Minnesota West Policies

Chapter 6 - Facilities

6.20.8 Impairments to Fire Protection Systems


Protection system impairment occurs when fire or explosion protection systems, such as sprinklers, water spray, carbon dioxide or other extinguishing gases, fire pumps, fire alarms or supervisory equipment are shut off or otherwise taken out of service completely or in part. When this happens, the dollars invested in these protective systems cannot provide the intended protection. While it is recognized that impairments are necessary during maintenance, renovation, new construction or because of equipment failure, it must be understood that a facility is in jeopardy during an impairment.


Many large losses in protected properties might otherwise have been small had it not been for an impaired fire or explosion protection system. When an impairment is planned or occurs accidentally, precautions must be taken to provide temporary protection, reduce hazards and ensure prompt restoration. When a system is impaired and no precautions are taken or supervision provided to ensure restoration, a false sense of security will prevail.



There are three (3) types of impairments:


An Emergency Impairment
occurs when an unforeseen incident or accident partially or totally impairs the effectiveness of a protection system. A system shutdown to repair a sudden break in the piping is an example.


A Planned Impairment
occurs when it is necessary to shut down a fire or explosion protection system for maintenance or modification. Shutting down a sprinkler system to add sprinkler heads is an example. In fact, Planned Impairments that are improperly handled greatly increase the extent of loss that occurs while the system is impaired.


A Hidden Impairment
is one that is not known to exist and is, therefore, the most serious type. A system shut down and inadvertently left out of service upon completion of work, a system shut down without proper notification, and a system maliciously shut down are all examples.  Proper impairment notification and handling procedures can reduce the chance of experiencing this type of impairment. A good inspection program can reveal the Hidden Impairment, thus allowing prompt restoration of protective equipment.


Impairment Program Implementation Guidelines

  1. Assign Impairment Coordinator
    To maintain the integrity of your protection systems, an impairment handling program should be implemented to control situations when the fire protection system must be shut down. A responsible person shall be assigned to make sure the fire protection system is in service at all times and handle the situation when the system must be shut down. At Minnesota West College campuses, the Building Services Supervisor or his designated relief person shall have this responsibility.

    If we are the tenant, in a leased building, this program must still be used.


    The coordinator's responsibilities shall be:

    1. Complete the steps for handling an impairment (see Section C below).
    2. Inform supervisors that fire protection systems will be shut off. Areas affected by the impairment should have a roving fire watch and any hazardous operations should be curtailed until protection is restored.
    3. Relocate combustible materials from impaired area to an area that has protection, if possible.
    4. Enforce no smoking regulations throughout the affected area.
    5. Provide additional manual protection in the impaired area with portable extinguishers.
    6. Have everything ready before shutting off protection system. Have all necessary parts available before initiating repairs.
    7. Work continually until repairs are completed and protection is restored.
    8. Physically check the valve or control panel after reopening.

  2. Use Impairment Tag
    The Fire Protection System Impairment tag shall be used to monitor all impairments and to document records of the event.

  3. Steps for Handling an Impairment
    When the need arises and a fire protection system must be shut down, the following steps shall be taken:
    1. Notify the alarm company.
    2. Notify the fire department and or dispatch center indicating where protection is impaired.
    3. Attach the Fire Protection System Impairment Tag to the system control valve or switch or control panel.

Approved by: Ron Wood, President
Date: July 1, 2003
History & Revision: