What you need to know

Fire Alarm Requirements

4.4.4 Occupant Notification. In every building or structure of such size, arrangement, or occupancy that a fire itself could not provide adequate occupant warning, fire alarm systems shall be provided where necessary to warn occupants of the existence of fire.

A4.4.4 Fire alarms alert occupants to initiate emergency procedures, facilitate orderly conduct of fire drills, and initiate response by emergency services.

A. Where a required fire alarm system is out of service for more than 4 hours in a 24-hour period, the AHJ shall be notified, and the building shall be evacuated or an approved fire watch shall be provided for all parties left unprotected by the shutdown until the fire alarm system has been returned to service.

NFPA 72 specifies the audibility requirements for alarm signals in sleeping areas. Smoke alarms must have a sound level that is at least 15 dB above the average ambient sound level, 5 dB above the maximum sound level having a duration of at least 60 seconds, or a sound level of at least 75 dBA, whichever is greatest. The sound level is measured at the pillow level in the sleeping room, with any doors between the sleeping room and the smoke alarm in the closed position. Elevator lobby, hoistway, and associated machine room smoke detectors used solely for elevator recall, heat detectors used solely for elevator power shutdown, shall not be required to activate the building evacuation alarm if the power supply and installation wiring to such detectors are monitored by the building fire alarm system, and if the activation of such detectors initiates a supervisory signal at a constantly attended location. (101: Manual fire alarm boxes shall be used only for fire alarm-initiating purposes. (72:5.12.1) Each manual fire alarm box shall be securely mounted (72:5.12.3) The operable part of each manual fire alarm box shall be not less than 3 1/2 ft (1.1 m) and not more than 4 ½ ft (1.37 m) above floor level. (72:5.12.4) NOTE: ADA requires not more than 48″ above the ground. Manual fire alarm boxes shall be located throughout the protected area so that they are conspicuous, unobstructed, and accessible. (72:5.12.5)

A. Manual fire alarm boxes should be of contrasting color to the background on which they are mounted. Plastic covers are permitted to protect manual fire alarm boxes and provide relief from false alarms. Manual fire alarm boxes shall be located within 5 ft (1.5 m) of the exit doorway opening at each exit on each floor (72:5.12.6) Additional manual fire alarm boxes shall be provided so that the travel distance to the nearest fire alarm box will not be in excess of 200 ft (61 m) measured horizontally on the same floor. Visible notification appliances shall be located not more that 15 ft (4.57 m) from the end of the corridor with a separation not greater than 100 ft (30.4 m) between appliances. In corridors where more than two visible notification appliances are in any field of view, they shall flash in synchronization.

Fire Sprinklers

How do fire sprinklers work?
Fire sprinkler systems work differently depending on the type of system you may have. In most common systems the pipes are under constant pressure. There is water held back by a plug at each sprinkler head. When a certain amount of heat reaches the head, usually 155°F, either:

The solder link that binds the sprinkler head together melts.
The liquid in the glass vial in the head expands enough to shatter the glass.
In both cases the plug is released and the water flows out until the system is turned off.

What types of systems are there?
There are many different types of fire sprinkler systems. The most common systems are as follows:

Wet pipe systems: Most cost-efficient and effective type that require minimal maintenance and fewer sprinklers to
control or expel fires because of their design.

Dry pipe systems: Uses automatic nozzles attached to a piping system containing air, nitrogen or inert gas under pressure, the release of which allows the water pressure to open a dry pipe valve. The water flows into the piping and out through any open nozzles.

Deluge systems: Protects extraordinary facilities and special hazard situations that are beyond the capabilities of other types of sprinkler systems. In this system the piping above the deluge valve is filled with water
in a static pressure condition, effectively reducing the time for the water to travel from the valve to the sprinkler or nozzles when the valve trips. They operate on electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic activation. They are also used to apply both protein and aqueous film-forming mechanical foams, when this particular system water is discharged from all sprinklers attached to its piping.

Pre-Action systems: Used in areas housing a large amount of property susceptible to water damage. It has a deluge valve and spray fusible element sprinklers installed on the piping system. The preaction valve on
the system is activated by a fire detection system, allowing water to travel to the sprinkler before their activation; it also initiates the water flow fire signal.

Water spray system: An automatic or manually activated system designed to provide protection for equipment and to control and suppress fire. Industrial sites that use flammable liquids or gasses commonly use this type of system.

Does it go off by itself?
It’s not likely for a fire sprinkler system to go off by itself. The odds are approximately 1:16,000,000.

Can smoke set off a fire sprinkler system?
No. It takes a certain amount of heat in order for a system to expel water.

How do I find out if my building requires fire sprinklers?
Building and NFPA codes determine whether or not your building is in need of a system. We at ‘Ekahi Fire Protection are able to help you find out what type of system you need.

How much will a fire sprinkler system cost?
Fire sprinkler systems could be priced per square foot. However, pricing varies with the specific needs of your facility. At ‘Ekahi Fire Protection, we are able to assess your individual needs and supply you with an appropriate estimation.

How do I maintain my fire sprinkler system?
The best way to maintain your fire sprinkler system is to have it tested annually at the very least. You should never hang ornaments from the heads; don’t cover them. Neither should you ever paint over the fire sprinkler heads nor should they be blocked. Maintenance is per NFPA 25.

How bad is the water damage after a fire sprinkler system goes off?
There is a common misconception that if one head goes off they all do, although there are some systems that operate that way most systems do not. In most cases only the individual head that is affected by the heat of the fire will be triggered. There will be water damage but only where fire had been. There would be more fire damage without sprinklers and more water damage done by fire hoses. An average sprinkler head releases 20 gallons per minute where as a 1 ½” fire hose dispenses 100 gallons per minute.

The information regarding the fire alarm requirements were gathered from the following sources:

  1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAG)
  2. Life Safety Code NFPA 101 2006
  3. United Building Code
  4. Lee F. Richardson & Wayne D. Moore, P.E. (Eds.) (2002). National Fire Alarm Code Handbook 2002 Edi
    tion. Quincy, Massachusetts: National Fire Protection Association, Inc.
  5. National Fire Protection Association (2006). NFPA 1 Uniform Fire Code