Thursday, January 18, 2018

NICET Certification Holders by State

Do you Want to Know How Many NICET Certificate Holders there are in each State?

The list below is a complete breakdown of all the fire protection field NICET certification holders by state.  This is complete list as of January 2018.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

NICET Fire Alarm Exam Code Update 2018

As the code and standard cycle continue to update, NICET is doing their part to keep up.

The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) has released the following information in the winter 2017 newsletter under "Program Development and Maintenance Updates" section of their website:

Allowable Reference for NICET Standard Model Exams 2018




The following references are being used to currently create the newest version of the "Fire Alarm Systems" and "Water-Based Systems" NICET exams

Fire Protection: Fire Alarm Systems

  • Level I - NFPA 70 (2014) and NFPA 72 (2016)
  • Level II - NFPA 70 (2014) NFPA 72 (2016) and the IBC (2015)
  • Level III - NFPA 70 (2014) NFPA 72 (2016) NFPA 101 (2015) and IBC (2015)
  • Level IV - NFPA 72 (2016) NFPA 101 (2015) and IBC (2015)

Fire Protection: Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems

  • Level I - NFPA 72 (2016)
  • Level II - NFPA 72 (2016) 

Fire Protection: Water-Based Systems Layout
  • Level I - NFPA 13 (2016)
  • Level II - NFPA 13 (2016) NFPA 13R (2016) NFPA 14 (2016) NFPA 20 (2016)
  • Level III General Plans Preparation - NFPA 13 (2016) NFPA 14 (2016), NFPA 20 (2016) and Automatic Sprinkler Systems for Residential Occupancies Handbook (2013)
  • Level III Hydraulics and Water Supply Planning - NFPA 13 (2016) NFPA 14 (2016) NFPA 20 (2016) and Automatic Sprinkler Systems for Residential Occupancies Handbook
  • Level IV - NFPA 13 (2016) NFPA 14 (2016) NFPA 20 (2016) and NFPA 25 (2014)

Fire Protection: Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems

  • Level I Inspection and Testing Fundamentals - NFPA 25 (2014)
  • Level I Work Practices - NFPA 25 (2014)
  • Level II Inspection - NFPA 25 (2014)
  • Level II Testing - NFPA 25 (2014)
  • Level II Work Practices - NFPA 25 (2014)
  • Level III Inspections and Responsibilities - NFPA 25 (2014)
  • Level III Advanced Testing - NFPA 25 (2014)

The revised and updated NICET exams are expected to roll out to Pearson-Vue testing centers in July 2018.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

OSID by Xtralis - Your Beam Detector Replacement

What is a Beam Detector?


A beam detector is a fire alarm detection device that projects a beam of light across a large area to detect smoke.  These devices are typically installed in large areas where spot type smoke detection is not practical due to cost or location.

Do you prefer to install beam detectors?


Whether you have been in the fire alarm industry for a month or 30 years, you have more than likely had to deal with beam detectors.  Some salesmen and technicians shriek when they hear the term and others have some what of a love hate relationship with them.  The simple fact is beam detectors can be a pain to adjust and keep true,  however they save a lot of money on detectors, wire, conduit and labor.  The concept of being able to cover a large open area with one detector is great and has become the preferred method of protecting warehouses, airports, gymnasiums, atriums and more. 

When I first got into the industry we were using Hochiki beam detectors which worked via a physical transmitter and receiver unit.  The main transmitter required re-settable power and IDC or SLC (if using an addressable module).  While this is not any different than the more modern System Sensor BEAM1224, the receiver required power as well as an additional pair of wires for communication between the two units.  These additional circuits where a burden, however the worst part was the adjustment.  Having to look through the tiny mirror to zero in the beam and then follow up with a coarse and fine tune got to be frustrating.  As mentioned above, the System Sensor BEAM1224 uses a similar technology that has been updated to eliminate the receiver unit.  The BEAM1224 uses reflectors to bounce the beam back into the transmitter.  Even though this upgrade eliminates the receiver, extra power and communication circuit, the adjustment can still be a nightmare to fine tune.  Lastly once you adjust the beams, there is always the possibility of building movement which can throw the adjustment out of whack and require a return trip.  With that in mind, remember that beam detectors are not typically installed in easy to reach locations.   

Xtralis has a response to this issue and it goes by the name OSID


Xtralis is more commonly known for their VESDA systems but have a few other products you may not be aware of.  The Open-Area Smoke Imaging Detection or OSID unit is one that you may what to start looking into.  This newer beam detection unit does not use a receiver or reflector like we have become accustomed to.  In fact the OSID uses an Imager and Emitter with a maximum coverage distance of up to 492 feet.  In simple to understand terms, the Imager (much like a camera) is simply looking for the emitter in its field of view.  If the Imager sees the Emitter, then you are good to go.  Unlike standard projected beam type detection, you are not relying on a beam that has to be precisely lined up to reflect back to its point of origin.  This new technology reduces alignment troubles and issues due to building movement.  Some other key points to mention include dual wavelength LED based smoke detection (UV and IR), high tolerance to false alarms and troubles, on-board event log, and the OSID is extremely easy to setup and get online.  Another important note is the Emitters come in both high and standard power as well as hard wired or battery powered.  The battery power option makes it easy when replacing a System Sensor BEAM1224 unit with reflectors. 

What makes up the OSID beam detection system?

Xtralis OSID Imager Case Open OSI-10
The OSID Imagers come in two different versions.  

  • The OSI-10 which has a 8 degree field of view and can be linked to 1 Emitter.  This Imager has a coverage distance of 30-150 m.
    • Note this Imager is NOT suitable for use with the High Power Emitters (OSE-HPW and OSE-HP-01).  See below.
  • The OSI-90 which has a 80 degree field of view and can be linked to up to 7 Emitters.
    • When using the OSE-SP-01/W the coverage distance is 6 - 34 m
    • When using the OSE-HPW the coverage distance is 12 - 68 m
    • When using the OSE-HP-01 the coverage distance is 12  50 m

The OSID Emitters come in four different versions.

  • The OSE-SPW is a a standard power Emitter that requires a hard-wired 24 VDC power source
  • The OSE-SP-01 is a standard power Emitter that is powered via an alkaline battery with a guaranteed 5 year life span.
  • The OSE-HPW is a high power Emitter that requires a hard-wired 24 VDC power source.
    • Not suitable for use with the OSI-10 Imager.
  • The OSE-HP-01 is a high power Emitter that is powered via an alkaline battery with a guaranteed 3 year life span.
    • Not suitable or use with the OSI-10 Imager.
OSID Emitter OSE-HP-01

Setup and Alignment of the OSID - YES, it's that Easy!


Whether you are installing the OSID in a new facility or replacing your existing beam detectors, the setup is simple!  The first step would be configuration.  Are you planning on covering an area where one beam is sufficient or are you looking at an atrium with multiple levels to protect.  As noted above, the OSI-10 has an 8 degree field of view and can link with only 1 emitter.  This is good for your standard beam application like gyms, warehouses or the peak of an atrium.  Remember only one emitter can be used with each OSI-10 but multiple OSI-10s can be installed on your system.  Important note, do not use the high powered emitters with the OSI-10.

OSID with multiple Emitters in Theater


Now let's say you have a theater or atrium with multiple levels requiring detection.  In this case you may want to eliminate multiple OSI-10 imagers and go with the OSI-90.  This imager has an 80 degree field of view and can connect up to 7 emitters.  This setup will allow the installer to use one OSI-90 in the corner of the room while placing the emitters at the opposite end of the space at different heights to capture the area to be protected.  The use of 3 emitters will cover 6,000 sq' while 5 emitters will cover 20,000 sq'.

OSID Mounting

The Imager an emitters are same footprint and both come with an easy to install mounting bracket.  The bracket has multiple mounting slots making it easy to affix to existing boxes, new boxes or walls.  Once the bracket is firmly installed on the wall, the OSID imager and emitter simply slide onto 3 protruding areas on the bracket.  The housing has 4 knockouts located at the top and back towards the left hand side of the unit giving you access to the wiring terminals.  Terminals include: alarm contacts, fault contacts, rest switch, power in, power out, Fire LED and heater.  The Imager has plenty of space to internally mount a mini addressable module.  Once your wiring is complete, you are going to want to hold off on powering up or activating the unit.  To the right of the board, there is SW1 containing 10 dip switches.  These switches allow you to configure the amount of emitters, latching or non-latching and dust rejection.  make sure you set these prior to power up. 

OSID Imager OSI-10 Circuit Board
OSID Imager and Emitter Mounting Bracket



















OSID Alignment

Once you have your OSID imager and emitters securely wired and mounted, you are going to want to start the initial alignment process.  Now this is where OSID pulls away from the competition!  Xtralis makes a laser alignment tool (part # OSP-002) that can be purchased separately or purchased along with the Installation and Maintenance Kit.  I recommend picking up a kit or two with your first purchase.  The kit includes large reflectors to assist with laser alignment, a red plastic test panel, the laser alignment tool, diagnostic software cable and instructions.  Note the software can be downloaded for free from the manufacturers website.

Important!  You are going to want to start with the emitters when aligning.

Once you get to the unit, you will notice the very flexible ball and socket design.  This allows the lens to aim at a large variety of angles.  Located at the end of the laser alignment tool, you will notice a hex wrench.  Simply insert that hex head into the small hole just below the lens.  After you insert the tool, turn on the laser and move the lens around until the laser beam is within approximately 2 feet of the imager.  Note that in brightly lit areas, it may be necessary to have an assistant hold up the reflective film at the imager.  This will make the laser more noticeable.  Once the laser beam is on target, simply turn the tool clockwise 90 degrees to lock the ball and socket assembly as well as activate the unit.  Once activated, the lens will pulse with a blue light that can only be seen in line of sight.

OSID OSP-002 Laser Alignment Tool

OSID Emitter with Laser Alignment Tool

Align the Imager after the Emitter(s)

Once you have all the applicable emitters lined up to the imager, you can do the same process in reverse.  Use the same steps as above to line the imager up to the emitter.  After you have the laser lined up, turn the tool 90 degrees clockwise to lock it in place and activate with Xtralis refers to as "Training Mode".  When in training mode, the Imager is looking for all emitters and calibrating itself.  This process can take up to 10 minutes.  During the process, the amber LED will flash.  After training mode is complete the Green LED will flash at intervals of approximately 10 seconds.

Once all these steps have been successfully completed, the fault contacts should clear and your system will return to normal.  Testing is as simple as your standard beam detector and as noted above, the Installation and Maintenance Kit comes with a red testing screen that is rigid enough to last for a long time.  If you are interested, Xtralis provides free diagnostic software on their website for use in reading event logs and narrowing down issues with the unit.  However there is no need to use this software in the setup of the OSID.

In closing the OSID is a high quality replacement to the dreaded beam detection we have been forced to use throughout our careers.  We highly recommend you purchase one of these setups and install it on your next project.  The small increase in price is welcomed on the back-end with easier installation, alignment and setup.  This is a product you can expect to quickly take open spaces by storm.               

Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Submit Codes to NFPA

Do you Want to Submit Ideas for New Codes and Standards in the Fire Alarm Industry?


We recently submitted a post on our Facebook Group that asked the questions, "If you had the ability to change one code or standard in our industry, what would it be?  The post received nearly 200 comments in a little over 24 hours so we figured it deserved its own follow-up article right here on www.firealarmsonline.com.

Is it Possible to Submit Codes and Standards for Use in the Applicable References?


The answer is YES!  NFPA's Standards Development Process is a full open consensus-based process.  In fact NFPA encourages the public to participate in this process and they understand its a necessity in code/standard evolution.  In this industry, we see changes constantly.  These changes can be construction types, installation techniques, cross-trade integration, technology and the codes and standards themselves.  The technical committee for NFPA understands that they themselves cannot see all of this and rely on you to submit revisions or maybe even new codes.  The NFPA standard's cycle are revised and updated every 3 to 5 years in segments known as revision cycles that take place twice a year and take about 2 years to complete.



Steps to the NFPA Revision Cycle for the Standards Development Process


The revision cycles for the NFPA Standard's Development Process are broken down into 4 fundamental steps:

  1. Public Input
  2. Public Comment
  3. NFPA Technical Meeting
  4. Standards Council Action


Above is a Flow Chart for the NFPA Standards Development Process


What is the NFPA Technical Committee?



The NFPA Technical Committee is a panel that is responsible for developing and updating all of the codes and standards fund throughout NFPA's lineup.  These technical committees are appointed by the Standards Council and are around 30 voting members.

You do NOT need to be a paying member of NFPA to participate on the technical code committee.

To become a member of a technical committee, you must first apply and be selected based on you expertise, experience, professional standing, commitment to public safety and most important, be able to express your views and opinions to a category of interested people or groups.

NFPA 72 Technical Committee Personnel
NFPA 72 Technical Committee Personnel
Each technical code committee is made up to contain a balance of interests with no more than one third of the committee be from the same category.  This ensures a fair consensus is reached.  Below is a list of the categories along with their designation (*):

  • Manufacturer (M)
  • User (U)
  • Installer/Maintainer (I/M)
  • Labor (L)
  • Applied Research/Testing Laboratory (R/T)
  • Enforcing Authority (E)
  • Insurance (I)
  • Consumer (C)
  • Special Expert (SE)

You can find each member of a specific Standard/code in the front of the reference.


Step #1 of the NFPA Standard Development Process


Public Input - Right after the publication of the current NFPA standard or code, the Standard Development Process for the next edition begins.  Public Input is a chance for anyone interested to submit input on an existing standard or a new draft standard approved by the technical committee.  The closing date for public input is published in a few places such as NFPA's website, NFPA news, etc.  Once the closing date is reached, the technical committee with conduct a first draft meeting to respond to all of the input submitted by the public.

How do you Submit Public Input?

  • Here are the steps to take if you are interested in submitting public input for a specific standard.  First choose the document in which you want to submit input.  For this example, we will be using NFPA 72.  You will need to choose the document form NFPA's website under "List of NFPA codes & Standards" or use the "Documents Accepting Public Input" search feature.
  • Once you have reached the page for your standard, click on the link that states "Next Edition"
  • Now click on the link that stats "The next edition of this standard is now open for Public Input."  You will need to be signed in to complete this step so make sure to set up a free online account.  Follow the instructions on how to use the submission system.
  • Once you have saved or submitted your public input in the system, it can always be located on the "My Profile" page by selecting the "My Public Inputs/Comments/NITMAMs" sections.

What Happens Once the Public Input Closing Date is Over?

As stated above, the technical committee will host a first draft meeting.  This is the time when the committee considers and provides a response to all of the public input that was received.  Some of the input may be used to develop the first draft revisions to the standard however the final position of the committee must be established by a ballot.  To appear in the first draft, a revision must be approved by at minimum 2/3 of the technical committee.  Any revisions that do not make the vote, appear in the first draft report as "Committee Inputs".  Once the revisions are approved by the committee, they are published as the First Draft Report on the NFPA website.  Now the First Draft document is open for Step #2 Public Comments.

Step #2 of the NFPA Standard's Development Process


Now that the first draft is published, anyone can submit comments.  Any objections or changes to the first draft must be completed during the  Public Comment Stage.  After the closing date for public comments, the technical committee will host a second draft meeting.

How do you Submit Public Comments?

  • Here are the steps to take if you are interested in submitting public comments to the first draft of a specific standard.  First choose the document in which you want to comment on.  For this example, we will be using NFPA 72.  You will need to choose the document form NFPA's website under "List of NFPA codes & Standards" or use the "Documents Accepting Public Input" search feature.
  • Once you have reached the page for your standard, click on the link that states "Next Edition"
  • Now click on the link that stats "The next edition of this standard is now open for Public Comment."  You will need to be signed in to complete this step so make sure to set up a free online account.  Follow the instructions on how to use the submission system.
  • Once you have saved or submitted your public comment in the system, it can always be located on the "My Profile" page by selecting the "My Public Inputs/Comments/NITMAMs" sections.


What Happens Once the Public Comments Closing Date is Over?

If there are NO public comments received and the technical committee agrees that there is no need for a second draft meeting, the document is sent directly to the Standards Council for issuance.  This is known as "Consent Standards".
NFPA 72 Second Draft Report
Example of the Second Draft Report for NFPA 72

If there are Public Comments, the following takes place:

Similar to the first draft meeting, the technical committee will now host a second draft meeting.  This is the time when the committee reviews the first draft and may make revisions based on the comments received.  The committee reviews all comments and provides a response/action to each.  The public comments are used to develop the second draft revisions to the standard however the final position of the committee must be established by a ballot.  To appear in the second draft, a revision must be approved by at minimum 2/3 of the technical committee.  Any revisions that do not make the vote, appear in the first draft report as "Committee Comments".  Once the revisions are approved by the committee, they are published as the Second Draft Report on the NFPA website.  Now the Second Draft document is open for public to submit what is known as a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM) for further consideration.

Notice of Intent to Make a Motion - Details 


There are a lot of details and regulation regarding the Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM).  We suggest you visit NFPA's website for additional information on who is allowed to submit these and the process and time frames for acceptance.  Here is a link to help you out.  Some Basic Details about NITMAM are noted below:

  • NITMAMs are accepted 5 weeks after the posting of the second draft report
  • The NITMAMs are reviewed and certified by the committee.  If they are certified, they may be presented at the NFPA Technical Meeting.
  • The NFPA Technical Meeting is each June where the membership meets to act on the Standards with certified NITMAMs.
  • The committee votes on any successful amendments to the technical committee reports made by the NFPA membership at the NFPA Technical Meeting.




Step #3 NFPA Technical Meeting


This step is ONLY required if there are any Notice of Intent to Make a Motions filed and they are certified.  If this is the case than these motions can be heard at the NFPA technical meeting.  This meeting takes place every June at the NFPA Conference & Expo.

Step #4 Council Appeals an Issuance of Standard


If there are NO NITMAMs filed, then the standard is not placed on the agenda for the NFPA Technical Meeting (Step #3).  At this time, the standard is sent directly to the Standards Council to be issued.  This is known as "Consent Standards".

Issuing the Standard - At the time when the council gathers to issue a standard, it will also listen to any related appeals.  This is a process to ensure fairness and due process have been followed throughout the entire process.  After all appeals are decided, the Standards Council proceeds to issue the standard.  One issued, the decision of the Standards Council is now final and the document has limited review by the NFPA Board of Directors.  The new standard will become effective and official 20 days after the issuance by the Standards Council.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mixing Speakers and Horns for Fire Alarm

Are we Allowed to Mix Voice Evacuation Speakers with Horns for Fire Alarm Occupant Notification?


This is a question that comes up from time to time and a lot of people have mixed feelings.  In a nutshell, the question in a more specific format is as follows: "Am I allowed to install voice evacuation speakers and standard temporal code-3 horns within the same fire alarm system?".  To make things fair, we will consult the Standards of NFPA 72 as well as the Code of the International Fire Code Section 907.

What code and standard sections relate to mixing audible signals for fire alarm evacuation?


Here are a list of codes and standards that dance around the topic:

NFPA 72 2016 Sections
  • 10.10.7 
  • 18.4.1.1
  • 18.4.2.1
International Fire Code 2015
  • Section 907 "Fire Alarm and Detection Systems"


NFPA 72 2016 Standard Dissection


NFPA 72 2016 - Section 10.10.7 states "Alarm evacuation signals shall be distinctive in sound from other signals and shall comply with section 18.4.2 and their sound shall NOT be used for any other purpose."

NFPA 72 2016 Section 18.4.2.1 States  "Distinctive Evacuation Signal" "To meet the requirements of section 10.10, the alarm audible signal pattern used to notify building occupants of the need to evacuate (leave the building) or relocate (from one area to another) shall be the standard alarm evacuation signal consisting of a three-pulse temporal pattern.  The pattern shall be in accordance with figure 18.4.2.1 and shall consist of the following in this order.

  1. ON phase lasting 0.5 seconds +/- 10%
  2. OFF phase lasting 0.5 seconds +/- 10% for 3 successive "on" periods
  3. OFF phase lasting 1.5 seconds +/- 10%

Temporal Code 3 Pattern NFPA 72

This section in short describes the three-pulse temporal pattern of an audible EVAC signal. This temporal code-3 signal is generated by horns as well as speakers.  Remember with voice evacuation speakers, there is still a requirement to have the temporal code 3 whoops between the voice message.

What Does a Distinctive Signal Really Mean?


When the term "distinctive evacuation signal" is used, it's not meant to cover voice evacuation speakers versus horns or bells but to ensure that a temporal 3-pulse pattern or other approved audible tone is used for fire alarm evacuation and ONLY that.

Example: A 4-wire CO detector tied to the building FA system. If the CO detector activates, its internal sounder will alert nearby occupants of dangerous levels of CO via a temporal code-4 audible output.  These are typically tied to the FA system via a monitor module and activate a non-latching supervisory signal at the FACU. However for the sake of this post, lets say the CO detector activates speakers in the affected area. These speakers would need to produce the same temporal code-4 sound as it is not a fire alarm signal rather a CO alert tone.

A distinctive evacuation signal in the minds of NFPA 72 is simply put, a temporal code 3 or other approved audible tone.  Bottom line is the distinctive signal can ONLY be used for fire alarm evacuation and nothing else.

What about NFPA 72 2016 Section 18.4.1.1?


Another standard section that trips people up on this topic is NFPA 72 2016 - Section 18.4.1.1.  The standard states "An average ambient sound level greater than 105 dBA shall require the use of a visible notification appliance(s) in accordance with Section 18.5 where the application is public mode or Section 18.6 where the application is private mode."

Section 18.4.1.1 is not so much for horns and speakers but strobes in areas that have an average ambient sound level of 105 dB or greater. The reasons for this is 15 db over average or 105 + 15 = 120 dB (public mode) or 10 dB over average or 105 + 10 = 115 dB (private mode). This violates the Section 18.4.1.2 which sets a limit not exceed 110 dB for the FA audible appliances.

The language that hits home with this topic is actually found in the Annex.  A.18.4.1.1 states "The code does NOT require that all audible notification appliances within a building be of the same type.  However a mixture of different types of audible notification appliances within a space in not the desired method.  Audible notification appliances that convey similar audible signals are preferred.  For example, a space that uses mechanical horns and bells might not be desirable.  A space that is provided with mechanical horns and electronic horns with similar audible signal output is preferred."

When is Voice Evacuation Required in Place of Horns?


In order to find out WHEN something is required in the world of Fire Alarm, we have to consult a CODE.  Section 907 of the International Fire Code covers "Fire Alarm and Detection Systems".   This is the section where all the fire alarm requirements per occupancy group are broken down.

Some examples of voice evacuation requirements are as follows:


The following is a good example of two separate types of fire alarm occupant notification methods being used for one facility.  Prior to the newer versions of the International Fire Code, it was typical to have Group E occupancies (schools) with horns in corridors, restrooms, classrooms, etc.  However if the auditorium or gym (Group A) has an occupant load of 1000 or more, voice is required. In these cases you would have a standalone voice panel triggered to activate the speakers in the gym/auditorium on general alarm. Currently the 2015 IFC is requiring voice throughout E occupancies if the occupant load is greater than 100 so this is no longer an issue.
To circle back to the original question, "Am I allowed to install voice evacuation speakers and standard temporal code-3 horns within the same fire alarm system?" YES, by code, you are allowed to install different methods of audible tones used for evacuating occupants as long as they have ONE "distinct evacuation signal".  Referencing NFPA 72 2016 A.18.4.1.1, it is not desirable to have different types of audible appliances producing conflicting tones.  This is based on the different audible appliances being installed in one area where they could both be heard at the same time.  For example it would not be desirable to have horns in classrooms and voice evacuation speakers in the common corridor where larger groups of occupants come together.  During an evacuation, the classroom doors would be opened to the corridor and the temporal 3 output from the horns would drown out the speakers thus eliminating any sort of intelligibility.  Even if you provided the correct digital audio file to mirror the horn's temporal sound output through the speakers, the voice portion of the evacuation message would still be played during standard code 3 cycles on the classroom horns.

Additional VOICE requirements for speakers can be seen in NFPA 72 2016 Section "18.4.1.5".

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sprinkler Water Flow Flapper

Fire Alarm Waterflow FlapperHave you ever wondered what the inside of a sprinkler waterflow device looked like?  Well there are a few different types of waterflow devices as far as looks but they all basically work the same.  They mount to the outside of the fire alarm sprinkler riser with U bolts but it is whats inside that does the magic.  As you are probably aware, automatic sprinkler systems have water constantly sitting in the pipes.  This is why it is commonly referred to as a "Wet System".  On the back side of the sprinkler waterflow is a flapper that fills the area of the sprinkler riser.  If a sprinkler head happens to burst in the event of a fire, the water will have a place to escape the system.  However when this is accomplished, the water in the system must be replaced.  As water is sent back into the system it flows past the flapper behind the sprinkler waterflow device and moves it up like a light switch.

The flapper switch has a retard device on it to slow down the activation time.  This is required as a switch that is too sensitive may be activated with a simple city water surge.  The back flow preventor or OS and Y (outside screw and yoke) is in place to reduce the back flow of water from the system thus resulting in fewer false alarms.  With the retard on the water flow and OS and Y the "wet system" type fire sprinkler setup is pretty full proof.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Two-Way Communication Code Requirements

What is a Two-Way Communication System?


A two-way communication system is a means of communication between a constantly attended support staff and building occupants unable to exit the building via the stairs due to injury or disability.  In short, two-way communication systems have two key components; a master station (typically installed in the fire command center or other approved location) and Call Boxes required to be provided at the landing of each elevator on each accessible floor that is one or more stories above or below the level of exit discharge.  These areas provided with two-way communication systems are known as Areas of Refuge.  An area of refuge is a location in a building designed to hold occupants during a fire or other emergency, when evacuation may not be safe or possible. Occupants can wait there until rescued or relieved by firefighters or first responders.

Just like it sounds, a two-way communication system allows stranded occupants to talk back and forth with trained personnel at said attended location.

Cornell Area of Refuge Master Station

Cornell Area of Refuge Call Box


Note:  When you come across the term one-way voice communication system, this is reference to a PA (public address) or fire alarm emergency voice/alarm communication system.  The term one-way means exactly that, the operator of the microphone can only communicate out.  There is no means for the intended listeners to communication back.

What Codes and Standards are Two-Way Communication Systems Noted in?


Two-Way Communication Systems are covered in a few different documents as broken down below:

  • NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code) Section 7.2.12 - 7.2.12.3.6
  • NFPA 72 2016 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code) Sections 24.10.1 - 24.10.8, 24.13.4 and it's noteworthy to mention sections 10.6.9.1, 10.6.9.1.1, and 10.6.7.2.1 for "Monitoring Integrity of Power Supplies" 24.3.13.9.1, 12.4.3, and 12.4.4 for cable and survivability requirements.  Lastly Table 14.3.1 #25 for testing requirements.  
    • Important Note, NFPA 72 is NOT actually a code.  Find out why or how here
  • International Building Code 2015 Sections 1009.6.5, 1009.8, 1009.8.1, 1009.8.2, 1009.9, 1009.10, 1009.11, and 403.5.3.1
  • International Building Code 2015 Section 3008 under "Occupant Evacuation Elevators"
  • ICC A 117.1 This applies to the visual characters for Directions and Signage

The International Building Code (IBC) now requires a two-way communication system in all new construction regardless if they have a sprinkler system or not.  Also, significant remodels or change of use of a building may require Areas of Refuge.  See the code adoption map below to see if your State is up to date!

Two-Way Communication System Map



Where to Start when Designing a Two-Way Communication System for Areas of Refuge.


Remember, CODES tell you when you have to install two-way communication systems and STANDARDS tell you how to install them.  This is important as it makes it easy to navigate to the appropriate document when you need information on either.  Example, if you need to know what height the call boxes are required to be mounted at, you are going to turn to the Standard (NFPA 72).  If you want to know what levels of a building require call boxes, you are going to turn to the Code (NFPA 101 or IBC).    

Two-Way Communication and the International Building Code 2015


Areas of Refuge are required to be provided with an approved two-way communication system complying with sections 1009.8.1 and 1009.8.2.  These two sections cover "system requirements" and "Directions".

As noted above in the introduction, two way communication system call boxes are required to be provided at each elevator landing on each accessible floor that is more than one stories above or below the level of exit discharge.

Of course there are exclusions to this code.  See below:

  1. two-way communication systems are not required at the landing serving each elevator where the two-way communication system is provided within Areas of Refuge in accordance with Section 1009.6.5
  2. two-way communication systems are not required on floors provided with ramps conforming to the provisions of Section 1012.
  3. two-way communication systems are not required at the landings serving only service elevators that are not designated as part of the accessible means of egress or serve as part of the required accessible route into a facility.
  4. two-way communication systems are not required at the landing serving only freight elevators.
  5. two-way communication systems are not required at the landing serving a private residence elevator.

Two-Way Requirements


This is a big one that always come up.  Two-way communication systems are required to communicate between the required call boxes and master station installed in the fire command center or approved location.  If the master panel location is NOT constantly attended, the two-way communication system shall have a timed automatic telephone dial-out capability.  The master station shall dial out to a monitoring location or 9-1-1,  Also note the two-way communication system shall have BOTH audible and visual signals.

Directions and Signage for Two-Way Communication


It is a requirement to provide directions on how to operate the two-way communication system.   These directions shall be placed adjacent to the two-way communication system and the signage shall comply with the ICC A 117.1 requirements for visual characters.  

Signage is obviously important for Areas of Refuge locations and shall be provided as follows:
    two-way communication area of refuge sign
  1. Each door providing access to an Area of Refuge an adjacent floor area shall be identified by a sin stating:  AREA OF REFUGE.
  2. Each door providing access to an exterior area for assisted rescue shall be identified by a sign stating:  EXTERIOR AREA FOR ASSISTED RESCUE.
  3. Signage shall comply with the ICC A 117.1 and include the International Symbol of Accessibility.  Where exit sign illumination is required by Section 1013.3, the signs shall be illuminated.  All doors used for Areas of Refuge and Exterior Area for Assisted Rescue shall have signage with visual characters, raised characters and braille complying with ICC A 117.1.

Directional Signage


In addition to the signage noted above, directional signage indicating the location of all other means of egress and which of those are accessible means of egress shall be provided at the following:
  1. Exits serving a required accessible space but not providing an approved accessible means of egress
  2. Elevator landings
  3. at Areas of Refuge

Instructions


In Exterior Areas for Assisted Rescue and Areas of Refuge, instructions on the use of the area under emergency conditions shall be posted.  Again all signage shall comply with ICC A 117.1 and shall include the following:  
    Area of Refuge Instruction Sign
  1. "Persons able to use the exit stairway do so as soon as possible, unless they are assisting others."
  2. Information on planned availability of assistance in the use of stairs or supervised operation of elevators and how to summon such assistance.
  3. Directions for the use of the two-way communication system where provided.  This goes along with the "Directions" noted above.

International Building Code "Stairway Communication System"


If the stairway doors are locked, not less than every fifth floor shall be equipped with a telephone or two-way communication system connected to an approved constantly attended station.

What does NFPA 101 Have to Say About Two-Way Communication?


NFPA 101 (The Life Safety Code) basically covers the same requirements as found in the 2015 International Building Code and noted above.  In an effort to shorten this article, the key sections to review or note out of the NFPA 101 are as follows:

  • 7.2.12 
  • 7.2.12.1.1
  • 7.2.12.2.5
  • 7.2.12.2.6
  • 7.2.12.3.5
  • 7.2.12.3.5.1
  • 7.2.12.3.5.2
  • 7.2.12.3.6
Each of these sections cover the same requirements of Section 1009 in the 2015 International Building Code.

Mounting Heights for Two-Way Communication System and Area of Refuge Equipment.


Master Station = 60" to Center Above Finished Floor
Call Box = Between 48" - 60" from Floor to Tactile Characters
Instruction Signage = Between 48" - 60" from Floor to Tactile Characters
Tactile Signage = 60" to Center Above Finished Floor
Illuminated Sign = Between 60" - 80" Above Finished Floor

Let's Consult NFPA 72 to See How We Install Two-Way Communication Systems.  


Sections 24.10.1 through 24.10.8 briefly mention the same requirements found in the 2015 IFC and NFPA 101.

Supervision Requirements for Two-Way Communication Systems


As with anything related to life safety, all pathways between the remote Area of Refuge call boxes and master station shall be monitored for integrity.

Power Supply - Monitoring for Integrity

Unless otherwise permitted by or required by Section 10.6.9.1.3 and 10.6.9.1.6 all primary and secondary power supplies shall be monitored for the presence of voltage.  Loss of primary or secondary power shall initiate a trouble signal in accordance with Section 10.14.

Battery Backup for Two-Way Communication Systems

The secondary power supply (a.k.a. battery backup) shall have the capacity to operate the two-way communication system in a non-active condition for a minimum of 24 hours.  At the end of this period, the system shall be capable of operating in active status for 5 minutes.

Cable Requirements for Two-Way Communication Systems


NFPA 72 2016 Section 24.3.13.9.1 stated "Area of Refuge emergency communication systems shall have a pathway survivability of level 2 or level 3."  Level 1 is permitted when the building is less than 2-hour fire rated construction. 

Below are the Requirements for Survivability  Level 2 and Level 3

Survivability Level 2 shall consist of one or more of the following:
  1. 2-hour fire rated circuit integrity (CI) or fire-resistive cable
  2. 2-hour fire-rated cable system (electrical circuit protective systems)
  3. 2-hour fire-rated enclosure or protected area
  4. Performance alternatives approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction

Survivability Level 3 shall consist of pathways in the building that are fully protected by an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13 and one or more of the following:
  1. 2-hour fire rated circuit integrity (CI) or fire-resistive cable
  2. 2-hour fire-rated cable system (electrical circuit protective systems)
  3. 2-hour fire-rated enclosure or protected area
  4. Performance alternatives approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction
2-hour CI Cable for Two-Way Communication System

Testing Frequency for Two-Way Communication for Areas of Refuge


NFPA 72 2016 Table 14.3.1 #25

Shall be tested at Initial Acceptance and annually thereafter.  Method of testing:  "Verify location and condition"

In closing we now know that two-way communication systems are required for areas of refuge and elevator landings on floors that are accessible.  These two-way communication systems are required to be installed with a pathway survivability level 2 or level 3 and the master station shall be installed in an area that is constantly attended.  Areas of refuge with two-way communication systems have been hot for some time now so make sure to read up and become familiar with the codes and standards for them.