Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is 2 Hour Rated CI Cable Too Much?

2 hour CI Cable and Survivability

As you may already know, UL (Underwriters Laboratories) has pulled their listing on 2-hour rated circuit integrity (CI) cable.  Since this cable technically no longer exists, what are we to do in current and future installations requiring the use of this CI cable?  According to the UL document, it is now up to the discretion of the local AHJ as to when it can be used or substituted with an alternate means of media.

Now, where did the 2-hour rating come from?  It is my understanding that stairwells are required to be 2-hour rated in buildings over four stories in height.  With buildings that are four stories and under in size, you will typically have a general alarm sequence and won't require any Pathway Survivability.  Buildings over four stories start getting close to the threshold for a high rise building where pathway survivability defiantly plays a role.  Depending on the level of Pathway Survivability (see NFPA 72 2010 section 12.4) level 0, 1, 2, or 3 you will have to protect your circuit pathway for a period of two hours.  Now this can be accomplished by either installing 2-hour rated cable or CI cable, 2-hour rated cable system [electrical circuit protective system(s)], 2-hour rated enclosure or protected area, or 2-hour performance alternatives approved by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  Note that level 0 has no requirement for pathway survivability and level 1 can be accomplished if the building is fully protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

2-Hour Rated CI Cable Fire Alarm

To make it simple, you can run your cables for a fire fighters telephone circuit up a 2-hour rated stairwell without the use of CI cable.  However, when you exit the stairwell to extend the circuit to other areas of the building, you need to use 2-hour rated CI cable.  The intent in my mind is to provide a complete circuit pathway from the fire alarm control unit FACU to the field devices with a rating of not less than 2 hours.

Alright, so the concept is clear, you want to provide a fire alarm system that is capable of lasting at a minimum, 2 hours in the event of a fire.  This allows time for all of the occupants to evacuate and remain clear of the building.  After all it is the ultimate goal of a fire alarm, voice evacuation or mass notification system to notify the occupants of the emergency at hand.  If the wiring fails then obviously you no longer have the ability to broadcast out to your field notification appliances.  Now this is where it gets crazy.  The FACU or Fire Alarm Control Unit is not required to be 2-hour rated nor are the field devices such as fire fighter's telephone jacks, speakers, strobes, horns, etc.  So how is it that we have codes in place to insure that our fire alarm circuit pathways are secure for a period of 2 hours but not the control or notification equipment.  If there is a fire in a high rise that lasts 2 hours, the field devices would not stand a chance.  So what do we have when the fire is all said and done?  A voice evacuation system with operational cables but nothing to activate, control or notify. 

I am not sure as to why UL pulled their listing on CI cable but I honestly am not up in arms about it.  UL is remaining very silent on the issue and will not disclose any information regarding the test results of CI cables.  At this time, to save your customer money and your technicians the hassle  I recommend bringing this topic up with your local AHJ and finding out if he/she will allow the use of other cables in applications requiring NFPA 72 Pathway Survivability Levels 2 or 3.


If you are interested in taking the NICET CBT exam for fire alarms, then we have you covered!  We are now selling our CBT Levels 1 - 3 practice exam DVDs.  These DVDs are packed with tons of NICET CBT practice exams along with all code references as to where to find the answers.  We have also supplied the DVDs with all of the necessary NICET applications, CBT calculator demonstrations, links and more.  If you need more information, feel free to send an email.  You can find the link to purchase our DVDs on the top left section of each page on this site.

Direct Burial Cable for Fire Alarms

Did you know you could direct bury fire alarm cables if codes and standards are followed?


Have you ever used direct burial cable in your fire alarm installations? Typically in fire alarm you will not see much of it as most of our outdoor work is typically in Rigid conduit or schedule 80 PVC.  Also a small portion of our fire alarm designs involve running out side for connections.  Without getting too deep in the design aspects, more than likely, if you are running circuits outside, are likely for a PIV (Post Indicator Valve), or Backflow Preventor with OS&Y switches (OS&Y standards for Outside Screw and Yoke)

Direct Burial Cable for Fire AlarmDirect burial cable is a cable that is designed and U.L. approved to be installed directly in trenches without the need for conduit or other raceways.  The wires themselves are encased with what is known as a thermoplastic sheath that seals out moisture to help protect the wires. Direct burial cable often referred to as UF Cable and commonly ships with a grey jacket. However, there are some wire manufacturers such as Beach Wire and CableArrow Wire and Cable, and Windy City Wire that make their own listed direct burial cable and it comes in black. Please note that this type of cable is only listed for this use if it is installed at the proper depths.

An easy way to notice the difference between standard non-metallic sheathed cable (NM) and underground feeder cable (UF) is the coating around each cable within the jacket. NM cable is simply a jacket to house multiple conductors whereas the UF cable separately coats each conductor.

Why is Copper So Popular in Electronics

Copper Wire for ElectonicsThe electron theory is a good way to explain why copper wire is widely used with electronic equipment and in electrical power distribution. Every substance whether in earth or in space is made up of tiny particles called atoms. These atoms are so small that a piece of copper the size of the head of a needle would contain millions of atoms. Each one of these copper atoms could be considered an actual piece of copper. An atom is not a solid piece of material. The atom itself contains a nucleus in the center which has a positive electrical charge. Traveling around the nucleus in elliptical rings are electrons which have a negative electrical charge. Every electron has the same mass and the same negative charge. There will normally be just enough electrons in the atom to balance the positive charge of the nucleus.


In the diagram below, you will notce that each ring can only contain a certain amount of electrons. The first ring can house 2 electrons, the second ring can hold 8 electrons, the third ring can handle 18 electrons and the fourth ring can hold 32 electrons.

The copper atom's nucleus has a positive charge of 29 in the nucleus. There are typically 29 electrons within the copper atom. With that said, the fourth ring will only house one electron.


When the outer ring of electrons in an atom is filled to the maximum amount possible, that atom will be very stable electronically and chemically. It is almost impossible to remove an electron or to force in an electron.  If the outer ring only has one electron in it, than that electron is not held very closely to the atom and can be easily moved out of its position into space or another atom. This will leave the atom short of one electron to neutralize the positive charge of its nucleus. This will leave the atom with a positive charge.

This is the reason copper wire is so widely used in the electronics industry. It is highly conductive due to its makeup.


If you are interested in taking the NICET CBT exam for fire alarms, then we have you covered!  We are now selling our CBT Levels 1 - 3 practice exam DVDs.  These DVDs are packed with tons of NICET CBT practice exams along with all code references as to where to find the answers.  We have also supplied the DVDs with all of the necessary NICET applications, CBT calculator demonstrations, links and more.  If you need more information, feel free to send an email.  You can find the link to purchase our DVDs on the top left section of each page on this site.


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Using a Manometer on a System Sensor D4120

A Manometer is an electronic device commonly referred to as a liquid column hydro-static instrument.  A Manometer measures pressure and vacuum within the actual System Sensor D4120 duct smoke detector.  Now they can be used with other manufacturer's duct detectors but for this example we will stick with the System Sensor D4120

Manometer Testing Duct Smoke DetectorThe Manometer we chose to use is very simple to operate.  It is manufactured by SDI.  Simply connect the two provided hoses with variable size end plugs and power it on.  Once on hold down the "hold" button for three seconds to zero out the machine.  Sort of like a scale.  Now press the "unit" button until you arrive at the selection of "inH2O" on the bottom left of the screen.

Now you will notice that the two hoses are connected to specific ports.  One is marked as negative and the other positive.  Make sure to place the hose end of the positive into the actual sample tube inlet.  The negative tube will go into the exhaust port. 

With the System Sensor D4120 duct detector you will be looking for a reading of anywhere between 0.01 min and 1.11 max.

I don't expect you will be coming across this very often as the mechanical contractor usually will install the duct mounted smoke detector therefor being responsible for testing it with a Manometer.  However, now if someone asks, you can say you know what a Manometer is.

Ground Fault found On PAM Relay Leg


Today I had the pleasure of working on a Saturday. It was a service call to track down and locate a ground fault on a Fire Lite FCPS24 NAC power supply. This ground fault is the reason another company felt it was necessary to disconnect the NAC circuit from the main fire control panel to the NAC circuit power supply. Read about here.
System Sensor PR-1 Relay

We traced out the ground fault on the negative power wire (constant power used for global HVAC shut down) to the rooftop air conditioning units. Upon a close examination of the unit with the ground fault we found that the 120VAC power leg (black) wire on the PAM-1 relay had been pinched in between the 4 S box and cover.

In this case our fire alarm control panel or FCPS24 NAC power supply was powering up the PAM-1 relays. This mean we connected our constant power to the Red (positive) and White (common) wires on the PAM-1 relay. Therefore the black wire is not used. However, the 120VAC lead (black wire) can still transfer a ground fault through the coil.

Always make sure to cap off the black lead and ensure it is not grounded out when using the PAM-1 relay for HVAC shutdown, elevator recall, door holder, etc.

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New UL Smoke Alarm Requirements in California

I just attended the monthly CAFAA (California Automatic Fire Alarm Association) meeting and was surprised to find out the new requirements set forth by UL for single and multi-station smoke alarms.  Now these are just for the smoke alarms in household applications.  Not to be confused with system smoke detectors (tied to a building fire alarm system).  The State of California has let a crazy requirement slip through and become adopted for these stand alone household smoke alarms to take effect January 1, 2014.  Get this, the smoke alarms are now required to have the following:
UL Underwriters Laboratories
  1. If the stand alone single station or multi-station smoke alarm is battery operated, the battery has to be sealed in the detector, non-removable, and have a lifetime of 10 years.
  2. The smoke alarm has to be monitored for end of life
  3. The smoke alarm has to have the manufacture date and installation date clearly visible
  4. The smoke alarm must have a Hush feature
Now some manufactures have smoke alarms out there that have some of these features including the Hush feature, 10 year battery and manufacture/installation dates.  Now the tricky one is the monitoring for "End of Life".  The California State Fire Marshall's (CSFM) office reads this as the necessity to provide smoke detectors tied to a building fire alarm system as they can be monitored for dirty sensing elements.  I read it differently.  Manufacturers such as Kidde have detectors with a 10 year battery life.  With that said, the detector will chirp when the battery is at a low level indicating in my mind, "End of Life".  If the detector starts to chirp, it is notifying you that the battery is near dead resulting in the "End of Life" for the smoke alarm detector.

The CSFM has also stated that these requirements are not going to be in affect for wireless battery operated smoke alarms as they report back to a fire alarm system.

Any thoughts on this?

    UL Requires Site Specific 2-Wire Smoke Detector Compatability

    Word on the street is that UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is stating new requirements for the certification in listing compatibility for 2-wire smoke detectors.  If you or your customers have a an FACP (fire alarm control panel) with 2-wire conventional smoke detectors you may be affected by this.

    2-Wire i3 System Sensor Smoke DetectorIf you have the need to replace 2-wire smoke detectors on your existing fire alarm control panel and cannot find UL listed detectors, then you need to know this:   UL is toying with the idea of site specific testing for the certification in listing 2-wire smoke detectors.

    What does this mean for you or your customers?

    Answer:  In the case of an older panel that does not have 2-wire smoke detectors Listed for compatibility, you will have to pay UL to come out to the site and perform their testing.  Now this is not set in stone but it seems pretty crazy to me.  I am not sure of the pricing for this so-called certification process but I know one thing, "It can'y be cheap!".

    At this point, you have to ask your customer or yourself, at what point do you seriously consider upgrading your fire life safety system?  I am reasonably sure the this testing process from UL will impact your customers budget as well as their schedule.

    Like I said, earlier, this is just the word on the street and I cannot verify any of this information.  With that said, it is something to consider and look into if you are currently in this situation.

    CCTV Cameras that Look Like Smoke Detectors are They Allowed?

    Are CCTV Cameras inside of Smoke Detectors Allowed by Code?


    There are a lot of people that asking me if it is permitted to install look-a-like devices along with an approved fire alarm system.  This is mainly the case with CCTV cameras designed to look like fire alarm system smoke detectors of smoke alarms.  Now to the trained eye of a seasoned technician, it is always easy to spot these devices as they do not look like any of the system smoke detector or smoke alarm brands we have grown accustom to.

    Customers like these CCTV Smoke Detector devices because it gives them the sense of security without having to display an obvious CCTV camera.  Most of the time, I feel that these are used in the situation where an owner wants to keep an eye on his or her employees.   If the  CCTV camera is hidden inside of a smoke detector, then the employees would be unaware they are being filmed and may be caught performing unlawful acts and then fired.  In the case of preventing robbery I believe you should have an obvious CCTV camera in plain sight.  This will act as a deterrent and possibly prevent any acts of theft in the first place.

    Smoke Detector with CCTV CameraNow on to the question at hand.  Are these Smoke Detector Cameras permitted to be installed along side an approved fire alarm system?  Some people say no as they provide a false sense of security in the event of a fire emergency while others say it is just fine as it is not tied to or part of the system.

    The International Fire Code 2015 (IFC) section 901.4.5 - Appearance of Equipment.  "Any device that has the physical appearance of a life safety or fire protection equipment that does not perform that life safety or fire protection function, shall be prohibited."

    Now this is like anything else.  Always check with your local AHJ.  Typically these discrete Smoke Detector CCTV cameras will be installed after the initial fire alarm inspection and won't be seen by the AHJ.  If you notice one of these discrete smoke detector camera during a semi or annual fire alarm device test, note it down and discuss with the local AHJ.  I believe that if everyone is on the same page and you have it well documented in your Fire Alarm Inspection and Testing paperwork, then you are covered.


    If you are interested in taking the NICET Test for "fire alarms" or "Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarms", then we have you covered!  We are now selling our CBT Levels 1 - 4 NICET practice test with preparation material.  This material is packed with tons of NICET practice test questions along with all code references as to where to find the answers.  We have also supplied the material with all of the necessary NICET applications, CBT calculator demonstrations, links and more.  If you need more information, feel free to send an email.  You can find the link to purchase our NICET Practice Test on the top left section of this site.

    UUKL Smoke Control For Fire Alarms

    UUKL Smoke Control PanelUL (Underwriters Laboratories) has a section titled 864.  ANSI/UL-864 is the section that covers "Standards for Control Units and Accessories for Fire Alarms".  ANSI/UL 864 is currently on its 9th revision.  Published on September 30, 2003 with a current effective date of December 31, 2008, the new edition incorporates approximately 300 changes, including 100 pages of new requirements from the previous edition.


    With that said, UUKL is a separate listing category under UL 864.  Control devices used in smoke control systems have a UUKL listing.  UL's UUKL listing is a category under UL 864, Control Units and Accessories for Fire Alarm Systems.  UUKL is for products covered under the description "Smoke Control Equipment."  Equipment that receives UL's UUKL rating has been tested for integrity and long term reliability.  The equipment is subjected to extreme temperatures, humidity  and electrical transients and surges. This testing ensures that the devices will continuously perform even under severe and abnormal conditions.

    A UUKL Smoke Control System is a combination of fan, dampers, warning devices, relays and modules that all work together to perform the containment function of any smoke event at any location in a building.  If the UUKL Smoke Control System is design correctly it should inhibit and or prevent the movement of smoke into areas leading to exits or other areas designated safe zones in a building.

    Read more about UUKL Smoke Control Panels HERE.


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    Water Flow, Backflow, OSY, Tamper Switch

    Wet system (fire sprinkler lines) is constantly filled with water as opposed to a dry system such as a pre-action system (we will talk about these later). The water in the sprinkler line is monitored by a pressure gauge usually located near the main fire riser and waterflow switch.

    Also you will find a tamper switch located in strategic places as to separate the system into different sections as needed for maintenance and or emergencies. These will be typically located on each level of a facility. There are sure to be additional locations but it stickily depends on the layout of the facility and sprinkler system.
    Fire Sprinkler Backflow OS&Y
    Another key item to point out in wet system installations is the Backflow Preventer also known as an OS&Y (outside screw and yoke). This contraption reduces the city back pressure from causing a false alarm signal at the water flow device.

    To make things simple for this post we will assume we have a water flow switch on each floor off the facility. The water flow device is mounted onto the main portion of the riser before any sprinkler heads. Attached to the water flow switch is a large flapper that is inserted into the riser pipe. Once the system is filled with water and is holding pressure, the water flow paddle holds firm.

    How it all works:

    Once a sprinkler head reaches its destruction point it pops and opens up the valve attached the the fire sprinkler system. Now that the stored water has a place to escape it pours out with extreme pressure to suppress the fire. While this water is pouring out, it needs to be replaced. With the water pressure coming into the sprinkler system the water is replaced one for one. Once this cycle starts, the flapper behind the water flow switch is activated just like a light switch. As required by NFPA 72 the Water Flow switch shall initiate an alarm within 90 seconds. This adjustment can be achieved by tuning a small dial on the water flow device itself. In case you are wondering, the 90 second delay is to help prevent nuisance alarms from leaks, water surges, city back pressure, etc.  Also located on the water flow switch is two sets of dry contacts. One of these sets will be used for the 120VAC switch leg to the sprinkler bell and the other is to be used for the connection to the fire alarm control panel for the purpose of alerting the occupants and central station dispatch.  This is a very simple explanation of how a wet fire sprinkler system works. Let me know if you would like more details.  It is also nice to note that the movies always have it wrong. They seem to think that if one sprinkler head bursts that they all go. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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    System Sensor D4120 Duct Detectors Connected the Right Way

    If you are involved in the fire alarm industry then chances are you have come across conventional 4-wire duct smoke detectors. Now with new technology, addressable versions of these duct detectors have made connections, wire pulling and programming a lot easier.  Not to mention the cost savings.  In this article, I want to cover the proper method for connecting multiple 4-wire conventional duct smoke detectors on one single IDC (Initiating Device Circuit).  This could be a connection directly off of a conventional loop card or even an addressable monitor module.
    Fire Alarm Duct Detector

    For reference, we are going to be covering the connections on the System Sensor D4120 model duct detector as this is the most common version used by mechanical contractors.  Also note that the System Sensor D4120 is the replacement for the DH100ACDCLP.  The reason to mentioned this is the fact that System Sensor was smart when creating the newer D4120 by carrying over the same terminal numbers for the connections on the board.  If you were used to connecting to the DH100ACDCLP then you know the alarm contacts were on terminals #4 and #5. Well even though the terminals on the D4120 are not in the same location, they have the same numbers.

    When connecting one conventional duct smoke detector, we know that we have to wire the EOL (end of line) resistor in series through the supervisory contacts #3 and #14.  This is a method that is absolutely necessary as it is the only way to properly supervise the detector and IDC.  If the duct detector losses power, has the cover opened, dirty sensor, or a internal wiring problem between the board and the sensor, the supervisory contacts will open thus creating an open circuit and a trouble at the FACP.

    Now if we have multiple duct smoke detectors on a single IDC loop, then we need to make sure we wire the EOL resistor in series through all of the detectors on the loop.  This means running an additional pair of wires during the rough in stage.  One pair of wires will be for the IDC (alarm contacts #4 and #5), the second pair will be for the EOL and supervisory contacts (#3 and #4) and the last pair will be for the 24 volts DC resettable power.  Please note that one of the wires on the supervisory pair will run all the way from the last duct detector (terminal #5) on the loop to the first (terminal #14), while the second wire of the pair connects the supervisory contacts of each detector (#3 to #14) on the loop.



    If you were to wire the IDC pair through all of the alarm contacts and place the EOL resistor in series through the supervisory contacts on the last duct detector only what would happen?  The answer is, each duct detector would go into alarm, however only the wiring/circuit would be monitored for integrity.  If you do not wire the resistor through each of the detectors supervisory contacts, you are not monitoring the status of the detector itself.  An example would be:  you have three System Sensor D4120 duct detectors on a single loop.  Coming off of your addressable monitor module, you are landing on the alarm contacts of all three detectors.  When you get to the third detector you wire the EOL resistor in series through the supervisory contacts.  Technically the third device is the only detector on the loop that is properly supervised.  If the first duct detector had a loose cover and the second had lost power, you would never know as long as the third device was working properly.  You and the FACP would only know of a trouble on the first two detectors if the third detector had a fault.  This is why it is so important to follow this method.

    Key Note***** Make sure to always meter out the supervisory contacts as different duct smoke detector manufacturers label them differently.  Sometimes the contacts reverse when powered up.  In the case of the System Sensor D4120, the resistor is wired through the Common and Normally Open contacts.  Once the unit is powered up and free of any faults, the contacts will reverse and close up and complete the circuit. 

    Keep in mind that this method is also required when wiring any other fire alarm device that has separate supervisory or trouble contacts.  The big one to mention is beam detectors.

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    Notifier FirstVision Touchscreen Annunciator

    Notifier FirstVision

    Notifier ONYX Series FirstVision

    For a while now, Notifier has had a beautiful touchscreen fire alarm annunciator titled ONYX FirstVisionFirstVision annunciator they will be able to quickly and accurately locate the device(s) in alarm.  With that said, the programmer and system installer can also distinguish valuable information right on the First Vision screen.  Information such as what types of potential hazards are located in the rooms.  Is there paint, gas, chemicals?  Before it was almost impossible to know.  Notifier has now outdone themselves once again with this beautiful and effective FirstVision fire alarm annunciator.  Two other nice features are the two USB jumpers from the Notifier FirstVision to the cabinet.  This makes it nice for programming.  The other is the automatic locking solenoid for the enclosure door.  If there is a fire alarm condition, the Notifier FirstVision door will automatically unlock itself so that the fire department or first responders can easily go to work.

    This annunciator boasts a 19" LCD display which not only shows the system condition, but the actual floor plans of the facility and the location of each device.  On top of the fire alarm devices, you can also display the location of items such as: roof access, gas shut off, locked doors, areas of refuge, HVAC shut off, etc.  This tool is unbelievably valuable to the first responders as it drastically reduces research time.  When the fire department responds to a fire in a facility with a Notifier ONYX series fire alarm system.




    Here is some info to help you understand it size and current listings.

    Cabinet Size:  24.63" W x 22.03" H x 3.47" D
    Door Dimensions:  26" W x 22.75" H x 1.016 cm D
    Power Requirements:  24VDC @ 3.0 amps, Regulated, filtered and non-resettable
    UL/ULC Listed #S5697
    MEA: 286-07-E
    CSFM: 7300-1525:0103
    FDNY: COA#6070

    If you would like additional information on the ONYX First Vision touchscreen annunciator, contact Pyro-Comm Systems, Inc.  They are a NESCO affiliate for Notifier with extremely knowledgeable staff to answer your questions.

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