American Alarms Blog

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.  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.  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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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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Mircom TX3 series is affordable, flexible, and expandable door access

by Adam Jacobs 12/4/2017

Mircom Technologies TX3 series of products can control 1 to 64 doors on the same system, and network them so management is easy.  Add door contacts, request to exit buttons, mag-locks, electric door strikes, automatic openers, or any other option you need for a fully customized solution.  Add the TX3-IP card, shown below, for simple remote management on any Windows computer with internet.  TX3 allows the addition of iClass readers, biometric readers, picture badges, long-range UHF readers (up to 27 feet), and many other options for a full range of access solutions.  Call for more info on commercial door access solutions.

 

Picture by Jared Reese

Picture by Jared Reese

 

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Make arming and disarming your security system easy!

by Adam Jacobs 12/4/2017

Honeywell's 4-button key chain fob remote allows you to arm, disarm, and many other functions as you approach your home or business.  Use it to turn off your alarm when you drive into the garage.  Use it as a panic button.  Or program it to do dozens of other things.  With a range of up to 100 feet, you can even be in the yard or at the street when you use it.  This remote fob works with all of Honeywell's Vista series panels.  Call and ask about commercial security systems now.

 

Photo by Jared Reese

  

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Pull station without wires

by Adam Jacobs 12/4/2017

Most people who have heard a fire alarm activate, knows what a pull station is.  But did you know that you can have this safety feature without wires?  So even in areas where wiring is a challenge, or you're preserving a historic building, you can have pull stations to indicate a fire so occupants can evacuate.  CWSI by Johnson Controls makes wireless pull stations, smoke detectors, heat detectors, fire transmitters, and CO detectors that can allow fire detection and alarm in challenging places.   

 

Photo by Jared Reese

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