Whether you own/manage a retail/commercial office or residential apartment building, belong to a condominium association or even just own a condominium, your building is probably subject to most or all of the following codes/ordinances:
NFPA 72 - National Fire Prevention Association These are the nationally agreed upon fire prevention codes. Which edition you are subject to is based on which edition has be reviewed and legally adopted.
Life-Safety (NFPA 101) - These are the "danger to life" codes covering all aspects of building classification, architectural standards, building maintenance, egress, evacuation, and anything else pertaining to life saving requirements and practices.
NEC - National Electrical Code - These are the agreed upon regulations published by the NFPA (see above) governing the standards by which electrical wiring and equipment is to be specified and installed.
Americans with Diabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) - These laws don't apply to every building classification and there are exceptions to many of the specific clauses. However, ADA does apply to some fire alarm installation details. In public buildings ADA dictates special physical access conditions and considerations.
Underwriter's Laboratory (U.L.) - This is what is called a 'third party' inspecting entity and is essentially comprised of a set of accepted minimum guidelines or regulations by which the fire alarm system is installed, documented, tested and inspected. The requirement for U.L. Certificated systems is an additional level of specifications and only applys within jurisdictions (cities or counties) that have added U.L. parameters to their local ordinances such as (in Florida), Miami Dade, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, etc. More jurisdictions are adding the U.L. Certificate standards as time goes by. So, check with your local Authorities or contractor as to your specific locale.
Local Code Interpretations & Ordinances - Local municipalities, cities, counties, etc. do have a large influence on how the state and national codes are applied in their jurisdiction. After national codes have been reviewed and adopted at the state level each local fire department has some latitude in the application and enforcement of the code(s). Most counties and some cities in Florida also have their own ordinances or laws governing specific compliance within their jurisdiction. Therefor, intimate knowledge of the local idiosyncracies is key to a cost effective fire alarm installation that avoids misunderstandings and confusion.
All residential buildings of more than eleven (11) dwelling units shall have a central fire alarm system. This is primarily for the purpose of notification and evacuation. It is comprised of, at a minimum; manual pull stations and audio/visual notification appliances at all points of egress and at every stair landing on each floor (for exterior catwalks). Unoccupied areas and/or rooms in the building should also have automatic fire detection devices such as smoke or heat detectors.
All buildings where the highest occupable floor is 75' above finished grade (usually 8 stories or more), is required to have a centralized fire alarm with voice evacuation notification capabilities. This is primarily to provide for 'orderly evacuation' by a pre-recorded verbal message transmitted throughout the building or to specifically selected portions thereof.
Notification - Residential apartment buildings, condominiums, commercial office, industrial and public buildings require both audio (horns or speakers) and visual (strobe lights) for the purpose of 'notifying' occupants of an alarm condition. Audible devices (horns or speakers) are located, by prevailing codes, to achieve volume levels (measured in decibels dB) throughout the building. Visual devices (strobe lights) are also located per code(s) to assure visual contact in all regulated areas of the building. Audio/visuals are intended to expedite orderly evacuation.
Audibility - The biggest single cost in most residencial apartment or condominium building fire alarms is the placement, per NFPA code, of audible (horns or speakers) devices within the 'dwelling unit' (apartment or condominium) itself. Depending upon your local fire rescue department's interpretation of the required volume level and the architectural layout (floor & wall coverings as well), an audible notification appliance (horn or speaker) may be necessarily placed in every bedroom (or sleeping room).
All elevators are required to be connected to the central fire alarm system to prevent individuals from being caught in an elevator in the event of a fire. This portion of the code is refered to as 'elevator recall' wherein, if the fire alarm system is put into alarm the elevator controller is directly instructed (by a fire alarm system connection) to park the elevator and open the doors usually on the ground floor but, in the case of a fire event on that ground floor, to the 'alternate floor', usually the second floor.
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