If It Aint't on Paper - Did It Happen?
When everything goes right, no one reads the paperwork. When something goes wrong, everyone reads the paperwork, even years after the original work was done. If it wasn't written originally, there's no way of knowing for sure that something was done.
Answers to these questions don't mean anything now, but in the future there might be a chance someone will want to know.
By Douglas Krantz
Paperwork: when things go right, no one reads it; when things go wrong, everyone reads it.
At the time you did the work, showing on paper that you installed, repaired, or tested parts of the fire alarm system helps those in authority know you properly did the installation, repair, or testing.
The Fire Alarm System is a Life-Safety System
Fire alarm systems are there to protect property and to save lives.
Basically, when there's been a fire:
- That's when the fire inspector looks to see if improper installation exacerbated the damage
- That's when the insurance company looks to see if they can pass the cost of rebuilding to someone else
- That's when the county attorney looks to see if someone is at fault for the injury or death
When people's lives are at stake, writing down what you did at the time of installation or service may be just the thing to show you tested things out.
Memory Doesn't Count
Memory isn't good enough; after a couple of years, you need paper to verify what you did.
For those in authority:
- On the work order, just saying what the panel said at the time of arrival indicates that something was wrong
- On your work order or invoice, just saying that the panel is normal at the time you leave shows that you did look
- On the a-builts you send into the shop, just showing where the wires are run shows that the system is built right
It Seems Like No One Reads It
When there's no problem with a fire alarm system, no one cares to even look at your paperwork. Everything you've written down you can expect to go into a file at the shop and then disappear; never to be looked at again.
On the other hand, when the building has major damage from a fire, or even worse, when someone is injured or dies, that's when what you have written on paper suddenly becomes extremely important.
Basically, if your paperwork from months to years before doesn't show that you installed, repaired, or tested parts of the fire alarm system, how do the authorities know you did it?
Write It Down at the Time
Once something goes wrong, scratching your head and trying to remember something you did last year is not what those in authority want to hear. Looking at what you wrote down at the time is what they can count on.
For the fire marshal, for the insurance company, for the county attorney, if it ain't on paper, it didn't happen.
Based on his electronics training, and his understanding of Life Safety, Douglas Krantz has compiled his knowledge of Conventional Fire Alarm Systems into the book Make It Work - Conventional Fire Alarms
. The book covers the basics of the Conventional Fire Alarm System, and shows how Life Safety and internal supervision affects the fire alarm system.
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