As a professional contractor, you are already familiar with energy audits and how they can help your customer. Have you thought to provide them an equally important service for their life safety assurance?
Providing an audit of your customer’s fire alarm system is a relatively simple process. It starts with determining the customer’s goals. You should never assume that the minimum code compliance—that may have dictated the initial fire alarm system installation when the owner first occupied the building—remains the customer’s goal. Needs change, and perhaps no one even originally consulted the customer about fire protection goals.
Knowing what operations the customer wants the fire alarm system to perform is also important. So, in addition to understanding fire protection goals, ask the customer what other systems he or she wants the fire alarm system to monitor or control. NFPA 72 2010, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, provides an initial list of both systems and devices that the fire alarm system should monitor. It also provides a list of emergency control functions that typically integrate with a fire alarm system.
The checklist of devices and systems the fire alarm system can or must monitor include the following:
• Sprinkler waterflow alarm-initiating devices
• Detection of the operation of other automatic extinguishing systems
• Supervisory signal-initiating device (control valve supervisory signal-initiating device)
• Pressure supervisory signal-initiating device (pressure tank, dry-type sprinkler, steam pressure)
• Water level supervisory signal-initiating device
• Water temperature supervisory signal-initiating device
• Room temperature supervisory signal-initiating device
Monitoring these devices would provide the owner with important information regarding the other fire protection systems in the building. It also would provide the owner with information on the building’s condition that may affect the owner’s mission.
When monitored, any automatic extinguishing or suppression system will initiate an alarm signal if the system actuates. These alarm signals will ensure occupants and the fire department are immediately notified of an alarm condition.
Supervisory devices help ensure the system is ready to operate in an emergency. For example, when monitoring a sprinkler control valve, the supervisory device must initiate two separate, distinct signals. One indicates movement of the valve from its normal position (off-normal), and the other indicates restoration of the valve to its normal position.
In an automatic sprinkler system, the water flow alarm-initiating device will cause an alarm signal to transmit to the fire alarm system control panel. The supervisory signal-initiating device for the air pressure in a pressurized limited water supply must indicate both high- and low-pressure conditions. It must initiate a signal when the required pressure increases or decreases by 10 pounds per square inch.
A temperature supervisory device for space within a building, or for a water storage container, where either can be exposed to freezing conditions, must initiate a signal when the temperature decreases to 40°F. The device must initiate a restoration to the normal signal when the temperature goes above 40°F.
The fire alarm system has numerous emergency functions that it may control and monitor, such as the following:
• Elevator recall for firefighters’ service
• First-responders-use elevators
• Elevator shutdown
• Door release service
• Electrically locked doors
• Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
• Elevators for occupant-controlled evacuation
• Exit marking audible notification systems
Each of these systems helps ensure the safety of occupants and first responders. Elevator recall, HVAC control, door release and door unlocking are the more typical systems you may find in your customer’s building that would interface with the fire alarm system. In addition, the fire alarm system and the security system may integrate or interface with each other.
The code contains requirements for wiring and monitoring the integrity of the wiring connections to these systems from the fire alarm control panel. In some cases, if the interface uses a failsafe method where system operation occurs with either an interruption to power or circuit connection, the system does not need to monitor the circuit for integrity.
And finally, when a system provides controls specifically for the purpose of manually overriding any automatic emergency control function, the code requires a visible indication of the status of the associated control circuits. Additionally, where the system provides status indicators for emergency equipment or control functions, they must reflect the actual status of the associated equipment or function.
With a good understanding of NFPA 72 2010, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, you will be quite capable of performing a successful audit of the life safety systems and their connections to the fire alarm system. This ability will help you ensure the systems meet your customer’s life safety goals.
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a past chair of the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.