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.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

Occupant Evacuation Elevator Code Explained

What is an Occupant Evacuation Elevator?


Much like Fire Service Access Elevators, Occupant Evacuation Elevators are in fact elevators that have strict rules and regulations put in place to allow special uses above standard elevators.  An Occupant Evacuation Elevator can be used for self-evacuation during a fire emergency pending the elevator system meets the requirements set forth in the International Building Code.

What Code Requires or Allows the Use of Occupant Evacuation Elevators?


The requirement to provide occupant evacuation elevators can be found in the IBC or International Building Code 2015 section 403.5.2 within the EXCEPTION.

"For buildings other than Group R-2 that are more than 420 feet in building height, one additional interior stairway meeting the requirements of Sections 1011 and 1023 shall be provided in addition to the minimum number of exits required by Section 1006.3.  The total width of any combination of remaining interior exit stairways with one interior exist stairway removed shall be not less than the total width required by Section 1005.1.  Scissor stairways shall not be considered the additional interior exit stairway required by this section."

Exception: An additional interior exit stairway shall NOT be required to be installed in buildings having elevators used for occupant self-evacuation in accordance with Section 3008."

Furthermore, the International Building Code 2015 Section 403.6.2 Occupant Evacuation Elevators.  States, "Where installed in accordance with Section 3008, passenger elevators for public use shall be permitted to be used for occupant self-evacuation."

The requirements on how an occupant evacuation elevator is to be installed can be found in the IBC or International Building Code 2015 section 3008.

Other references include:


Requirements for Occupant Evacuation Elevators


When an occupant evacuation elevator is to be used for occupant self-evacuation during a fire, all passenger elevators for public use shall comply with Sections 3008.1 through 3008.10.  If any additional elevators are are used for self-evacuation, those elevators shall comply with these sections as well.

In buildings that utilize occupant evacuation elevators, a fire safety and evacuation plan shall be approved and in place.  Requirements for a fire safety and evacuation plan can be found in the International Fire Code (IFC) 2015 section 404 "Emergency Planning and Preparedness".

The operation of self-evacuating occupant evacuation elevators shall comply with the requirements in ASME A17.1, CSA B44 and the above mentioned Fire Safety and Evacuation Plan.

Emergency Voice Communication System


The building shall be equipped with an emergency voice/alarm communication system that is accessible to the fire department.  System shall be installed in accordance to section 907.5.2.2.  Each elevator lobby used for occupant evacuation shall be equipped with at least one audible and one visual notification appliance.  Not that it would be common but if you had to install voice evacuation just for the occupant evacuation elevators, it is allowed to mix audible evacuation tones.  Find out more in this article, "Mixing Speakers and Horns for Fire Alarm."

Automatic Sprinkler Requirements:


The building with occupant evacuation elevators shall be protected throughout with an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with section 903.3.1.1.  The automatic sprinkler system shall be provided with a supervised tamper switch and alarm initiating water flow switch on every floor of the building.  Note, the following areas are prohibited from having automatic fire sprinkler protection:

  • Elevator Machine Rooms  
  • Elevator Machinery Spaces
  • Elevator Control Rooms
  • Elevator Control Spaces
  • Elevator Hoistways serving the Occupant Evacuation Elevator

The lobby on each floor served by the fire service access elevator shall have an approved method of preventing water from the operation of the automatic sprinkler system from infiltrating the FSAE hoistway.

Lastly, a means for elevator shutdown or Shunt Trip in accordance with IBC section 3005.5 shall NOT be installed on elevator controllers used for occupant evacuation elevators.

Occupant Evacuation Elevator Hoistway Enclosure


The shaft or hoistway enclosure shall comply with IBC section 713 "Shaft Enclosures" as well as section 403.2.3.4 "Wall Assembly" and sections 403.2.3.4 "Other Wall Assemblies".

Occupant Evacuation Elevator Cab Dimensions


Although this is not a direct requirement for occupant evacuation elevators or fire service access elevators rather buildings that are four stories or more, it still applies and is worth mentioning.  IBC section 3002.4 "Elevator Car to Accommodate Ambulance Stretcher" gives us the dimensions required for the cab.  "The elevator car shall be of such a size and arrangement to accommodate an ambulance stretcher 24 inches by 84 inches with not less than 5 inch radius corners, in the horizontal, open position.  ADA Table 407.4.1 breaks this down a little further and gives us the following:  The cab shall be provided with a minimum clear distance between walls and door excluding return panels not less than 80 inches by 54 inches and a minimum distance from wall to return panel not less than 51 inches with a 42 inch side slide door.

Fire Service Access Elevator Car Dimensions
Fire Service Access Elevator and Occupant Evacuation Elevator Car Dimensions

Occupant Evacuation Elevator Lobby Requirements

The Occupant Evacuation Elevator lobby shall be enclosed with a smoke barrier having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 hour.  The occupant evacuation elevator lobby doorways shall comply with Section 3008.6.3.  NOTE: Just like Fire Service Access Elevators, enclosed occupant evacuation elevator lobbies are NOT required at the levels of exit discharge

Lobby Sizing

Keep in mind the following for occupant evacuation elevator lobby sizing requirements:

  1. The occupant evacuation elevator lobby shall accommodate 3 square feet per person, not less than 25 percent of the occupant load of the floor area served by the lobby.
  2. Occupant evacuation elevator lobbies shall be able to house one wheelchair with a space of 30 inches by 48 inches for every 50 persons within the area the lobby serves.
There is an exception to these 2 rules.  The size of an elevator lobby that serves multiple banks of elevators shall have the minimum area APPROVED on an individual basis.  This sizing shall be consistent with the building's fire safety and evacuation plan.

Lobby Doors

The occupant evacuation elevator lobby doors shall be provided with a 3/4 hour fire door assembly complying with Section 716.5.  Doors shall comply with the smoke and draft control assembly requirements of Section 716.5.3.1 and UL 1784 test conducted WITHOUT the artificial bottom seal.

There shall also be a fire protection rated glazed vision window within the occupant evacuation elevator lobby doors.

No different from standard elevators or fire service access elevators, the lobby doors of occupant evacuation elevator lobbies shall close upon receipt of the fire alarm system serving the building.

The self closing mechanism shall close the door from a fully open position (90 degrees) to 12 degrees from the latch at a minimum of 5 seconds.  This insures the doors do not close to quickly.  This information can be located in ANSI 117.1 2009 section 404.2.7.1.

How are Occupant Evacuation Elevators Designated or Noticed?


On all floor served by the occupant evacuation elevator, there shall be an approved sign posted adjacent to each call station.  We suggest consulting with your local AHJ if they have a standard on this signage.  

Occupant Evacuation Elevator System Monitoring


The occupant evacuation elevator shall be continuously monitored at the fire command center (FCC) or a central control point approved by the AHJ.  The following information shall be displayed or available:

  1. The location of each elevator car
  2. The travel direction of each elevator car
  3. If the elevator car is occupied or not
  4. Status of normal power conditions to the elevator equipment, machinery, electrical apparatus cooling equipment, elevator machine room, control room and control space ventilation and cooling equipment.
  5. Status of standby or emergency power conditions to the elevator equipment, machinery, electrical apparatus cooling equipment, elevator machine room, control room and control space ventilation and cooling equipment.
  6. Activation of any fire alarm initiating device in any elevator lobby, elevator machine room, machine space containing a motor controller or electric driving machine, control space, control room or elevator hoistway.

two-way communication system call stationElevator Landing Two-Way Communication System


You are required to provide a two-way communication system at the lobby of each level served by an occupant evacuation elevator.  The two-way communication call stations shall initiate communication to the building's fire command center or an alternate location approved by the AHJ.  Note the two-way communication system shall be installed in accordance with sections 1009.8.1 and 1009.8.2

      

Electrical Power


The following features serving each occupant evacuation elevator shall be provided with both normal power as well as Type 60/Class 2/Level 1 standby power:
  1. Elevator equipmentElevator hoistway lighting
  2. Ventilation for elevator machine rooms, elevator control rooms, machine and control spaces.
  3. Elevator cab lighting
He is the big one to watch out for.

Protection of Wiring and Cables for Occupant Evacuation Elevators


Wires and cables located OUTSIDE of the fire service access elevator lobby and machine room that are provided for the fire-detection system shall be protected by construction having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 2 hours, shall be circuit integrity (CI) cable with a rating of not less than 2 hours or shall be protected by a listed electrical protective system having a rating of not less than 2 hours.

2-Hour CI Cable for Fire Alarm

Hazardous Material


The building shall not contain any hazardous material areas exceeding the maximum allowable quantities per control area as noted in section 414.2


All code references for this article are found in the 2015 Edition of the International Building Code.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Temperature Sensors for Fire Service Access Elevators

Code Background for Fire Service Access Elevators


In a previous post, we discussed the importance of Fire Service Access Elevators or FSAE based on their ability to assist first responders in the evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire.  These fire service access elevators are becoming more and more advanced with special requirements to insure the safety of operators during a high rise structure fire.  Most of the requirements outlined in the previous post "Fire Service Access Elevators Explained",  are found in the International Building Code or IBC.  The FSAE sections include 403.6.1 and 3007.1 - 3007.9.  However, in the State of California we go by the California Building Code or CBC.  The only major difference spelled out in the CBC is the section on Fire Service Access Elevator "Phase 1 Recall".  In the CBC the requirements for the Phase 1 Recall are as follows:  "Activation of ANY initiating device within the building shall active the phase 1 recall of all fire service access elevators.  All standard elevators shall remain in the normal operation unless they are manually taken over via key or the activation of their associated fire alarm initiating devices."

Now as with most jurisdictions and AHJs, you will more than likely have to deal with local adopted ordinances.  These are alterations to the adopted code by your AHJ.  Once these ordinances have become officially adopted, they override the National or State Code.  A perfect example of this is San Francisco's "Administrative Bulletin #5.08"  better known as AB #5.08.  San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) has adopted this bulletin making it the new code.

Where is the Requirement for Temperature Sensors in FSAE Lobbies?


In the SFFD AB #5.08 titled "Fire Service Access Elevators" section 3.0 (e) you will find the following language:

"An approved means for firefighters to monitor heat conditions in FSAE lobbies and associated machine/control rooms, such as analog heat sensing system annunciated at the Fire Command Center (FCC). This is intended to provide firefighters with more information to determine whether the FSAE protection has been compromised. This means shall include a dedicated FSAE Status Panel located at the FCC. (Reference NFPA 72-2016 Section 21.5 indicated in item 4.g below)"

This requirement is in place to give the first responders a live reading of the temperature present in a given fire service access elevator lobby before traveling to the area.  This requirement makes the standard code found in the IBC section 3007 a little more complicated and costly however the benefits of life safety are worth it.

Now the code above does not exactly tell us how to display this requirement other than using an Approved Means.  Currently in San Francisco, we are using a custom LED annunciator with individual LEDs depicting 5 different temperature ranges and 1 LED for fault per FSAE lobby.  The temperature ranges are as follows:


  • < 70 degrees
  • 71 to 80 degrees
  • 81 to 90 degrees
  • 91 to 100 degrees
  • > 101 degrees
  • Fault
FSAE Temperature LEDs for Status Panel



You can see a screenshot of a Fire Service Access Elevator dedicated status panel in our previous article title "Fire Service Access Elevators Explained".

How do We Monitor Heat Conditions Within the FSAE Lobbies?


Each major fire alarm equipment manufacturer has their own method of accomplishing this feat however we am going to use Notifier as an example in this article.  Notifier has an addressable monitor module known as the FMM-4-20.  This module utilizes a 4-20 mA circuit to connect with 2-wire and 3-wire temperature sensors that produce a 4-20 mA signal output.  Only one sensor can be connected to a FMM-4-20 module.  The temperature sensors we have been using are the TW series from Veris Industries.  Below is a picture of the Veris Industries TE Temperature Sensor and FMM-4-20 wiring diagram.

Notifier FMM-4-20 Module with Temp Sensor



FMM-4-20 Programming with Verifire Tools


We are not going to get into too much detail on the programming of the FMM-4-20 module for the purpose of monitoring fire service access elevator lobbies, however, we have included a few notes and screenshots to show the setup and options.

Notifier Verifire Tools FMM-4-20 Programming
Notifier Verifire Tools with FMM-4-20 Module

CBE positions 3 - 7 are assigned to FMM-4-20 threshold levels 1 - 5 respectively. (Threshold levels are user-programmed. Refer to “FMM-4-20 Monitor Module Programming” on page 48 of the NFS2-3030 programming manual.) Each will activate only if the device is currently at that threshold level. Once the device leaves that threshold level, the zone in its corresponding CBE position will remain active or deactivate according to whether its threshold is programmed for latching or tracking. 

Notifier FMM-4-20 Device Setup Programming

Notifier FMM-4-20 Threshold Setup Programming
 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fire Service Access Elevators Explained

What are Fire Service Access Elevators (FSAE)


Fire Service Access Elevators or F.S.A.E. for short, are designed with strict and rigorous standards to allow firemen and first responders to utilize the elevator for the purpose of quickly accessing floors as well as evacuating occupants in the event of an emergency.  This is a huge step for first responders as time is extremely crucial when addressing buildings of this size.

Another special condition for elevators is known as Occupant Evacuation Elevators.  These are self-evacuation elevators with special requirements much like FSAEs.

What Code Requires the Use of Fire Service Access Elevators?


The requirement to provide fire service access elevators can be found in the IBC or International Building Code 2015 section 403.6.1

"In buildings with an occupied floor more than 120 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access, no fewer than two fire service access elevators, or all elevators, whichever is less, shall be provided in accordance with section 3007.  Each fire service access elevator shall have a capacity not less than 3500 pounds."

The requirements on how a fire service access elevator is to be installed can be found in the IBC or International Building Code 2015 section 3007.

Other references include:

  • ASME A17.1
  • CSA B44
  • NFPA 72 2013 section 21.5

Requirements of Fire Service Access Elevators


When a fire service access elevator is required by the IBC section 403.6.1, every floor within the building shall be served and comply with sections 3007.1 through 3007.9

Automatic Sprinkler Requirements:


The building with FSAE shall be protected throughout with an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with section 903.3.1.1.  The automatic sprinkler system shall be provided with a supervised tamper switch and alarm initiating water flow switch on every floor of the building.  Note, the following areas are prohibited from having automatic fire sprinkler protection:

  • Elevator Machine Rooms  
  • Elevator Machinery Spaces
  • Elevator Control Rooms
  • Elevator Control Spaces
  • Elevator Hoistways of the Fire Service Access Elevator

The lobby on each floor served by the fire service access elevator shall have an approved method of preventing water from the operation of the automatic sprinkler system from infiltrating the FSAE hoistway.

Lastly, a means for elevator shutdown or Shunt Trip in accordance with IBC section 3005.5 shall NOT be installed on elevator controllers used for fire service access elevators.

Fire Service Access Elevator Hoistway Enclosure

fire service access elevator hoistway

The shaft or hoistway enclosure shall comply with IBC section 713 "Shaft Enclosures" as well as section 403.2.3.1 "Wall Assembly" and sections 403.2.3.4 "Other Wall Assemblies".

Another important aspect to keep in mind is the hoistway lighting for the FSAE shaft.  When the Fire Service Access operation is active, the entire height of the hoistway shall be illuminated at NOT less than 1 footcandle (11 lux).  This measurement is to be taken from the top of each fire service access elevator cab.  

**The fire service access elevator status panel (located in the FCC room) shall have a switch to manually operate this lighting feature.    

Fire Service Access Elevator Cab Dimensions


Although this is not a direct requirement for FSAE rather buildings that are four stories or more, it still applies and is worth mentioning.  IBC section 3002.4 "Elevator Car to Accommodate Ambulance Stretcher" gives us the dimensions required for the cab.  "The elevator car shall be of such a size and arrangement to accommodate an ambulance stretcher 24 inches by 84 inches with not less than 5 inch radius corners, in the horizontal, open position.  ADA Table 407.4.1 breaks this down a little further and gives us the following:  The cab shall be provided with a minimum clear distance between walls and door excluding return panels not less than 80 inches by 54 inches and a minimum distance from wall to return panel not less than 51 inches with a 42 inch side slide door.

Fire Service Access Elevator Car Dimensions
Fire Service Access Elevator Car Dimensions

FSAE Lobby Requirements


Egress through the fire service access elevator lobby is permitted in accordance with IBC section 1016.2 "Egress Through Intervening Spaces" item #1.  The exception to this rule is if the FSAE lobby has two entrances onto the floor, the second entrance shall be permitted to open into an elevator lobby in accordance with IBC section 3006.3 "Hoistway Opening Protection".

The fire service access elevator lobby shall have direct access to to an enclosed interior exit stairway or ramp.  The interior exit stairway or ramp can be in a protected pathway that has a level of protection not less than the FSAE lobby.  The path of travel and FSAE lobby shall be separated via an opening protected by a smoke and draft control assembly in accordance with IBC section 716.5.3 "Door Assemblies in Corridors and Smoke Barriers".  

The FSAE lobby enclosure shall have smoke barrier having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 hour.  The FSAE lobby doors shall be 3/4 hour fire door assemblies in accordance with IBC section 716.5 "Fire Door and Shutter Assemblies".  This rule does NOT apply to the hoistway doors, elevator control room doors or elevator control space doors.  FSAE lobbies are not required to be enclosed at the levels of exit discharge.

Keep in mind the elevator lobbies for fire service access elevators shall be no smaller than 150 square feet in area with a dimension not less than 8 feet.  This rule applies no matter how many FSAE cabs are served by the same lobby.  Example 8 feet x 19 feet would give you 152 square feet of lobby area.  

How are Fire Service Access Elevators Designated or Noticed?


IBC section 3007.6.5 gives us the following information.  A pictorial symbol of a STANDARDIZED design shall be placed on each side of the hoistway door frame on the portion of the frame at right angles to the fire service access elevator lobby.  To clear that up, the symbol shall be installed on the frame where it is noticeable immediately upon entry to the FSAE lobby.

Here is a picture of the symbol depicted in the IBC figure 3007.6.5

Fire Service Access Elevator Symbol
Fire Service Access Elevator Symbol

The following are guidelines for the design of the symbol:
  • The FSAE symbol shall not be less than 3 inches in height
  • The helmet shall contrast the background.  It states you can use a dark helmet on light background or light helmet on dark background.
  • The symbol shall be located on center line of the symbol and FSAE door frame at a height of not less 78 inches or more than 84 inches.  

FSAE Monitoring


The fire service access elevators shall be continuously monitored at the FCC by a standard emergency service interface system meeting requirements found in NFPA 72 the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

FSAE Electrical Power


The following that serve each fire service access elevator shall be provided with both normal power as well as Type 60/Class 2/Level 1 standby power:
  1. Elevator equipment
  2. Elevator hoistway lighting
  3. Ventilation for elevator machine rooms, elevator control rooms, machine and control spaces.
  4. Elevator cab lighting
He is the big one to watch out for.

Protection of Wiring and Cables for Fire Service Access Elevators


Wires and cables located OUTSIDE of the fire service access elevator lobby and machine room that are provided for the fire-detection system shall be protected by construction having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 2 hours, shall be circuit integrity (CI) cable with a rating of not less than 2 hours or shall be protected by a listed electrical protective system having a rating of not less than 2 hours.

Phase 1 Recall for Fire Service Access Elevators


This is currently taken from our home state of California out of the California Building Code 2013 of CBC section 3007.2.  Activation of ANY initiating device within the building shall active the phase 1 recall of all fire service access elevators.  All standard elevators shall remain in the normal operation unless they are manually taken over via key or the activation of their associated fire alarm initiating devices.  

San Francisco Takes it a Step Further with Heat Monitoring



San Francisco's Administrative Bulletin AB #5.08 requires an approved means for firefighters to monitor heat conditions in the FSAE lobbies and associated machine/control rooms.  This is intended to provide firefighters with more information to determine whether the FSAE lobby protection has been compromised. This means shall include a dedicated FSAE Status Panel located at the FCC. (Reference NFPA 72-2016 Section 21.5 indicated in item 4.g below).  For Notifier we use the addressable FMM-4-20 module along with a Veris Industries TW or TE wall mounted temperature sensor.  We then provide a custom LED status panel by Space Age Electronics with each elevator lobby broken down into 5 temperature levels.  See image below of a Fire Service Access Elevator Status Panel for San Francisco, CA.

Read this article to see how Notifier is accomplishing the monitoring of individual temperature ranges within each fire service access elevator lobby.  "Temperature Sensors for Fire Service Access Elevators"

Fire Service Access Elevator Status Panel
Fire Service Access Elevator Status Panel

In closing fire service access elevators are a fairly new setup allowing fire fighters and first responders to access the elevators in the event of a fire.  Since these lifts are established as Fire Service Access Elevators, they must meet some very strict rules to ensure they are safe and will function in the extreme conditions of a structure fire.

All code references for this article are found in the 2015 Edition of the International Building Code.