How long is my tag good for?
Fire equipment maintenance tags are valid for one year, and pre-engineered systems are inspected semi-annually.
You are usually required by your insurance provider to inspect your equipment once per month, in addition to the annual maintenance check you have to pay someone to do for you. An inspection is considered a "quick check" of the equipment and a "maintenance" is a more thorough check. It is important to maintain a log of your inspections in the event of an "incident".
The tag is a representation of the firm you select to perform the maintenance. It is some proof, along with a copy of the companies invoice, of the fulfillment of your obligation to maintain the fire equipment on board.
For portable fire extinguishers, inspections and maintenance are performed to the "procedures" found in a small book of standards titled NFPA 10 Standard For Portable Fire Extinguishers. NFPA stands for National Fire Protection Association. They are an association of manufacturers, insurance reps, industry reps, reps from Factory Mutual, Underwriters Laboratory and USCG who have an interest in the regulation of the fire equipment industry. This membership forms various committees and produce "Standards" such as NFPA 10 which is a product of the Technical Committee on Portable Fire Extinguishers. These standards are then published by NFPA and when adopted by state and federal regulations, become the law of the land (and sea!). If you look up the inspection procedures in NFPA 10 for portable fire extinguishers you will find that "periodic inspection of fire extinguishers shall include a check of at least the following items:
(a) Location in designated place
(b) No obstruction to access or visibility
(c) Operating instructions on nameplate legible and facing outward
(d) Safety seals and tamper indicator not broken or missing
(e) Fullness determined by weighing or "hefting"
(f) Examination for obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzle
(g) Pressure gauge reading or indicator in the operable range or position
(h) (h only pertains to wheeled units)
(i) HMIS label in place."
These are the procedures of a "quick check" inspection that you do every month.
A "maintenance" is a more thorough examination performed by someone permitted who should be completely trained and aware of all the various requirements and intervals associated with each piece of equipment.
And that is exactly what your service provider does for you!
Systems are maintained by following the procedure published in the manufacturers installation, operation and maintenance manual which will include any procedures also required by USCG or the Code of Federal Regulations. These various manufacturers often conduct courses attended by servicemen to become "factory authorized" and certified to work on these systems and there are frequently regulations preventing "unauthorized" persons from working on your system. Occasionally you will encounter servicepersons who will tell you your system cannot be serviced, when in fact it is the serviceperson who cannot service your system- it is not the fault of your system!