Tag Archives: NFPA 72

Wireless Technology Recognized in NFPA 72

A common question that arises regarding new technology in the fire industry is “Is it covered by NFPA 72”? In an industry that is highly regulated, there is always a concern about new technology. The quick answer for wireless fire alarm technology is YES! Wireless technology can solve installation challenges due to building construction, aesthetics, and hazardous materials. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) covers wireless in fire alarm technology in the 2007, 2010, and 2013 editions.

NFPA 72 2010 and 2013 cover wireless solutions for fire alarm in 9435s13Chapter 23.  Chapter 23.18 in the 2010 edition and Chapter 23.16 in the 2013 edition are titled “Special Requirements for Low-Power Radio (Wireless) Systems”. This chapter contains listing requirements, power supplies, alarm signals, and more; all specific for wireless systems. The Fire-Lite Alarms’ wireless solution, SWIFT Wireless, uses Class A mesh technology along with many other features for high reliability and to meet these standards.

For more information on regulatory approvals and how SWIFT Wireless complies, check out my previous blog post – “Is Wireless Held to a Higher Standard?”.

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

 

Think Outside the ‘Box’

Offer fire alarm system inspections and testing

A properly installed fire alarm system is critical to satisfying the life safety requirements of your customer’s protected premises. The main control and communications must meet or exceed your local code requirements.

But once you are done specifying and installing the solution, are you looking at other possible ways to increase your recurring monthly revenue (RMR) from these systems? Of course you know regular testing and inspection is required of fire alarm systems. And if you aren’t offering testing and inspection services, you’re doing a disservice to your customer — and your cash flow.

Regular testing and inspection is mandated by NFPA 72 standards, which covers fire detection, signaling and emergency communication. Life safety systems have to operate and notify at a moment’s notice when a fire event occurs.

Testing and inspection intervals vary, depending on the applicable standard and the type of system, i.e., fire alarm versus sprinkler. Fire detection systems must be inspected at least annually, and of course the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can require more frequent testing depending on the type of occupancy that the system is installed in. The state fire alarm code sets the parameters for minimum requirements for testing and inspection, with the AHJ having the final say.

Not only does regular testing and inspection keep your customer’s solution in top running condition and able to immediately send out an alarm, warning or trouble signal, but it increases your revenue stream and keeps you in contact with the customer. There’s a good chance they will ask for peripherals or other devices when you visit them for this regular testing – or perhaps inquire about upgrades to enhance their system solution.

Carefully weigh your costs
Establishing the proper charges for testing and inspection depends on many variables and requires serious thought by the fire alarm systems company. Plan out your testing and inspection fully or you will quickly lose sight of the true costs. Assemble your costs in a spreadsheet, considering:

  • mileage, wear and tear on vehicles
  • cost to take a technician from a new job versus the inspection – if you don’t have a dedicated field representative for testing tasks
  • loaded labor rate (includes not only labor but everything you offer your technicians, including benefits, etc.)
  • time expected for the inspection
  • Additional equipment needed to effectively conduct test and inspect services, such as ladders or even lifts to properly test smoke detectors and sensors

All the little items can add up quickly, so make sure your pricing is accurate and on target.

Good planning will more than pay for itself. RMR for fire alarm testing and inspection can range from as low as $8 per month to the thousands, depending on the customer, the facility and the nature of the installed system. Make sure you have a solid plan to work with your customers regularly to keep their systems up and running.

What do you use to track your RMR? Any suggestions to those not currently planning? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

About the Author
Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist specializing in the burglar and fire alarm and systems integration industries and the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago.

 

Resources from Fire-Lite:
The Other Side of RMR Webinar Recording
Fire-Lite Product and Software Training

Detectors that are Sensitive to your Budget

In any Fire Alarm installation, smoke detectors play an important role in protecting life and property. This is why it is imperative to check the sensitivity on a smoke detector to ensure that it can respond to a fire in a timely manner.

NFPA 72 2013 edition indicates that smoke detectors sensitivity ratings should be checked after the first year being installed and then every other subsequent year thereafter using any of the following methods:

(1) Calibrated test method

(2) Manufacturer’s calibrated sensitivity test instrument

(3) Listed control equipment arranged for the purpose

(4) Smoke detector/fire alarm control unit arrangement whereby the detector causes a signal at the fire alarm control unit where its sensitivity is outside its listed sensitivity range

(5) Other calibrated sensitivity test methods approved by the authority having jurisdiction

 

There are numerous devices available to check the sensitivity of a smoke detector. Some test devices introduce simulated smoke into a detector to create an alarm condition. This test proves that the detector is still able to accurately respond to a fire condition. This process of “smoking” each detector can take hours and can easily add up in labor charges for mid size to larger installations.

Fire-Lite Alarms’ Addressable Fire Alarm Panels, including the MS-9200UDLS, offer the capability to test the sensitivity of each detector without even removing the detector from the base. If there is a problem with the detector, the panel will provide a trouble along with a maintenance alert message. This message indicates that the detector needs to be serviced. Also, the test data is stored in the Fire Alarm Control panel and can be retrieved and reviewed using PS-Tools Configuration Software. Running these reports periodically can save many labor hours spent testing a system, while meeting the NFPA 72 requirements for sensitivity testing on a Fire Alarm Control Panel.

 

About the Author
Ken Gentile is a Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Honeywell Power. Using his more than 15 years of marketing and engineering experience, Ken’s primary focus lies in the development of new products.

What is an Isolator Module for an SLC Loop?

An Isolator Module automatically isolates wire-to-wire short circuits on a signaling line circuit (SLC) loop. The isolator module also limits the number of modules or detectors that may be rendered inoperative by a short circuit fault on the SLC Loop. If a wire-to-wire short occurs, the isolator module automatically creates and open-circuit (disconnect) the SLC loop. When the short circuit condition is corrected, the isolator module automatically reconnects the isolated section of the SLC loop.

NFPA 72, 2013 Edition, Chapter 23: Protected premises fire alarm systems a requirement was added in paragraph 23.6.1 that limits the maximum number of addressable devices (50) that can be out of service due to a single fault on a pathway. This will require more diligence in system layout and the potential use of isolation modules to limit the number of devices that could be affected by a single fault.

Fire-Lite Alarms offers I300 module (one circuit) and newly rISO-6 Moduleeleased ISO-6 Six Isolator Module (six circuits). The I300 and ISO-6 Fault Isolator Module is used with Fire-Lite’s addressable fire alarm control panels (FACPs) to protect the system against wire-to-wire short circuits on the SLC loop.

Don’t forget, Fire-Lite Alarms is here to help you in your endeavor! Fire-Lite Alarms has 60 years in the business, is the leader in non-proprietary, and has great tools to help you learn about the products. Visit our website to learn more about I300 module and newly released ISO-6 Six Isolator Module.

*In Canada?  You can check out the ISO-6A model!

 

About the Author
Bill Brosig is a Channel Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power with more than 25 years in the Life Safety business and a NICET IV certification. Bill focuses on the customer experience surrounding current offerings and new product applications.

 

 

 

Why is Low Frequency So Important? (Part 1 of 4)

We’ve been trained to evacuate a building when the alarm, horns, and strobes sound during a fire event. Ideally you would respond ahearing-restoreds soon as you hear the audible device, but what happens if you’re sleeping and unable to react right away? What if you’re hard-of-hearing?

Recent studies conducted by the NFPA 72 committee and the FPRF found that many high-risk groups exhibited a delayed response when audible devices went into alarm. Some high-risk groups also had a delayed response to the usual 3 Kilo-hertz tone found in many smoke alarms and audible devices. In some cases, high-risk groups, such as individuals with mild to severe hearing loss or those under the influence of sleeping aids or alcohol, had a delayed response with the higher frequency tones.

Research shows that audible devices with a lower frequency, 520 Hz, were more effective at waking impaired individuals. These impaired individuals are the aforementioned people with mild to severe hearing loss or those under the influence of sleeping aids or alcohol. Increasing the notification effectiveness in this application increases the chances of prompt evacuation during an emergency.

To learn more about the benefit of the low frequency sounders and hear the tone, visit the System Sensor Low Frequency webpage.

Be sure to check back on the Fire-Lite Blog for the next part of this series!

 

About the Author
Rebecca Peterson is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for the AV business unit of System Sensor. Rebecca has been with System Sensor for 13 years and her primary focus on new product development and voice of the customer on products that customers need and want.

What Should You Know About Low Frequency?

There has been quite the buzz in the fire and life safety industry regarding low frequency and what it really means. Fire alarm and building codes and standards have changed in response to studies showing that low frequency audible devices are more effective in waking individuals in sleeping areas. The new sleeping space requirements require the alarm tone of audible appliances to be of a square wave tone centered around 520Hz. Let’s take a brief look at the codes, adoption, and solutions.

Standards
The significant changes in the sleeping space requirements occurred within NFPA 72 2010 edition and 2013 edition. Here are the NFPA 72 chapters impacted and placement requirements:

• Chapter 18 (Protected Premise Fire Alarm Systems) – Requires low frequency notification in every sleeping space
• Chapter 24 (Emergency Communication Systems) – Required for voice systems in sleeping spaces
• Chapter 29 (Household Fire Alarm Systems) – Required only in sleeping spaces for those classified as having mild-to-severe hearing loss, where governed by law or code, or volunteered to provide a means for such individuals.

Adoption
The 2012 editions of the International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) indirectly reference the 2010 or 2013 editions of NFPA 72, which requires a low frequency tone in certain newly constructed Group-R occupancies. Many jurisdictions in the U.S have adopted IBC and IFC 2012. These are the applications that may be impacted:

• Transient Lodging Spaces – Hotels/Motels
• College and University Dormitories
• Assisted Living Facilities
• Apartments and Condominiums

Solutions
Fire-Lite Alarms offers a comprehensive product line-up that helps you meet the low frequency requirements in the aforementioned applications:
SpectrAlert Advance Low Frequency Sounders and Sounder Strobes
Intelligent Sounder Base with Low Frequency Capability
Emergency Command Center (ECC) Compatibility with System Sensor SpectrAlert Speakers for 520Hz

Keep Fire-Lite Alarms in mind as you design your next project with Low Frequency requirements. Visit our website for more information!

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

Is Wireless Held to a Higher Standard?

Wireless technology is not new to the world or even the fire and security industry. Many products are converting to IP based and you also see a myriad of WiFi devices. However, in an industry that is highly regulated, there is always a concern about new technology. Despite the proposed benefits, adoption of new technology is typically slower. It should be comforting to know that products based on new technology still have to meet very stringent requirements due to the nature of its purpose.

The first regulatory approval / standard to look at is Underwriters Laboratories. The standard that is most common for fire and life safety systems is UL 864 (Control Units and Accessories fUL Logoor Fire Alarm Systems). UL 864 covers fire alarm control panels, like the MS-9200UDLS, and various products and accessories. The same UL standard covers the new Fire-Lite SWIFT Wireless gateway and associated products.

There are a series of UL requirements to ensure that the wireless devices meet the same performance criteria as standard wired devices (e.g., the 10 second activation to notification requirement). Although the standard is based on the performance of the devices, the actual tests are conducted with wireless technology in mind. In addition to UL 864, the standard that covers detection is UL 268 (Smoke Detectors for Fire Alarm Systems). UL 268 covers smoke detection, like the SD355, and also covers the performance of the detectors.

Next is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 72 2010 and 2013 cover wireless solutions for fire alarm systems in Chapter 23. Chapter 23.18 in the 2010 edition and Chapter 23.16 in theNFPA Logo 2013 edition are titled “Special Requirements for Low-Power Radio (Wireless) Systems”. Chapter 23 covers the listing requirements, power supplies, alarm signals, and more specifically for wireless systems. Is your jurisdiction currently on an earlier version? The 2007 edition of NFPA 72 also includes requirements for wireless fire alarm systems.

The final regulatory approval of interest is the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The products need to comply with part 15 of the FCC rules, meaning that operation is subjecFCC Logot to the following two conditions:

  • The device may not cause harmful interference
  • The device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation

Since the intended purpose of this type of system is to transmit information wirelessly, special care is taken not to interfere with other systems. In addition, features and functionality are built-in to mitigate the effect of external interference on the system.

So the answer is – Yes, wireless is held to a higher standard and Fire-Lite Alarms is pleased to offer a SWIFT Wireless solution that meets it. Check out our SWIFT Wireless solution on www.firelite.com.

 

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

 

 

The Importance of Fire Alarm Testing

Fire and Life Safety systems require regular testing and maintenance. Just like an automobile, regular testing and maintenance keeps the system running at peak performance and ready to detect and respond to an emergency. Without proper inspection and testing and you may not know how or if, your system will function properly until an emergency occurs.

In order to meet federal certification requirements and state requirements, fire alarm systems are required to be inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. In the 2013 edition, Chapter 14 (Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance) outlines these requirements for fire and life safety systems. Fire alarm control panels provide features that make it easier to perform these tasks.

Today, most Fire Alarm Control Panels have a built in Walk Test feature is used to test a fire alarm system to ensure everything works properly. By placing the Fire Alarm Control Panel into Walk Test mode, a technician can activate a device, which then gives an indication at the Fire Alarm Control Panel. Depending on the setup, the panel may or may not momentarily sound the signals. After the device activates, it will automatically restore and then the technician can go on to the next device to test. This allows for a technician to test a system without having someone to reset the Fire Alarm Control Panel each time.

An inspection, testing, and maintenance program is essential for the reliable performance of the fire alarm system. In addition to maintaining proper levels of protection, proper Inspection, Testing and Maintenance can help reduce the expense of emergency repairs and costly false alarms.

Having a working fire alarm system installed in your building saves lives!

Finally, Fire-Lite Alarms is here to help you in your endeavor. Fire-Lite Alarms has 60 years in the business, is the leader in non-proprietary, and has great tools to help you learn about the products. Visit our website to learn more about the Walk Test feature in the MS-9050UD, MS-9200UDLS, and MS-9600(UD)LS. Also, view one of our pre-recorded webinars on Understanding Commissioning and System Acceptance Testing by Jack Poole (engineering consultant and industry expert).

 

 About the Author
Bill Brosig is a Channel Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power with more than 25 years in the Life Safety business and a NICET IV certification. Bill focuses on the customer experience surrounding current offerings and new product applications.

 

 

Campus-wide Pride: Making University Fire Safety a Priority

For facility managers and technicians at college campuses across the U.S., my story might be somewhat familiar. I came to the University of North Georgia nine years ago and took on a daunting task: Fix the campus’ broken fire safety protocol, standardize its numerous devices and systems, and do away with its long-standing tradition of twice-weekly (or more) false alarms. The safety of our students, faculty and staff depended on it.

Much like other higher education campuses, the University of North Georgia had, over the years, adopted a hodgepodge of various fire alarm systems – mostly, just stand-alone, local systems in each building that used proprietary devices. The campus had never undergone NFPA 72 inspections, so every system was in various stages of non-compliance. And not surprisingly, we had ongoing problems with faulty and unreliable technology.

We had developed a nasty reputation for frequent false alarms, and with good reason: The local fire department was called to campus for a false alarm two to three times a week. Eventually, Lumpkin County, where the campus is located, passed a false alarm ordinance. By that point, our students were so desensitized to false fire alarms that some would remain in the building when an alarm sounded. Of course, there’s no way to tell a false alarm from a legitimate one, and these students were endangering themselves every time they chose to stay put.

Troubled by the state of fire safety at UNG, I made it my personal mission to standardize all devices under one non-proprietary brand – and to do away with false alarms altogether.

A Nine-Year Challenge
My first step in bring UNG’s fire system up-to-date was to get administration buy-in. Many stakeholders simply didn’t realize the importance of fire safety – not to mention how much money the school was wasting in false alarm fees and proprietary system upkeep.

In the end, the opportunity to ensure student safety and save money captured everyone’s attention. We’re located about 70 miles north of Atlanta, and we were being charged a fortune in system maintenance and troubleshooting fees. With the existing proprietary systems, though, we were locked in – we couldn’t have used another technician if we wanted to.

That’s why early in my career at UNG I pledged to transition to a 100 percent Fire-Lite solution on campus. I had worked with Fire-Lite systems before, and I knew that UNG needed fire alarm technology that was easy to use, easy to maintain and, more importantly, integrated across the entire campus.

 A Campus-wide Solution
I started working with non-proprietary systems in the late 1980s, so I know first-hand how reliable and user-friendly certain manufacturers’ systems can be. Now that UNG is 100 percent non-proprietary, we’ve decreased false alarms by 99.9 percent. And on top of that, our maintenance and service calls are much easier and faster now.

Our campus officers are trained on the non-proprietary systems, so they can reset any panel on campus. If we need parts or service, we can call any certified fire alarm installer: no more exorbitant travel fees from proprietary techs in Atlanta.

For example, recently one of our dorms was struck by lightning during a storm. Since I have every panel downloaded on my laptop, I was able to have the building back up within about three hours. With other systems, it might have been down for days at a time – which is simply unacceptable in the college campus environment.

We also are one of the only campuses in the university system with our own central station. We monitor all of our own fire systems on campus; when an alarm sounds, the building is evacuated and public safety officers are dispatched to assess the situation. Then, they decide whether to call the fire department. Because the contact ID tells operators the exact location of the situation, officers are able to respond quickly and effectively. And our campus is better protected than ever before.

Although not every campus can establish its own central station, in our case doing our own monitoring works well and has saved us money in the long run. For most campuses, though, a great first step would be to assess your fire alarm systems and consider how you might be able to streamline them over time. Look into highly reliable, easy-to-use and non-proprietary solutions, which will be easier and less expensive to maintain. And all the while, keep in mind the end goal: to protect students, faculty and staff through a comprehensive fire safety protocol.

About the Author
Kim Harris is the Electronic Systems Technician at the University of North Georgia and has more than 30 years of experience working with fire alarm systems.

For more information on the products and services offered by Fire-Lite Alarms visit: www.firelite.com

Hello? Your Customer’s Building is Calling

Many electrical contractors speak of the glory days when new construction was booming and there was plenty of work to go around. Those of us who have been in this industry for a while know there is always a cyclical nature to the construction industry. The key to riding through these ebbs and flows lies in finding ways to produce continuous growth and, at the same time, closely manage your monthly cash flow.

During a new construction project, once all systems are inspected and turned over to the owner, the electrical contractor’s minimum responsibilities are to warranty the installation for the next 12 months. In the meantime, they start hunting for a new project. But what happens to the building’s systems going forward? If you’re not offering ongoing testing and inspection services, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

Our Unique Industry
The fire alarm market may not be exactly “inflation-proof,” but it does lead the industry with multiple ways to offer growth. The fire alarm field even offers a healthy profit margin in the face of a slow construction cycle.

Our industry is also the most proactive in ensuring that systems are maintained and operating at peak performance, well in advance of a breakdown. Various legislation and codes, including NFPA 72, ensure that all systems are monitored, inspected and tested on a regular basis. Again, this is not an option on the part of the owner: It’s the law.

The Key to Continual Profits
For all fire alarm customers, testing and inspection is required annually, quarterly or even monthly – depending on the use of the facility and the local ordinances. Can you think of another system that requires the contractor to come back to the building periodically to ensure equipment performance? For an electrical contractor, no other system reaches out and says, “Come fix me.” The owner is required to invest in that recurring service.

As a well-qualified electrical professional, you have an opportunity to earn significant income by providing testing and inspection services to your existing customers. Plus, you can earn a wealth of other opportunities from these visits. This ongoing relationship is a true collaborative effort between you and your customer, leading to a stronger, more constant customer base.

Additional Sources of Revenue
Not only are you paid for testing and inspection visits; each one could potentially lead to additional work. For example, as you arrive for your fire alarm inspection, you notice that the parking lot lights are on at 10 am. Being well versed in energy efficient lighting, you could take this opportunity to tell your customer about the savings and rebates available for LED lighting. Have you discussed back-up generators with them? Do they need any repairs done while you’re there? The opportunities are everywhere.

Fire alarm monitoring service offers another potential source of revenue for electrical contractors. Most commercial fire alarm systems in the U.S. are required to be monitored 24 hours a day. They are connected either by traditional telephone lines, IP or cellular. Monitoring service is typically provided by the installing contractor, who simply sub-contracts to a third party (a UL-listed monitoring company) and then charges the building owner appropriately. These fees can typically be $35 to $75 per month and offer a 50 to 80 percent margin. Since this is an automatic service, if a device in the building is not responding, who do they call? You.

As you can see, the opportunities for recurring revenue are there. So, the next time you’re talking about the good old days of non-stop construction and you have several employees doing busy work in the shop, remember this: Your customer’s building is calling. Is there anyone home?

About the Author
Steve McCurdy is Director of Business Development at Fire-Lite Alarms by Honeywell.​