VdS-Schadenverhuetung Technische Pruefstelle

Measures in the event of failure of fire protection equipment

New leaflet published by vfdb Division 14

Even if fire protection systems have an extremely high level of availability, it can still happen that system technology is temporarily unavailable, whether planned (maintenance, renovation, conversion) or unplanned (malfunction, defect). At this point, operators are often unsure what measures are required.

Text: Frank Bieber, VdS Schadenverhütung GmbH, Deputy Head of the Technical Inspection Department

People often turn to the fire department or fire protection service. But even here, the resources are not available to assess every single situation immediately. From a legal perspective, it is also difficult for the fire department to assess the situation, because even if they act to the best of their knowledge and belief, it is not the responsibility of the fire department to determine compensatory measures and approve deviations from the building regulations.

A large German professional fire department asked the vfdb's Division 14 - Technical Fire Protection Systems - to draw up a leaflet on this subject. A working group consisting of representatives of the various system technologies, insurers, experts, planners and VdS then drew up the “Code of Practice 14-05 - Measures in the event of failure of technical fire protection systems”.

Addressees and legal issues

The leaflet is primarily aimed at operators of buildings with fire protection systems, but also at fire departments, installers, planners, building inspectors and insurers who are repeatedly confronted with the issues described above.

The new publication begins by explaining the various legal contexts (public building law, occupational health and safety law and insurance law/civil law). The focus here is on the operator's responsibility to operate his building in accordance with the building permit. System technology is a key component here.

Risk assessment

If plant technology - planned or unplanned - is not available, this can have very different effects. A risk assessment must be carried out that holistically evaluates the effects on fire protection. The analysis of the effects can lead to very different results. For example, if there are two redundant sprinkler pumps, the failure of one pump may have virtually no impact. Other faults can mean that fire protection in a building is no longer guaranteed.

Differences in the regulations

Ideally, these considerations should already be taken into account when drawing up the fire protection concept, for example when planning redundant water or energy supplies. The regulations available on the market for the planning and installation of system technology vary greatly, particularly in the case of automatic water extinguishing systems.

Redundant water supply

VdS CEA 4001 is currently the only established set of rules that has redundancies and can therefore compensate for failures directly from the system. Neither the currently valid DIN EN 12845 nor the data sheets from FM Global or the NFPA regulations provide information on the system sizes above which a redundant water supply is required, for example. In the absence of this information in the regulations, it is actually the task of the creator of the fire protection concept to describe these requirements. However, practice shows that in many industrial projects a single pump without redundancy is considered sufficient.

Possible solutions

As complex as the effects of failures can be, the possible solutions are just as varied. Faults in the fire alarm system can be compensated for by regular rounds by trained personnel.

As far as reporting the failure of a fire protection system to the property insurance company is concerned, the individual insurance companies have different requirements as to the downtime from which this must be done. Whether and which compensation measures are to be taken is also usually determined individually.

The leaflet provides a general description of the different technologies (fire detection and alarm systems, smoke and heat extraction systems including smoke extraction and smoke control as well as automatic and non-automatic extinguishing systems) and describes special features with regard to failure and compensation options.

Normative regulation

In normative terms, there are few tangible regulations to rely on. By law, only Section 38(4) of the Model Ordinance on Places of Assembly requires that operation be stopped “if systems, equipment or devices necessary for the safety of the place of assembly are not operational or if operating regulations cannot be complied with.”

DIN 14675-1 specifies the standard requirement for fire alarm systems that the system must be restored to its target status 72 hours after the fault becomes known. Depending on the fault, however, this is not always possible in practice.

Possible measures

The last part of the leaflet then lists possible measures based on the risk assessment and the extent of the failure (individual system components, energy supply, affected functional groups, alarm transmission to the fire department, etc.). These include simple organizational measures such as displaying signs at the FIZ or informing fire protection/evacuation assistants. However, measures can also include restricting or prohibiting the use of the building.

Only in absolutely exceptional cases should a public fire department provide compensation measures.


Ultimately, the leaflet can only educate, raise awareness and make suggestions. As mentioned at the beginning, the operator is responsible for ensuring that the protection objectives arising from construction, insurance and occupational health and safety legislation are met.