by Grant Lobdell
All National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) documents reference an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) at some point or another. For example, per 188.8.131.52 in the current, 2017 edition of NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, “sample sprinklers shall be submitted to a recognized testing laboratory acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction for field service testing.” To fulfill requirements such as these, a person needs to know what and who their AHJ is.
What is an AHJ?
NFPA defines an AHJ as “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.” Simply put, an authority having jurisdiction is someone or something that is responsible for enforcing the NFPA requirements.
Who is an AHJ?
The definition of an AHJ is very broad. There could be a lot of people or entities considered an AHJ. For NFPA requirements concerning public safety, an AHJ could be one of, but not limited to, the following:
- fire chief
- fire marshal
- building official
- electrical inspector
- labor or health department
- commanding officer (government installations)
When insurance is involved with property being protected by fire protection measures controlled by NFPA, the insurance company or their representative themselves become an AHJ as well. Two or more people or entities can certainly be tasked with ensuring NFPA requirements are being met and, as a result, both are consider an AHJ.
To determine who the AHJ is for a requirement, the following question should be asked: Who is ensuring this is being done? In the example given above, who is ensuring the sprinklers are being tested? There could be multiple answers to that question. If the sprinklers are located in a public building, such as a shopping mall, most likely a fire marshal is responsible for ensuring the sprinklers are tested and have adequate performance, but it is also very likely that the insurance company protecting the building has great interest in this section of the code as well. They most likely are both following up with the building owner to review the test results. In that case, both would be considered an AHJ. Therefore, the laboratory selected for testing must be acceptable to both. If no one is following up with the building owner to ensure a section of the code is being met, then the building owner themselves or their designated representative assumes the role of the AHJ. In this situation, the lab selected would need to be acceptable to the building owner and/or designated representative.
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