I looked into it a bit more and found that it can be requested at any time by the controller as you were saying:
To obtain node-specific information, Z-Wave uses a node information frame . This frame is part of the Z-Wave protocol and specifies the capabilities of the node. These capabilities are the node type, whether the node is able to repeat frames, and other protocol-relevant issues. The node information frame also contains the Home ID and the Node ID.
It is possible for the application to ask for the node information frame from all nodes in the network and hence enable any node to acquire information regarding any node’s features in the network at any given time.
However, in my case, it is a sleepy battery operated device so it would likely be a hit and miss repair or worse. Still better than nothing…