Fire Protection Impairment Program


Whenever fire protection water supplies, sprinklers, fire pumps, or special protection equipment is impaired for any reason, an unusual fire protection hazard exists and specific fire prevention procedures are necessary. This includes but is not limited to, the shutdown of fire protection water supplies, sprinklers, fire pumps, special protections systems, and fire alarm systems. An impairment is anything that results in the planned or unplanned shutdown of a fire protection system. 

It is a requirement to use the FM Global Red eTag Permit system at the University of Northern Iowa to manage all impairments caused by employees, contractors, or their subcontractors.


The following definitions apply to this program.

Control valve: A valve controlling water or agent flow to an automatic fire protection system.

Fire protection system: Devices, equipment, and systems or combinations of systems used to detect a fire, activate an alarm, extinguish or control a fire, control or manage smoke and fire, or any combination thereof.

Fire service: This term is used for firefighters in any area of the world. Some equivalent local terms are fire department, fire brigade, fire and emergency services, and fire/rescue. On the UNI campus this generally refers to Cedar Falls Fire and Rescue.

Fire watch: A dedicated person or persons whose sole responsibility is to look for fires within an established area. 

Impairment: A shutdown, in whole or part, of a fire protection system.

Impairment Coordinator (IC): The person who manages any impairment and has overall responsibility for proper implementation of the Fire Protection Impairment Program. The Director of Risk Management or his/her designee shall serve as the IC.

Interlock: A device that senses a limit or off-limit condition or an improper sequence of events. It causes shutdown of the offending or related piece of equipment, or prevents things happening in an improper sequence, to avoid a hazardous condition.

Maintenance: Work conducted to ensure continued satisfactory operation of a device or system.

Special protection system: A protection system used for sole or supplementary protection and designated as one of the following: carbon dioxide, clean agent, dry chemical, foam, halon 1301, hybrid, or water mist.

Supervision: An automatic means of monitoring the status of a system or device and indicating abnormal conditions.

Test: To physically operate a device or system for the purpose of verifying its working condition.



This policy applies to all UNI employees, outside contractors and their representatives, or any company representative hired by UNI to provide services or any outside trade workers who will be working on university property.


  • The IC is permitted to waive the fire watch requirement if there is not a substantial risk to life safety or if alternatives to maintain an equivalent level of safety are prescribed;
  • Routine testing and maintenance which does not present a significant risk to occupants or property; or
  • Total renovation of a building.

Fire Protection Impairment Work Procedures

The following procedures shall be followed when a fire protection system is impaired:


When a fire protection system is impaired, the personnel conducting the work shall notify the IC.

The following information shall be communicated to the IC:

  • The type of system being impaired (sprinklers, gaseous suppression, foam, dry chemical, fire pumps, water mist, water supplies, interlocks, etc.).
  • Approximately how long the fire protection system will be impaired.
  • The reason the fire protection system is being impaired.
  • What area and occupancy does the impaired fire protection system protect.
  • If a sprinkler control valve is going to be closed, provide the following information:
    • What valve is being shut.
    • What area this fire protection valve protects.
    • The reason it is being shut.
    • Approximately how long the system be impaired.
  •  If a fire pump is going to be impaired, provide the following information:
    • The type of fire pump (diesel or electric).
    • Whether there is another fire pump provided that will remain in service.
    • Whether there is an alternative water supply available.
    • Whether the pump can be started manually in an emergency and, if so, whether there be someone on site 24 hours/7 days per week who knows how to start this pump in an emergency.
  • If special protection (gaseous suppression, foam, dry chemical, water mist, interlocks, etc.) is impaired, provide the following information:
    • Whether there is automatic sprinkler protection available and in service.
    • Whether the special protection system can be manually tripped in an emergency and, if so, whether personnel will be instructed/allowed to do this.
  • If a fire alarm/detection system that activates an automatic fire protection system (e.g., interlocks, deluge, preaction, special protection) will be impaired, including whether automatic sprinkler protection will still be in service.
  • If a water supply is impaired, include the following information:
    • Whether this is the only water supply available for fire protection and, if so, whether there is a way to obtain water from other sources nearby (river, lake, etc.).
    • Whether the fire service will be able to park a pumper truck at the facility while the water supply is impaired.

The IC will notify Cedar Falls Fire Rescue, UNI Public Safety, and complete a FM Global Red eTag Permit. The IC will tag the impaired equipment with the FM Global Out of Service Tag. 

Additional Preliminary Steps Before a Planned Impairment

  • Plan work on fire protection systems for times when the facility is not operating. If this is not possible, shut down any hazardous processes in the impaired area. This could include ignitable liquids and dusts. Ensure that valves for other, uninvolved fire protection systems remain open and secured during the impairment.
  • Limit the scope and duration of the impairment (i.e., impair the smallest area possible as opposed to the entire facility), and complete the work on a priority basis to minimize the amount of time fire protection is impaired.
  • Allow no hot work (i.e., cutting, welding, brazing, grinding) to be done in an unprotected area. 
  • Prohibit smoking in the impaired area. Remember, smoking is already not allowed on campus per UNI Policy.
  • Have all pre-work completed prior to impairing fire protection, including the following:
    • Have personnel ready to start work.
    • Have all piping laid out for new underground mains.
    • Have all piping and sprinklers needed for a job onsite and available.
    • Have all piping, connections, and equipment installed and completed to the extent possible before impairing the fire protection system.
  • The IC may require the following additional steps be taken:
    • Ensure the work being done will be carried out without interruption until completion.
    • Provide temporary protection in the impaired area. For example, fire hoses connected to the sprinkler system and/or fire hydrant, extra extinguishers, charged hose lines, etc.
    • Provide ongoing fire watch patrols of the unprotected area(s).
    • Permit hot work under UNI's Hot Work Program
    • Have someone assigned to respond to or stand by the impaired fire pump or closed valve so it can be started/opened immediately in an emergency.

During an Impairment

  • Monitor the recommended actions outlined above throughout the duration of the impairment.
  • In the case of an unplanned impairment, stabilize the situation and immediately follow the precautions recommended above.

After an Impairment

  • Restore fire protection equipment to full automatic service as soon as possible.
  • Complete any required/necessary testing to ensure the system is fully functional.
    • If work was done on automatic sprinkler protection, perform a 2 in. drain test on the downstream side of each valve that was closed. This test is very important as the final check to ensure all control valves have been left in the wide-open position.
    • If work was done to install new underground mains, hydrostatically test the new mains at 200 psi (13.8 bar) for 2 hours (or 50 psi [3.5 bar] greater than the working pressure of the system). This will ensure there are no leaks in the underground main. Furthermore, whenever a new underground main is installed or an existing underground main has been repaired, full flushing of the underground is recommended to ensure there are no rocks or other obstructions in the mains.
    • If work was done to fire pumps, ensure they are in full automatic operation.
  • Ensure all sprinkler control valves are locked in the wide-open position.
  • Reset the alarm system
  • Notify the IC who will notify the following:
    • Cedar Falls Fire Rescue
    • Public Safety
    • The impairment monitoring program


FM Global Data Sheet 10-7 Fire Protection Impairment Management

Reviewed by Risk/EHS on 9/20/2023