operation of the common audible and visual devices shall be tested in intervals no greater than 1 month.

Buildings which have voice communications systems must confirm two way communications of these systems in intervals no less than 1 month.

Q:Facts and figures about smoke alarms (Source NFPA)


  • In 2009-2013, smoke alarms sounded in more than half (53%) of the home fires reported.
  • Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%).
  • No smoke alarms were present in almost two out of every five (38%) home fire deaths.
  • The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths per 100 fires).
  • In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.
  • Dead batteries caused one-quarter (24%) of the smoke alarm failures.

Q:How long is my smoke alarm good for?

A:All smoke alarms should be tested per the manufactures specifications.
Smoke alarms use should not exceed 10 years from manufactures date.
Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, the entire smoke alarm should be replaced immediately.

Q:Do you have to enter my unit for Annual testing?

A:In Suite fire protection devices must be tested annually to ensure proper operation.

Q:Why is my smoke alarm so sensitive?

A:Smoke alarms respond differently depending on the type of fire and the type of alarm.

Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires.

How they work: Ionization-type smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions, thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm.

Ionization Smoke Alarm Chart

Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering (called “smoldering fires”).

How they work: Photoelectric-type alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor; triggering the alarm.

Photoelectric Smoke Alarm Chart

***For best protection, it is recommended both (ionization and photoelectric) technologies be used in homes. In addition to individual ionization and photoelectric alarms, combination alarms that include both technologies in a single device are available.

Sprinkler System FAQs

Q:How often does my sprinkler system need Inspection?

A:As per part 6 of the bc fire code & NFPA 25;

  • Weekly & Monthly inspections of gauges and control valves are required.
  • Quarterly Inspections are required on all water flow devices, valve supervisory devices, hydraulic nameplates and fire department connections on an ongoing basis.
  • Full System Inspections are due annually

Q:Why is our buildings water dirty during the annual inspection?

A:Occasionally when sprinkler system testing is performed sediment in the main water lines can be disturbed due to the large amount of water flow in the fire system. The discoloration is temporary and is not dangerous.

Q:What is hydrostatic testing?

A:A Hydrostatic test is a way in which pressure vessels such as sprinkler piping can be tested for strength and leaks. The test involves filling the vessel with a liquid, usually water which is pressurized. The system is then closed and observed for pressure loss over a set time.

Q:Is an obstruction investigation required every five years?

A:There are two activities that are related to obstructions in Chapter 13 that require our attention.  The first is an investigation that is actually more of  an “inspection” as described in Section 13.2.1 that must be conducted every five years.  While the sprinkler system is shut down for the purpose of internal valve inspections (See Table 12.1), the flushing connection at the end of one crossmain and a single sprinkler at the end of one branchline must be NFPA 25 – FAQs removed and the inside of the piping is then “inspected” for the presence of organic and inorganic material.
In Section 13.2.2 a more comprehensive  obstruction “investigation” must be conducted when any of the 14 conditions listed in that section are present. This more comprehensive obstruction “investigation” is conducted by internally examining the following four points in a system: system valve, riser, crossmain and, branchline and is only required when one of the 14 problems listed in Section 13.2.2 is present.   This obstruction investigation is not a routine procedure, it is only needed when a problem exists. If any obstructing material is found, a complete flushing program must be conducted to remove any remaining obstructing material.

Q:Do standpipe systems require a periodic hydrostatic test?

A:Yes. However, only dry standpipe systems such as those found in a parking structure for example, must be tested every five years. The hydro‐test is required to verify piping integrity. Wet systems do not need to be routinely hydro‐tested since leaks in the pipe are readily apparent.

Q:I have a standpipe system with two risers. The original design indicates a total flow of 750 gpm (2839 Lpm). Am I required to flow this much water for the five year flow test?

A:No. When conducting the five year flow test, one riser is tested at a time. Therefore, the flow should be a total of 500 gpm (1892 Lpm), 250 gpm (946 lpm) for each of the two topmost outlets.

Q:Chapter five of NFPA 25 requires a weekly fire pump test to be conducted without flowing water. Does this include the circulation relief valve?

A:No. The standard says "without flowing water" so no one flows water at minimum, rated and peak flows each week as required for the annual flow test. The circulation relief valve must flow water anytime the pump is running to provide proper cooling of the pump. Without this small flow of water, the pump will overheat resulting in damage to the pump shaft or other components.

Q:I need to perform a flow test through the backflow preventer in my sprinkler system. I have no test connection sized to accommodate this much flow. What can I do to comply with this requirement?

A:You have several options, they are:

  • use the fire pump test header, if present, as a test connection
  • if the backflow preventer is installed on the suction side of the pump, the annual fire pump test will also serve as a flow test for the backflow preventer
  • the fire department connection may be used as a test connection by reversing the check valve and flowing water out of the FDC. It might be a good idea to install a by‐pass around the check valve with a normally closed control valve for future testing

Q:When is a main drain test required?

A:A main drain test is required annually or any time the water supply control valve is closed, this includes any time a system undergoes maintenance or repair. This test is essential to NFPA 25 – FAQs ensure that the water supply valve is fully open. Sprinkler systems perform exceptionally well, however when they do fail the major cause of failure (35% of the cases reported to NFPA) the water supply valve was closed, thus the verification of an open water supply valve cannot be over emphasized. The annual test frequency is a minimum requirement, NFPA 25 permits more frequent testing if desired.

Q:We have been experiencing pin‐hole leaks in our sprinkler system. Our maintenance contractor suggests that the problem may be the presence of MIC. What is MIC and how can the problem be corrected?

A:MIC or microbiologically influenced corrosion is the result of certain types of bacteria in the water that attack steel and copper pipe. MIC can be recognized by the presence of orange or black tubercules or black mud‐like slime in steel pipe and blue or green tubercules in copper pipe. The best approach to address this situation is to submit a sample of the corrosion by‐product to a laboratory for testing (such labs can be found on the internet) and identification of the microorganism responsible. Once identified, a treatment strategy can be developed. This may involve altering one or more environmental conditions inside the pipe such as: oxygen levels, pH, temperature or residual chlorine content. If the problem is MIC, treatment of the water will be necessary each time you test or flush your system. Introducing a fresh supply of water and oxygen may allow the MIC to renew its attack on the pipe.

Backflow Preventer FAQs

Q:What is a cross connection?

A:According to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), a cross connection is defined as any actual or potential connection between a potable water system and any source of pollution or contamination. Cross connections are present in every water system and, depending on the size of the system, hundreds or thousands of potential cross connections can exist. Wherever physical cross connections exist between a potable and non-potable water, there is the potential for backflow to occur.

Q:What is backflow?

A:Backflow is a flow of solid, liquid or gas from any source opposite to the normal direction of flow, back into the potable water supply or system. There are two types of backflow: backsiphonage and backpressure.
Backsiphonage is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping system. Some common causes of backsiphonage include:

  • High velocity in pipelines
  • Line repair or a break that is lower than a service point.
  • Lowered main pressure due to high water withdrawal rate, such as fire-fighting or water main flushing.
  • Reduced supply pressure on the suction side of a booster pump.

Backpressure is caused whenever a potable system is connected to a non-potable supply operating under a higher pressure by means of a pump, boiler, etc. There is a high risk that the non-potable water may be forced into the potable system whenever these cross connections are not properly protected.

Q:What is cross connection control?

A:Cross connection control is defined as the enforcement of an ordinance regulating cross connections. Municipalities and other communities set up cross connection control programs that monitor the installation, maintenance and field testing of backflow preventers in accordance with local bylaws and other codes and standards.

Emergency Lighting FAQs

Q:Emergency light testing requirements.

A:As per Section 6.5 of the BC Fire Code;

  • Emergency Light Packs are to be inspected at intervals not greater than 1 month and tested at intervals no less than 1 year to ensure pilot lights operate, that there is no terminal corrosion, batteries are kept clean and dry, and that the unit operate correctly in the event of power loss. FIRE HYDRANT INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS.

A:As per NFPA 25;

  • Manufacturer specifications state that maintenance will require the removal of the internal operation parts for visual inspection, lubrication and replacement of worn or damaged parts.

Fire Suppression FAQs

Under NFPA 96, you must keep all cooking equipment, hoods, ducts (if applicable), fans, fire suppression systems and special effluent or energy control equipment in good working order. Hoods, fans, ducts etc. must be cleaned to bare metal. A qualified fire protection technician must inspect the exhaust system at specified intervals (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually, depending on the nature of your operations).
NFPA 17a, meanwhile, requires an owner to inspect a wet chemical fire suppression system monthly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. A member of your staff must ensure:

  • The extinguishing system is in its proper location
  • The manual indicators and seals are intact
  • The maintenance tag or certificate is in place
  • No obvious physical damage or condition exists that might prevent operation (e.g. a leaky pipe or corrosion)
  • No obvious physical damage or condition exists that might prevent operation (e.g. a leaky pipe or corrosion)
  • The nozzle blow-off caps are intact and undamaged
  • The hood, duct, and protected cooking appliances have not been replaced, modified or relocated.

NFPA 17a and 96 require that a qualified fire protection technician inspect and test the entire kitchen suppression system Semi-annually, including:

  • Examining all detectors, expellant gas container(s), agent cylinder(s), releasing devices, piping, hose assemblies, nozzles, signals, all auxiliary equipment and the liquid level of all non-pressurized wet chemical containers
  • Verifying that distribution piping is not obstructed
  • Replacing fusible links (which provide automatic discharge of the system) The fire protection technician must document the results and any recommendations, and attach a new tag with his or her name and the date on the fire suppression system.

Every 12 years, a qualified fire protection technician must conduct hydrostatic testing, and inspect and test the:

  • Regulator
  • Tank and cylinder
  • Actuation hose (or replace) and hose assemblies
  • Wet chemical containers
  • Auxiliary pressure containers

West Coast Fire is one of the few fire protection companies that have invested in the expensive equipment and intensive labour required for hydrostatic testing. Just another example of our commitment to exceptional service.

Evacuation Signage FAQs

Fire Extinguisher FAQs

Q:How often does my fire extinguisher require inspection?

A:As per NFPA 10;

  • Fire Extinguishers shall be inspected at intervals not greater than 30 days.
  • Service and testing of portable fire extinguishers vary from 1-12 years depending on extinguisher type.

Q:How do I use my fire extinguisher?

A:We suggest the P-A-S-S method to help you remember the steps of operating a fire extinguisher.

P-A-S-S Method

  • P – Pull Pin
  • A - Aim at base of fire
  • S - Squeeze the handle
  • S - Sweep

Q:What kind of fire extinguisher do I need?

A:Most commonly you will find “abc” extinguishers but The type of extinguisher required is determined by the type of Hazard.

Fire Extinguisher Type

Fire Hydrant FAQs

Q:How often does my hydrant need inspection?

A:B.C. Fire Code require your fire hydrants must be:

  • Inspected every six months and after each use
  • Kept clear of obstructions and readily accessible for use by firefighters
  • Clearly identified

Q:What does a fire hydrant inspection consist of?

A:NFPA 291 sets out standards for fire flow testing and marking fire hydrants. Your annual fire hydrant inspection should include:

  • A visual check for leaks and rusting before and after flushing the hydrant
  • A full tear down to look for internal damage, gasket and tread conditions
  • Replacing components, if required
  • Testing for adequate, sustained water pressure and proper drainage
  • Painting the hydrant, if needed
  • Lubricating the nozzle caps

A:As per NFPA 25;

  • Private Fire Hydrants (both Wet & Dry Barrel) shall be inspected at intervals not greater than 6 months and Serviced in intervals no longer than 1 year and immediately after every incidental operation.

Special Hazard FAQs

Fire Safety FAQs

Earthquake Preparation FAQs

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