How to Be a Detection Detective

An inquiry concerning a campus-affiliated residential multiple dwelling provides a launching point to explore fire system code requirements. Find out how to solve such challenges and where to turn for further guidance.

Establishing Code Requirements

According to IFC, Section 907.2.9, because there are bedrooms on the fourth floor (third floor is the magic number), and because there are more than 16 units, a manually activated fire alarm system is required. A manual system typically consists of manual fire pull boxes, notification appliances and an automatic fire alarm panel with a smoke detector above it.

There are several exceptions to this rule that must be considered. First, a fire alarm system is not required where the wall materials between units carry a minimum one-hour fire rating in structures less than two stories. Manual fire pulls are also not required when the structure is fully sprinklered.

Regardless of the size of such a designated structure, notification devices are required. In addition, there must be at least one manual fire pull box. The system must be monitored by an approved central monitoring or supervising station.

Single- and multiple-station, 120VAC smoke alarms also are required by Section 907.2.10. “Listed single- and multiple-station smoke alarms shall be installed in accordance with the provisions of this code and the household fire-warning equipment provisions of NFPA 72.”

This section also provides direction on where to install them. To summarize, smoke alarms are required in each sleeping room, one in the space outside each sleeping area, and one on each floor of a dwelling. More detail is attainable by referring to Section 907.

Going Above and Beyond Code

Referring again to the building official’s questions, “Is there a cutoff to a standalone-type system where I can ask the installing company to add pull stations and smoke detection? Or can you treat it like a multiple-family situation and let an electrician wire each unit separately then use the house panel for interior corridors and common rooms? What about pull stations requirements?”

Essentially, this authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is asking, “Can I require more than what code specifies?” The answer is a simple yes.

According to Section 1.2, “The purpose of this Code is to provide minimum requirements, with due regard to function, for the design, operation, and maintenance of buildings and structures for safety to life from fire.”

In other words, if the AHJ wants more, he/she can ask for more, but you must at least meet the fundamental requirements set forth in the code.

Thus far we’ve talked primarily about ICC requirements. Where applicable, Life Safety Code, NFPA 101, also provides guidance pertaining to fundamental requirements and the ability of a code official to go above and beyond the code.

According to NFPA, Life Safety Code “addresses minimum building design, construction, operation, and maintenance requirements necessary to protect building occupants from dangers caused by fire, smoke, and toxic fumes.”

Additional information is available in NFPA 101 that you will need to know. For example, Sections and provide information regarding egress arrangements, specifically where delayed door locks and electronic locking mechanisms are concerned.

Section provides specific information on the use of delayed-egress components. Section offers advice on how to deal with occupant notification, providing basic information, such as Section that simply says notification is required in all occupiable areas. Section provides direction on annunciation and zoning in accordance with Section 9.6.7.

I’ve only to
uched on some of the requirements set down in the code that you’ll have to know. For more information on NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, as well as other code sets, visit www.nfpa.org.

Al Colombo is an award-winning writer who has covered electronic security and life safety since 1986. Visit his Web site at www.alcolombo.info, and check out his Security Sense blog.



About the Author


Colombo is widely known for his technical and marketing articles in a variety of magazines. Some of them include Security Distributing & Marketing (SDM), Security Sales & Integration (SSI), Electrical Contractor (EC), Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I), Locksmith Ledger, National Locksmith, and others.

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