Non-required Fire Alarm Systems

A non-required fire alarm system is a fire alarm system that is installed at the option of the building owner and is not installed to meeting a building or fire code requirements. A non-required fire alarm system is installed voluntarily by the building owner to meet specific fire protection goals that are not required by the governing codes. The system must be designed and installed to meet all applicable requirements, and the design intent is required to be documented.

Consider a building that does not require a fire alarm system. The building owner identifies a room in the building that he wishes to be protected by automatic smoke detection and report signals to a supervising station. The building owner does not wish to install a complete fire alarm system in the entire building and only wishes to provide smoke detection for the one room. This would be acceptable per NFPA 72.

First, it is important to remember that codes are a minimum standard. Codes state the minimum requirements to be met to comply. Since codes are a minimum standard, going above the minimum standard is generally acceptable. Since the building does not require a fire alarm system, installing a system of any kind exceeds the requirements of the code.

The smoke detector installed in the room that building owner identifies can protect an area that does not exceed its listing. Smoke detectors have an accepted coverage of 30’, so a single smoke detector can protect an area that is 30’ x 30’. Utilizing the 0.7 Rule, this coverage can be rectangular (for example 41’ x 10’), but the requirement that all points along the ceiling cannot be greater than 0.7 times the spacing (30’ x 0.7 = 21’) applies.

If the room being protected by the detector is larger than 30’ x 30’, additional detectors will be required. If the room is larger than the coverage area of the detector, the detector may protect a part of that room (not to exceed the coverage area of the detector), but it must be made clear in the documentation.

Additionally, the detector in the room or area cannot “protect” the entire building if it is larger than the coverage area of the smoke detector. For example, if the room or space being protected is 500 s.f., and the entire building is 10,000 s.f., the detector cannot claim to “protect” the entire building.

The non-required fire alarm system is not required to meet any of the other requirements of a building fire alarm system. Since the system is not required, a manual fire alarm box, audible and visible notification appliances, or even smoke detector above the panel are required. Since the building code requirement is zero for these items (the building does not require a fire alarm system), none would be required.

However, all equipment installed for this system is required to meet the requirements of NFPA 72. The control panel used must be appropriately listed (a household fire alarm panel or burglar alarm panel could not be used). Any components installed would be required to be installed per the requirements of their listing and NFPA 72. For example, if a pull station were used, it would need to meet the mounting height requirements of NFPA 72.

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