Code Awareness Creates Work

It makes sense that most contractors focus on the codes that relate to the system types they install. Specifically, professional systems contractors most use NFPA 70, National Electrical Code and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

However, paying attention to the codes that actually require building owners to install systems, such as the International Building Code (IBC), can help increase sales and add profit to the bottom line. Changes to the 2012 edition of the IBC, regarding fire alarm systems and carbon monoxide (CO) detection, warrant a closer look.

For example, the fire alarm system requirements in Group E occupancies (educational occupancies through grade 12) now include the mandate for an emergency voice/alarm communication system (EVACS) in place of the previously required nonvoice audible evacuation signals. In paragraph 907.2.3, the threshold for when a fire alarm system is required in a Group E occupancy has been reduced to an occupant load of more than 30 (from 50 or more). These changes offer a marketing opportunity in every jurisdiction you currently serve. 

Instead of installing a simple fire alarm system with horns and strobes, a school must have a fire EVACS. This requirement can lead to discussion regarding use of the voice system for other emergency communications and, ultimately, using the EVACS for a mass notification system (MNS). NFPA 72 (2010 and 2013 editions) specifically allows the use of an EVACS as an MNS.

Of course, specific requirements apply to both the EVACS and MNS. Explain the types of systems to your school official customers. For example, NFPA 72 permits MNS messages to take priority over fire alarm evacuation signals when all of the stakeholders perform a risk analysis.Help school officials understand the fact that the EVACS/MNS needs an emergency response plan that incorporates the operation and messaging for the EVACS/MNS as well as a risk analysis.

Using the communications system for both fire and mass notification will present some installation and programming challenges. Working closely with the school officials and the fire alarm/MNS manufacturer, you will develop a profitable system installation.

And while we discuss the topic of changes, the IBC now requires Group R-2, college and university buildings—focusing on dormitory-type buildings—to have an automatic smoke detection system with an occupant notification system. Where an interior corridor serves sleeping rooms, the IBC requires college and university buildings containing a Group R-2 occupancy to have an automatic smoke detection system in the corridors, common spaces, laundry rooms, mechanical equipment rooms and storage rooms. In addition, the smoke alarms in Group R-2 college and university buildings must interconnect with the building fire alarm system (Paragraph 907.2.9.3). This last requirement allows smoke detectors with sounder bases to connect to the building fire alarm system and to act as multiple station smoke alarms within the sleeping areas. As colleges and universities continue to upgrade their fire alarm systems, often to include an MNS, they will now need to add smoke detection as outlined in this section. 

Obviously, this provides another opportunity for the professional contractor who understands the code process and stays abreast of changes.

For contractors who have a base of institutional and residential business, a new IBC section (908.7) requires CO alarms or CO detection systems in Group I and Group R occupancies where the building contains fuel-burning appliances or an attached garage.

NFPA 720 2012, Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment, contains the requirements for installing CO alarms and detection systems. NFPA 720 2012 requires the following features of a CO detection system:

“(1) Automatic alarm signal initiation

“(2) Activation of carbon monoxide safety functions

“(3) Activation of alarm notification appliances

“(4) Emergency voice/alarm communications

“(5) Activation of off-premises signals

“(6) Combination carbon monoxide detection systems

“(7) Integrated systems”

NFPA 720 allows CO detection system components to share control equipment or to operate as stand-alone subsystems; but, in any case, they must function as a single system. This simply means that you can incorporate CO detection with your fire alarm system installations, and System Sensor’s recent announcement of its new combination smoke/CO detector means there is a product that will allow you to meet your customer’s needs more efficiently and economically.

All of these opportunities stem from new or revised code requirements. It’s always a good idea to own copies of the IBC, NFPA 72 and NFPA 720 to help you meet your customers’ needs. Being in the know directly increases your company’s bottom line.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist
Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a principal member and past chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24. Moore is a vice president with JENSEN HUGHES at the Warwick, R.I., office. He c...

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