An acceptance test is performed on an individual piece of equipment or system to verify compliance with design documents and that the installation is in accordance with applicable codes. It can be performed on a completed system or at various stages during the construction process.

Fire protection and life safety system acceptance testing is important because it is potentially the last operational test of the system before a fire event requires it to operate as designed. These systems only operate during a fire event, so there is no warning that they are not functioning properly unless it is identified during an acceptance test or routine inspection, testing and maintenance.

Some life safety features such as fire doors and fire dampers require acceptance testing to be performed by a qualified person with knowledge and understanding of the operating components in the type of assembly being tested. 

It is critical to perform required acceptance testing and properly document results to ensure a compliant baseline is established for future tests and comparisons, such as for a fire pump field acceptance test, which must verify the performance of the pump is equal to the performance indicated on the manufacturer’s certified shop test curve. It is recommended — and sometimes required by code — to retain all acceptance testing documentation for the life of the assembly.

Acceptance testing should not be confused with commissioning, which ensures a building system or systems are functioning according to the intended design criteria set forth in the project documents and satisfy the owner’s operational needs, including compliance with governing laws, regulations, codes and standards. For example, a smoke evacuation system in an atrium requires commissioning only after acceptance testing is performed on all the individual systems such as dampers, door openers, fire alarm relays and air-handling units. 

The National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 3, Standard for Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, and NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, contain the requirements for commissioning and integrated testing of fire protection and life safety systems.