Jul 13 2017

Supervising Stations for Fire Alarm Systems

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: What code states that quarterly communication between our fire panel and our local fire department must be completed?

A: What used to be called the off-site monitoring transmission equipment has been changed to be called the “Supervising Station Alarm Systems – Transmitters” as defined in NFPA 72-2010. But they also changed the frequency of the test from requiring it to be conducted quarterly to be required annually, as described in Table 14.4.5, section 22 of the 2010 edition of NFPA 72. It also refers to Table 14.4.2.2, section 18 for test methods. So, the answer you are seeking is Table 14.4.5 section 22 of NFPA 72-2010.


May 04 2017

Multiple Sensor Detectors

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: In regards to multi-sensor devices, such as rate of rise/fixed temp combo heat detectors; if the rate of rise portion of the device is testable, but the fixed temp portion of the device is not, then does the device fall into the replace after 15 years for non-restorable heat detectors? The same issue with smoke/fixed temp heat combo devices (older devices); do they have to be replaced for the fixed temp heat portion? There are many different ways to view this, as code states that they have to be tested independent of one another.

A: The short answer is no, combination devices do not fall into the 15 year replacement criteria.  Explanation: The replacement interval for fixed temperature heat detectors applies only to non-restorable detectors [NFPA 72 Table 14.4.2.2.14(d)(3)].  Both smoke/heat and rate of rise/fixed detectors are restorable.  Rate of rise/fixed heat detectors fall under the maintenance requirements of Table 14.4.2.2.14(d)(1), which does not mandate a replacement interval.  If the rate of rise tests normally, that’s the primary sensor and does not have to be replaced as long as it passes inspection. Smoke/heat detectors fall under two maintenance criteria.  Table 14.4.2.2.14(g)(8) is for smoke detectors with thermal elements, which states that both elements must be tested & the failure of any element requires the replacement of the device.  However, since we’re talking about a smoke/heat detector with a fixed temperature element, Table 14.4.2.2.14(k)(5) for combination fire detectors is applicable.  It states that if individual sensors cannot be tested individually, the primary sensor shall be tested, in this case being the smoke detector.  As long as the primary sensor functions properly, it’s good to go and is the sole consideration regarding replacement.


Apr 27 2017

Covers on Manual Pull Stations

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: We are in the process of putting manual pull station covers on most if not all of our stations. Some of the stations are dual action. Will putting a cover on a dual action manual pull station convert it to a triple action? Is there a code which prevents this situation from being acceptable?

A: The installation of a protective cover over a double action manual station does constitute a triple action, but it’s not prohibited by code.  Prior to 2013 edition of NFPA 72, this wasn’t expressly addressed.  NFPA 72 (2010) Chapter 17.14.5 allows protective covers over manual stations, so long as they remain accessible.  There’s nothing prohibiting a certain amount of ‘actions’; it just doesn’t mention it.  However, it was addressed in the 2013 edition.  NFPA 72 (2013) Chapter 17.14.7 states a protective cover may be placed over a single or double action manual station.  The annex note explains that this does make it a triple action, but that it’s still code compliant. It should be noted that the 2012 Life Safety Code references the 2010 edition of NFAP 72, not the 2013 edition.


Apr 06 2017

Class A Wiring for Fire Alarm Systems

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Is Class ‘A’ wiring required in new construction for new fire alarm systems?

A: Per NFPA 72-2010, chapter 23.4.3.1, unless a class of wiring is determined by a local AHJ or the owner, it’s a design decision, based on an evaluation of site specific conditions and the needs of the facility.  There’s nothing in NFPA 101, 72 or 70 that mandates a particular pathway class must be used in a particular occupancy for fire alarm systems.  The only mandates are what devices go in (based on the LSC); where they go in (based on NFPA72) and the physical attributes of the conduit & conductors, along with their mounting methods (based on NFPA 70).

Many times healthcare notification circuits are subject to survivability requirements because they do not have general evacuation, but the intent of survivability is to provide continuity of service through physical protection of the conductors from attack by fire rather than to ensure continuity of service due to any circuit break.  Some design engineers equate survivability with Class A wiring, but that’s a mistake.  Class A wiring may be used in conjunction with other factors such as sprinkler coverage as a performance means of achieving survivability in lieu of the prescriptive method, but it’s not required.


Mar 31 2017

Fire Door Smoke Detectors

Q: I have a life safety consultant doing our annual inspection, and he keeps saying that I need to have individual smoke detectors for my corridor fire rated doors. The corridors on both sides of these doors are completely protected with smoke detectors, but he says regardless, that area smoke detectors are required next to the doors. Is this correct?

A: No, I don’t believe what the consultant is telling you is correct. Section 17.7.5.6.1 of NFPA 72 (2010) allows for either area smoke detectors or complete corridor smoke detector protection to activate the release of a hold-open on a door serving a fire barrier or a smoke compartment barrier. So, in regards to the cross-corridor doors that are held open by magnets connected to the fire alarm system, you are permitted to have one of the following:

  • A smoke detector on either side of the door mounted within five feet of the door; or smoke detectors mounted on both sides of the door within five feet if the transom above the door is greater than 24 inches.
  • The entire corridor where the cross-corridor door is located is properly protected with smoke detectors. A smoke detector must then be located within 15 feet of the door. For mounting locations for an area protected with detectors, the detectors must be no more than 15 feet from the wall (this is based on one-half of the maximum spacing distance between detectors which is 30 feet). The cross-corridor doors must be considered ‘closed’ when designing the detector locations, so that constitutes a “wall” and a detector is required within 15 feet of that wall.

Where consultants and surveyors have problems is they see a cross-corridor door held open by a magnet, and then they do not see a detector within five feet, and they believe that is a violation of NFPA 72. What they don’t consider is the corridor is completely protected with smoke detectors and NFPA 72 (2010) 17.6.3.1.1. (1) allows a detector to be one-half of the maximum spacing.


Feb 03 2017

Occupant Notification Devices

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Is there a specific distance that fire alarm audible/visible notification appliances are required to be mounted from other similar devices? We have multiple strobe devices in some rooms, but not in others.

A: Wall-mounted audible notification appliances are required to be at least 90 inches above the floor as measured at the top of the device, but a minimum of 6 inches below the finished ceiling. If the audible notification appliance is combined with a visible notification appliance, then the mounting location of the device shall be determined by the requirements for the visible notification appliance. Wall mounted visible notification appliances shall be mounted so the entire lens is not less than 80 inches and not more than 96 inches above the finished floor. (Some exceptions for performance-based design apply). Ceiling mounted installations are permitted for occupant notification appliances provided the devices are rated by the manufacturer for such installation. If the combination audible/visible notification appliance is an integral part of the smoke detector, then the mounting location shall be determined by the requirements for the smoke detector.

The capacity of each occupant notification appliance (whether it be audible or visible) is determined by the manufacturer, and the minimum requirements found in NFPA 72. Since there are different capacities with a variety of notification appliances, the mounting locations are determined by the sound pressure ratings for audible devices, and candela ratings for visible devices. Basically, (with some limitations spelled out in the NFPA 72 standard) the manufacturer of the notification appliance makes the determination how far apart they can be installed and how many devices are required for a given room. But NFPA 72 does provide tables for minimum standards for the mounting locations of visible notification appliances, based on the intensities of the candela rating of each device.

The spacing and locations of the occupant notification devices is specified by the designing engineer for the original project, and is reviewed by the authority having jurisdiction for design and construction. Once approved, the installing contractor must mount the specified occupant notification device where the designing engineer stipulates. Once installed, the installing contractor is required to conduct a sound pressure test on the audible devices to measure the dB at the specified locations for each device to ensure the performance is in accordance with the engineer’s specifications.

To directly answer your question… Yes there are specifications on the mounting locations of these occupant notification devices, but it has to do with the manufacturer’s rating of their devices along with NFPA 72 standards.


Feb 02 2017

Fire Alarm Systems in Business Occupancies

Category: Business Occupancy,Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: We are converting a facility that was used as a physician’s office into our women’s clinic and OB/GYN facility. There were previously 4 exam rooms and we are making it into 6 exam rooms. This unit has no fire alarm, no sprinklers, not even a stand-alone smoke detector. This doesn’t seem right in today’s environment.

A: It appears what you are describing is a business occupancy. Section 38.3.4.1 of the 2012 LSC says this about fire alarm systems in business occupancies: “A fire alarm system in accordance with Section 9.6 shall be provided in any business occupancy where any one of the following conditions exists:

  1. The building is two or more stories in height above the level of exit discharge;
  2. The occupancy is subject to 50 or more occupants above or below the level of exit discharge;
  3. The occupancy is subject to 300 or more total occupants.”

If your facility does not meet any of the above requirements, then you would not be required to have a fire alarm system. Also, section 38.3.5 does not require business occupancies to have sprinklers. But please check with your state and local authorities to see if they have other requirements.


Jan 12 2017

Fire Alarm Systems

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Our hospital has an outpatient clinic attached via a hallway and connected to the hospital directly. When I am in the out-patient clinic you cannot hear the fire alarms going off in the hospital. Do the systems need to communicate? They are currently on 2 different systems.

A: No… the two systems are not required to communicate with each other unless the expectation is for staff at one location is to respond to fire alarms in the other location. However, it may be practical for the alarm to communicate in each other’s building, in some fashion. There may be key individuals (i.e. engineering staff, management staff, and executives) who may be in one location and if the alarm is activated in the other location, they should know about it. But this can also be accomplished using two-way radios or pagers.


Jan 11 2017

Fire Alarm Audible Devices in Physician Sleep Rooms

Category: Fire Alarm,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: We have audible notification devices for the fire alarm system installed in our physician sleep rooms. We have a physician requesting the one in his area be removed. Are we permitted to remove the audible devices or do we have to have them?

A: Well…. I would certainly remove any audible alarm notification devices from a physician sleeping room, but there are some surveyors who are sticklers for them. Here is the reason why:

A physician sleeping room on a patient unit would be considered a mixed occupancy as the physician sleeping room would have to meet chapter 29 Existing Hotels & Dormitories. Section 29.3.4.5 of the 2012 Life Safety Code requires an approved single-station smoke alarm in every sleeping room. A smoke alarm is different than the typical smoke detector in the hospital. The smoke alarm is required to have an audible device when the smoke alarm is activated it will alert the individual in the room. So, technically, the audible device is required and some surveyors actually require it.

However, since the sleeping room is in a hospital, most accreditation organizations allow a hospital smoke detector to be installed in the sleeping room in lieu of a smoke alarm since there is staff on duty that would wake any sleeping physicians in the event of a fire. But, not all surveyors and AHJs see it that way and actually require the smoke alarms with audible devices to be installed.

But perhaps the saving grace for you is the smoke alarm in the physician sleeping room is not required to be connected to the building fire alarm system (a smoke detector would be, but not a smoke alarm) so you don’t have to have a building audible notification device in the sleeping room which would activate everytime the fire alarm system is activated. Just have a single-station smoke alarm that has an audible signal installed, which will only activates if the a fire develops in the sleeping room.

By the way, section 29.3.6.2.2 and 29.3.6.2.3 requires a fire-rated door to that room if the corridor is not sprinklered, and the door needs a closer.


May 23 2016

ASC Fire Alarm Testing

Q: What section of NFPA 72 (the National Fire Alarm Code) requires ambulatory surgery centers to perform testing of their fire alarm system on a quarterly basis? Do devices that require annual testing have to be divided and have the service contractor do 25% of them each quarter? My organization would like to know the specific identifier so that the requirement may be referred to.

A: The quick answer is there is no requirement in NFPA 72 (or any other NFPA standard) that requires quarterly testing of the fire alarm system for ASC classified as ambulatory care occupancies. Section 20.3.4.1 of the 2000 edition of the LSC requires compliance with section 9.6. Section 9.6.1.4 requires compliance with NFPA 72 (1999 edition) for testing and maintenance. NFPA 72, Table 7-3.2 discusses the frequency of testing and inspection for each component and device of the fire alarm system. While there are a few items that require quarterly testing (such as water-flow switches on sprinklers system, which actually comes from NFPA 25, and off-premises emergency notification transmission equipment), for the most part, annual testing is required on all initiating devices, notification devices, and interface devices. You do not have to divide the components that require annual testing into four groups and have your service contractor perform testing on 25% of the devices on a quarterly basis. Actually, this can be troublesome for larger organizations if the service contractor fails to test the devices during the same quarter each year. Most accreditation organizations require the annual test to be performed 12 months from the previous test, plus or minus 30 days.


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