American Alarms Blog

Commercial Wireless Fire Alarm - the pros and cons

by Adam Jacobs 10/19/2021

Wireless fire alarm in a commercial building has had a rocky history.  There were lots of trial and error improvements made, however.  The remaining products are as reliable as wired ones, with all factors considered.

 

Pros of wireless fire alarm devices:

Allows for more flexibility

No wires (except AC power), little wiring labor, no wiremold/conduit

Little chance of ground faults (one of the most common and annoying problems with wired systems)

Little chance of lightning damage (especially if you protect the AC circuit and eliminate the phone lines)

Easily changed (like in multi-tenant buildings where spaces/configurations change often)

Fast installation compared to wired system

Power/battery consumption has improved greatly over the last few years

 

Cons of wireless systems:

Batteries still only last 2-3 years (typically 3V Lithium CR123A type)

Device cost is 2 or more times that of wired devices 

Programming and setup takes longer (but much of this can be done before bringing parts to installation site)

Not every configuration/requirement can be done wireless

Large systems (over 50 devices) become more difficult to do wireless, but are possible

 

After weighing all the factors of your project, be sure you consider wireless fire alarm.  Especially if the project is multi-tenant where the overall system design could change every few months, wireless allows flexibility and lower remodel costs.  

 

*NOTE: Not all local AHJs will approve wireless fire alarms, even though they are acceptable in NFPA.  Be sure you check with your local AHJ before getting too serious about wireless fire alarm.

 

I believe everyone's goal in our industry is to protect as many people as well as we can.  Wireless fire alarm presents some interesting opportunities for challenging design projects.

 

 

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

by Adam Jacobs 10/19/2021

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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Fire Alarm in Building Wasn't Working When Firefighters Arrived

by Adam Jacobs 10/19/2021

I just read a story of a fire in a Denton, TX apartment building.  The residents were evacuated in the middle of the night, taking what few belongings they could carry.  The firefighters were still cutting into walls to make sure the fire was completely out.  The apartment management company did not do much to help the residents, but local schools and the Red Cross help many families.  The thing that really stuck out, though, was they mentioned the building has a fire alarm system.  It didn't alarm.  It had been (supposedly) inspected, tested, and tagged less than a year earlier.  So what happened?  Did the fire alarm contractor actually do a functional test of all the devices?  Or did they just do a "drive-by" inspection and stick a tag on the panel?  Now the residents and the building owner are in a big predicament.

Are you just paying for a tag so you don't get harassed by the city, or is your system REALLY tested every year?

Does your insurance company pay for fire damage when the fire alarm doesn't work the way it should?

Is it worth saving a few bucks on the inspections each year to put lives in danger and risk a denied insurance claim?

 

Make sure your alarm contractor does a full functional test of your system.  Watch them do it some time.  

Or you can call us.  We will never skimp on safety.

 

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Amazon asked to stop selling smoke detectors

by Adam Jacobs 10/19/2021

Washington fire service organizations are asking Amazon to stop selling smoke alarms that are not properly tested. The Washington State Association of Fire Marshals says Amazon has been made aware of concerns with the unlisted smoke alarms but is still selling them.

Read the full article here:

http://www.valleynewslive.com/content/news/Fire-Marshals-ask-Amazon-to-stop-selling-untested-smoke-alarms-386982331.html

 

Smoke and heat detection has had extensive testing in the United States for decades.  Some of the alarm products discussed here are coming from outside the US, and are not properly tested to US standards before being sold with online retailers.

BEWARE!  Before you buy that smoke detector online and save a few bucks, think about what the lives of your loved ones are worth that it's protecting.  If you have ANY doubts about whether the device will work when it's needed, you should not buy it.  Here are some brands that have been tested for years and proven themselves:

FirstAlert (BRK is also part of this group)

Kidde

Firex

I've personally purchased all of these brands, and believe they will stand behind their products.

 

Smoke detectors save lives, when they work the way they're intended.  That takes lots of testing.  Shop carefully.

 

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National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

by Adam Jacobs 10/19/2021

When we think of safety, it's easy to think of the firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel that respond to emergencies every day.  But don't forget about all the other people that work to get those first-responders to the scene of an emergency quickly and safely.

Please take the time to thank 9-1-1 telecommunicators, communications staff trainers, supervisors and managers of communications centers, those that that maintain radio and emergency phone systems, and other public safety telecommunications staff across the country who work hard every day serving the public.

 

Thank you all!

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5 Things Facilities Managers Need To Know About Hurricane Clean-up

by Adam Jacobs 10/19/2021

Our friends at NFPA have published an informational article for facility managers who are responsible for the safety in a building.  When that building has just been damaged by a hurricane, their job becomes one hundred times harder.  This article gives some great tips and things to consider.

https://community.nfpa.org/community/nfpa-today/blog/2017/09/11/5-things-a-facility-manager-should-consider-when-preparing-responding-and-recovering-from-a-major-hurricane

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