American Alarms Blog

In Memory - 17 years ago

by Adam Jacobs 9/11/2018

I still remember watching the news coverage on September 11, 2001 after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  My first thought was complete disbelief.  Then it changed to horror, as I watched people fleeing the scene covered in dust and blood.  I had a new respect for the first-responders that acted so bravely under pressure that day (and for days after).  I also had a new appreciation for the delicate balance of freedom and safety that we have in our country today.  How I felt that day is part of the reason I am SO proud to do my part in the life safety field.  I'm not comparing what I do (designing and servicing fire alarm systems) to what fire rescue and police personnel do every day.  But I do feel that our part is important, too.  I am also proud to assist these brave rescue personnel with a quicker response and better information once they get on scene.  I pray that nothing like that ever happens again.  If it does, my hope is that we can save even more lives with better technology, better procedures, and better communication.  

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In Memory - 17 years ago

by Adam Jacobs 9/11/2018

I still remember watching the news coverage on September 11, 2001 after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  My first thought was complete disbelief.  Then it changed to horror, as I watched people fleeing the scene covered in dust and blood.  I had a new respect for the first-responders that acted so bravely under pressure that day (and for days after).  I also had a new appreciation for the delicate balance of freedom and safety that we have in our country today.  How I felt that day is part of the reason I am SO proud to do my part in the life safety field.  I'm not comparing what I do (designing and servicing fire alarm systems) to what fire rescue and police personnel do every day.  But I do feel that our part is important, too.  I am also proud to assist these brave rescue personnel with a quicker response and better information once they get on scene.  I pray that nothing like that ever happens again.  If it does, my hope is that we can save even more lives with better technology, better procedures, and better communication.  

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Des Moines adopting new fire codes soon

by Adam Jacobs 8/15/2018
I went to the Des Moines Fire Dept this morning to see what will be coming down the road for new codes.  Here's summary of what they expect.
 
IFC and IBC 2018 - Central Iowa Code Consortium expects to receive all comments and requests for amendments by mid-August.  New codes, with local amendments will be sent to local governments for approval by December.  Early adopters (including Des Moines) will approve by March 2019
All CICC jurisdictions must approve by December 2019.
Pella is newest member of the CICC, which is now 18 communities.
 
Other sections with notable updates:
 
sec 510 - Emergency Responder Radio Coverage - Des Moines is still accepting fire fighter phones where their radios don't work, but may soon require RF boosters (DAS systems) in areas where they can't get 95% reliable coverage.
 
Sec 901 - Integrated systems must be tested TOGETHER at least once every 10 years.  Fire alarm plus suppression, wet sprinkler, HVAC, etc.
 
Spaces under grandstands/bleachers that are at least 1000 square feet and enclosed, must have full sprinkler coverage.
 
Sec 903.3.1.2.3 - Attics intended for living space or storage - sprinkler required. also where eave of roof is 55ft or more above egress level and made of combustible materials
 
Residential cooking appliances (see UL 300)
 
Sec 907.2.1 - Group A fire alarm requirements - 300 total occupancy OR if any level ABOVE the egress level has occupancy of 100 or more.
 
Sec 1010 - Locking arrangements in Group E and Group B occupancy, delayed egress
 
Chapter 11 - Existing buildings
Sec 1103 - Bars (drinking establishments) that hold more than 300 people
Sec 1103.9 - CO detection requirements
 
Call American Alarms if you have any questions about what is required in your building.

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Design Starts With Knowing Occupancy Type

by Adam Jacobs 1/17/2018

Whenever I sit down to design a fire alarm system, the first thing I have to remember is...what type of occupancy is this?  Some buildings are easy, like hotels.  Some mixed-use buildings can be very challenging to even know WHAT type of occupancy the building will be.  If I have complete architectural drawings (that's a big IF) sometimes there are enough clues.  But sometimes it takes lots of phone calls before I know how to start the fire alarm design, or if fire alarm will even be required.  Linked below is a handy reference that compares IBC and NFPA occupancy classifications.  

 

http://americanfirealarms.com/file.axd?file=%2f2018%2f01%2fNFPA+Occupancy+Types+vs+IBC+Occupancy+Groups.pdf

 

 

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2018 I-codes focus on CO, integrated testing, and mass notification

by Adam Jacobs 1/9/2018

Today Honeywell's industry affairs expert Richard Roberts presented a summary of the relevant changes in the new 2018 i-codes (IBC, IFC, IMC, IPMC, IEBC, and IRC).  Some of the focus areas are carbon monoxide detection, integrated systems testing, and mass notification systems.  Some quick notes of importance for fire alarm design:

Section 901

Integrated testing of fire protection systems tied to other life safety systems.  Fire alarm and HVAC, sprinkler and fire alarm, suppression systems and fire alarm, fire doors/smoke dampers and fire alarm, and other integrated systems gain clearer direction for testing.

Section 907

- Group A occupancy (assembly) requires a manual system when 100 or more people occupy levels above the discharge level.

- Multiple-channel voice evacuation is required for high-rises over 120' above fire department access level.

- Strobes are required in all habitable spaces (like LR with pull-out couch) in hotels and apartments designated hearing-impaired/ADA.

- Manufacturer's maintenance recommendations will be enforced on smoke alarms, with a max life of 10 years.

Section 915

Some of the ambiguous language on placement of CO detectors has been replaced with clearer language.  CO detector required on ceiling above fuel-burning appliances.  More thought and direction is given to existing buildings and CO detection. 

NFPA 101 and NFPA 1 also added some new language and sections regarding CO detection for almost every type of public occupancy class.

New language like "...spaces served by the first supply air register from a fuel-burning HVAC system..." has been added to clarify placement of CO detectors.

Section 917 

Requirements for mass notifications systems, particularly those defined by an NFPA 72 Risk Analysis.

 

FOR  THE FULL PRESENTATION, SEE THE ATTACHED LINK BELOW.

Changes_to_2018_Model_Codes.pdf (795.13 kb)

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Cold weather creates challenges for fire fighters.

by Adam Jacobs 1/5/2018

In recent Des Moines area fires, first responders have some extra challenges because of the sub-zero temperatures.  Here are links to some new stories recently:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2017/12/18/two-transported-hospital-following-river-bend-neighborhood-fire/960355001/

 

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2018/01/02/cause-urbandale-condo-fire-may-always-unknown-says-fire-chief/996721001/

 

http://whotv.com/2018/01/05/mother-three-kids-safe-after-fire-at-west-des-moines-hotel/

 

Be sure your fire alarm and other life safety systems are working properly, so fire departments and paramedics have as much time as possible to help occupants in the building.

 

 

 

 

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Iowa Passes Carbon Monoxide Legislation

by Adam Jacobs 12/15/2017

 

Iowa Senate File 2219 was approved by a 37-11 vote on Monday.  This legislation requires all apartment buildings and private homes to have carbon monoxide detectors if constructed after July 1, 2018.  The only exempt buildings are ones without any fuel-fired appliances (heaters, stoves, dryers, etc.) or attached garages.
 
Here are some highlights of the new code.
 
- New apartment buildings (built after July 1, 2018) will need to have some type of CO detection in each unit's sleeping areas.  Exact placement may vary slightly based on manufacturer's installation instructions.  The legislation does not specify that these detectors must be system-type detectors connected to a monitored panel.  They can be AC-powered, battery-powered, or part of a fire alarm system.
 
- Hearing-impaired tenants can request a CO detector with visual notification (strobe light).  The building owner must provide this accommodation within 30 days of the request.
 
- If owner fails to provide a detector, as specified in this new code, after 30 days the tenant has the right to purchase and install one on their own and deduct the cost from their next rent payment.  If they've rented for longer than 30 days, owner can make renter pay for the battery.  (interesting language in Sec. 6)
 
This new legislation appears to be state-wide adoption of language that has been in national codes for a while.  These codes already require CO detection with almost identical language:
 
International Residential Code (since 2009 version) - Section R315 in IRC 2015
International Building Code (since 2009 version) - Section 915 in IBC 2015 
International Fire Code (since 2009) - Section 915 in IFC 2015
ANSI/UL 2034
NFPA 720
 
The enforcement of these requirements will fall on the state and local fire marshals, similar to other fire/life safety codes.
 
Call American Alarms if you have questions about when and where carbon monoxide detectors are required.

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How do you hide the fire alarm and still meet the codes?

by Adam Jacobs 12/10/2017

Where do you go when the owner and architect want one thing, but the fire codes require something else?  Well, Concealite has built a business around just that!  American Alarms is your local distributor for Concealite products that have helped architects and code officials find a reasonable compromise for years.  Imagine walking into a room where NONE of the fire alarm notification devices, emergency lighting, electrical wall outlets, security motion detectors, and even occupancy sensors are concealed in the wall.  Never before has it been this easy to design a space with a clean seamless look, but still meet all the electrical and life safety code requirements.  Most devices can be painted or wallpapered to match any wall/ceiling.  See the GIF and link below for more info on these incredible products.

 

http://www.concealite.com/emergency_fixtures.html

 

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How do you hide the fire alarm and still meet the codes?

by Adam Jacobs 12/10/2017

Where do you go when the owner and architect want one thing, but the fire codes require something else?  Well, Concealite has built a business around just that!  American Alarms is your local distributor for Concealite products that have helped architects and code officials find a reasonable compromise for years.  Imagine walking into a room where NONE of the fire alarm notification devices, emergency lighting, electrical wall outlets, security motion detectors, and even occupancy sensors are concealed in the wall.  Never before has it been this easy to design a space with a clean seamless look, but still meet all the electrical and life safety code requirements.  See the GIF and link below for more info on these incredible products.

 

http://www.concealite.com/emergency_fixtures.html

 

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Preparing your low-voltage systems for winter

by Adam Jacobs 12/7/2017

Here are some tips to prepare for winter months regarding fire alarm, intrusion alarms, security cameras, and other low-voltage systems.

- Make sure camera lenses stay clear on any outside cameras.  Icicles, frost, and snow can block your views and can also prevent varifocal lenses and PTZ type cameras from moving.

- Motion detectors can sometimes be activated by heavy snowfall.  Be aware of their position and use masking screen if needed to limit the sensing area.

- Fire alarm pull stations in apartment breezeways are prone to false alarm when it gets this cold.  Ice on top, condensation from behind, and freeze/refreeze can cause false alarms on these devices (especially addressable type).

- Many people think that batteries get weaker in the cold weather, but most battery types do fine in the cold.  Batteries get most of their abuse from excess heat in the Summer.  Watch batteries closely if they older or in a warm room.  If they bulge or leak, replace them immediately, as they can explode.

 

Here is a link to lots more winter tips:

https://www.iccsafe.org/about-icc/safety/consumer-safety/winter-safety-resources/

 

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