A fire watch is a temporary measure intended to ensure continuous and systematic surveillance of a building, or portion of the building, by one or more qualified individuals for the purpose of identifying and controlling fire hazards, detecting early signs of fire, activating an alarm and notifying the fire department in the event of a fire. 

According to the 2012 edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, section, when a required fire alarm system is out of service for more than four hours in a 24-hour period, the AHJ shall be notified, and the building shall be evacuated or an approved fire watch shall be provided. Also, section 9.7.6 requires a fire watch when an automatic fire sprinkler system is out of service for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period. NFPA 101-2012, section 3.3.104, states a fire watch should at least involve some special action beyond normal staffing, such as assigning an additional security guard(s) to walk the areas affected. The 2011 edition of NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, annex A.15.5.2(4)(b), states a fire watch should consist of trained personnel who continuously patrol the area. 

Those assigned to perform a fire watch should be specifically checking, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Potential fire ignition sources, including frayed electrical wires and improperly stored flammables.
  • Fire extinguishers must be in their proper locations, undamaged, unobstructed, visible, fully charged and operational, and bands that secure the pin shall be intact.
  • Trash, garbage and excess combustible materials.
  • Exits, stairwells and corridors must be clear of any obstructions that would impede emergency movement.
  • Operation of illuminated exit signs (electrical or photoluminescent) should be inspected.
  • Self-closing doors should be examined to ensure they are not blocked or wedged and may close freely.
  • Sprinkler systems (if active) must be inspected for possible sprinkler head obstruction, leakage, closed valves or decreased pressure.