An FSCI update from Keith S. Frangiamore, FSCI President
Communication, Improvements and Involvement!
As a division of PSI, the FSCI management team joined PSI for their annual “Coordinators’ Meeting” in Elk Grove Village, IL. Larry Robbins, vice president of PSI, led the all-day meeting which included employee awards, training from both PSI staff members and outside presenters, as well as various management related discussions. We delivered a half-hour presentation introducing our team and services.
This Spring and Summer, FSCI embarked on two major customer service improvements included within the FSCI website. First, the Online Fee Schedule will enable contractors to estimate FSCI fees for various projects. Second, the Pay Now, powered by PayPal, feature allows clients and customers to pay using credit cards. Look for these new features coming soon.
In follow-up to the tragic events at the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Sadly, the shooter manually activated the fire alarm to draw students from the classrooms into the hallways.
As a result of this event, school and fire officials met to find solutions and alternatives, such as delaying the fire alarm signal. V.P. Warren Olsen was invited to speak to school and fire officials. He educated the leaders on the fire code and shared potential alternatives to manual fire alarms.
As a member of the Education and Day-Care chapters of the Life Safety Code this issue is of great interest. Our NFPA Committee is working to include new code changes for the 2021 edition in August. This issue will now be specifically addressed by a separate, new standard, NFPA 3000 Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Program (ASHER). NFPA 3000 just recently became available from NFPA (May, 2018).
In May, I also participated in the NFPA 1201 Standard for Providing Fire and Emergency Services to the Public and NFPA 1250 Recommended Practice in Fire and Emergency Service Organization Risk Management first draft meetings for the upcoming 2020 editions in Denver, CO. In June, Warren Olsen presented a seminar at and participated in the NFPA annual conference in Las Vegas, NV.
Fire Alarm System Wiring
Final inspections of fire alarm systems often are centered on the required inspection and testing of 100 percent of all installed equipment as this is a requirement of Chapter 14 of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. While getting this completed is a noble accomplishment for often short-handed authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ), very often the final inspection does not include a critical look at the wiring which connects the fire alarm control unit (FACU) with the devices, appliances and control equipment. The following looks at the some of the key circuit and pathway requirements for fire alarm systems.
NFPA 72, Chapter 12 (Circuits and Pathways), provides the performance requirements, including survivability, for all fire alarm circuit classes (A, B, C, D, E, N and X). For the installation of the circuits NFPA 72 references NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC). The exact referenced edition of the NEC is dependent on the edition of NFPA 72 being enforced within a jurisdiction. We will look at the requirements from the 2017 edition of the NEC which will be referenced in the 2019 edition of NFPA 72 which will be published in September of 2018.
NEC, Article 760, provides the requirements for the installation of fire alarm system wiring and equipment including all circuits controlled by the fire alarm system (760.1). Within this article are references to other articles and section within the NEC. Since most fire alarm circuits are currently metallic conductors, this article will concentrate on the requirements for these types of circuits. However, some of the requirements mentioned might also apply to non-metallic conductors.
Article 760 is divided into four sections:
- Part I – General
- Part II – Non-Power Limited Fire Alarm (NPLFA) Circuits
- Part III- Power-Limited Fire Alarm (PLFA) Circuits
- Part IV – Listing Requirements
Part I includes requirements from other articles within the NEC which also apply to fire alarm system circuits. For instance, Article 300.4(E) states that cables, raceways and boxes installed concealed or exposed under metal corrugated sheet roof decking shall be supported with not less than 1.5 inches separating the lowest part of the roof surface and the top of the conduit, raceway or conduit. This is to prevent roofing nails from piercing the roof deck and penetrating wiring and boxes. Typically, this is relatively easy to observe from the floor or by lifting ceiling tiles, but not always.
Article 300.22 requires that wiring used in ducts, plenums, and other spaces used for environmental air (un-ducted plenums) must be appropriately listed for use in these areas. Normally, FPLP cable is used for these installations, but the inspector must first understand if the space being inspected requires plenum cables in the first place. To do this, a review of the approved plans should provide assistance with determining the need for plenum cable assuming that the mechanical system was installed as originally shown during the plan review process.
Other sections which might affect the fire alarm system identified in Article 760, Part I, include those covering Articles 500 through 516 and part of Article 517 covering hazardous (classified) locations. Additionally, Sections 110.11, 300.5(B), 300.9, 310.10(G) would cover applications where fire alarm circuits or pathways may be exposed to wet, damp or corrosive situations or locations. An example of this, would be where fire alarm circuits extend beyond a building to an outside post indicting valve. FPL cable (the commonly used “red fire wire”) is not approved for direct burial applications or outside even when installed in conduit or a liquid-tight raceway unless specifically listed for this application.
Circuits associated with emergency control interfaced systems (Phase I elevator call, fan shutdown, etc.) are often regulated by Article 725. Where circuits are exposed to differing temperatures such as pathways entering large refrigerated or freezer enclosures, Section 300.7(A) requires that raceways and sleeves shall be filled with an approved material to prevent warm air from mixing with cold air and producing condensation on the wiring.
Section 300.19 requires vertical support of conductors and fire rated cables. The NEC provides Table 300.19(A) for guidance on when support is required. For cooper fire alarm conductors up to 18 AWG, support bushings or cleats must be provided for vertical support every 100 feet.
While often not a problem for most fire alarm circuits, there are fill rules which must be adhered to when conduit, or other raceways, are used to enclose fire alarm conductors. The NEC limits the number of conductors which may be pulled through a certain sized conduit or raceway based on the conductor type. Fire alarm designers and installers must refer to Section 300.17 which provides guidance when this may be an installation issue.
Where ends of a raceway exist, Section 300.15(C) requires that a bushing be provided to protect the insulation of conductors entering or leaving the raceway. This condition is commonly seen where small sections of raceways or sleeves are used within walls or floors as a circuit passes from side to side, or from one floor to another; and, when mechanical protection of circuits within 7 feet of the floor ends above that level.
Support of conductors is a common issue on job sites. The requirements for the proper support of fire alarm conductors can be in Articles 300 or Article 760. Besides the requirement in 760.24(A) that fire alarm work shall be neat and workmanlike, Section 760.21 addresses the situation where conductors and cables are left lying on the top of lay-in ceiling tiles. The accumulation of fire alarm conductors and cables cannot prevent the ceiling panels from being removed.
Section 300.11 addresses the need to support circuits above suspended ceilings. The support wires to maintain the suspended ceiling cannot be used to attach the fire alarm conductors except under two permitted conditions: 1) For non-rated ceiling assemblies, where permitted in the ceiling manufacturer’s installation instructions; and 2) For fire-rated assemblies, only when the assembly has been tested with cables and conductors attached to the support wires. In both cases, the inspector should ask for the manufacturer’s documentation from the installing contractor. When documentation cannot be provided, separate support wires would be required, which are attached at the ceiling and at the ceiling grid, to support conductors traveling from the ceiling down to a device or appliance. These separate supports must be clearly identified by color, tagging or other effective means so as not to be confused with the required ceiling grid support wires. The National Electrical Code Handbook provides (300.11(A)) as an excellent illustration of this requirement.
Section 300.11(C) makes it clear that fire alarm cables and raceways cannot be supported by other cables or raceways using straps, tapes or other means. The intent of the NEC is that the building structure is to be used for cable and raceway support. Normally, this is accomplished by using bridle rings or zip-ties, supports cannot damage the cable. Where fire-rated Circuit Integrity Cable (CI) is used, steel supports must be used every 24 inches except that with 7 feet of the floor the support must be every 18 inches (760,24(B)). For non-CI fire alarm cable, support must be provided every 18 inches when located within 7 feet of the floor. There is no requirement for support, other than the installation be neat and workmanlike, when you get above 7 feet.
Where cables and raceways are installed parallel to framing members (vertical or horizontal/exposed or concealed) they must be located not less than 1.25 inches from the nearest edge of the framing member to prevent possible penetration of the conductors by nails or screws. Where this is not possible, a steel plate, sleeve or equivalent protection can be used as protection.
Red conduit or raceway, while required in some jurisdictions, is not required in the NEC to identify fire alarm circuits. Section 760.30 does require terminal locations and junction boxes to be marked to clearly identify the contents as fire alarm equipment. The intent is to prevent unnecessary trouble signals caused by contractors exploring within the box when working on other systems.
Inspectors of fire alarm system should closely check that the fire alarm conductors installed match those shown on the approved fire alarm plans. Part III, Section 760.130, provides the requirements for power-limited circuits typically seen for IDC, SLC and NAC circuits. Normally, inspectors will see power-limited fire alarm cable (FPL) being used. This type of cable comes in wiring marked FPL for general-use, FPLR for riser-use (when traveling vertically through more than two floors), and FPLP for plenum—use. Inspectors should also closely check that the correct gauge of wire is being used.
Power-limited wiring can be installed in raceways, exposed on walls and ceilings or fished within concealed locations (760.130(B)). Cable splices or terminations must be made within listed fittings, boxes, devices or appliances, or utilization equipment. Power-limited wiring must be protected against physical damage when located within 7 feet of the floor by conduit, or building construction (baseboards, door frames, fished in walls), and supported every 18 inches. Wiring passing through walls or floors must also be mechanically protected.
Inspectors should also not forget to check for openings made in fire-rated assemblies made to install fire alarm wiring systems. Any openings must be protected with through penetration fire stop assemblies or membrane protection in accordance with the applicable building code. Installing fire caulk into an opening around FPL cable or conduit might not effectively close the opening in the eyes of the building code and the building inspector.
Warren E. Olsen, CFPS CBO
Vice President Building and Life Safety, Chairperson NFPA 72, Chapter 26 Supervising Station Alarm Systems
Congratulations to Warren Olsen for being awarded the NFPA Special Achievement Award! Warren was recognized for his active role as Chair of the Technical Committee on Supervising Station Fire Alarm and Signaling Systems, for NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Warren received his award and was recognized at the 2018 NFPA Annual Conference & Expo this past June.
- Totie Leonardo passed both the ICC Building Plans Examiner and Inspector exams.
- Scott Kunzie passed the NICET Level 1 Fire Alarms exam in March of 2018.
- Scott McBride and Hannah Kinney passed the NICET Level 1 Water Based Systems in May and June of 2018 respectively.
Little Known Facts
NFPA 17A – Field Verification Issues
When doing plan reviews for wet chemical fire systems using NFPA 17A, Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems, there are frequently items that cannot be verified until the final inspection. Verification of the appliance location, nozzle type and aim point are the most common items to be checked in the field. Perhaps two of the most overlooked items are found in Section 184.108.40.206 which requires that the manual pull station activate the system with not more than 14″ of movement. Many times when testing a system the activation is done as one quick action and the cable length is not always noted by the inspector. Also overlooked on many inspections is Section 5.6.4 which states that movable cooking equipment shall be provided with a means to ensure correct repositioning in relation to the appliance nozzle. Floor guides are a way to ensure that the equipment is returned to the correct position. Movable does not mean that the appliance has to have wheels. Many appliances without wheels can be easily moved. Floor guides are often installed on the back legs/wheels to reduce the amount of debris build up from cooking operations. When placing the floor guides, it is often a best practice to use the sticky tape provided for initial placement only. Then, use the permanent fasteners provided to the secure the guides to the floor. As with any plan review and inspection, one is reliant upon the other to ensure that the system is designed, installed and operational as required by the applicable code and the manufacturer’s published instructions.
Angie Dayfield, Fire Protection Consultant
NFPA 72 2016 – Total (Complete) Detection Coverage
The 2016 addition of NFPA 72 includes many changes, additions and clarifications. One of these changes includes a change to the areas to be protected under terms total (complete) detection as it relates to smoke and/or heat detection. The 2013 edition of the code defines total coverage as providing detection in all “rooms, halls, storage areas, basements, attics, lofts, spaces above suspended ceilings, and other subdivisions and accessible spaces, as well as the inside of all closets, elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts, and chutes”. In Sub-section 220.127.116.11 of the 2016 edition, the following areas have been removed: “…inside of all closets, elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts, and chutes.” The explanatory material in the NFPA 72 Handbook explains that the reason for the change by indicating that “closets are generally small limited content areas and can be served with adequate detection by other total coverage detectors located outside any closets”. The Handbook also states that “elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts and chutes are unique for different buildings and are subject to special detection requirements and should not be subject to requirements for total coverage”. Design criteria for elevator shafts can be found in Section 21.4 and is aligned with ANSI A17.1.
Scott Kunzie – Fire Protection Consultant
NFPA 17A – Wet Chemical Systems; Additional Things to Field Verify
There are 10 key points per the 2013 edition of NFPA 17A, Section 6.4 that an inspector should remember. These points include: 1) Verifying the appliances, hoods and ducts are properly protected and installed per manufacturer’s specifications; 2) Verifying the piping and nozzles are properly sized and secured; 3) Verifying the appliances and their locations are the same as on the approved drawings; 4) Witnessing of the piping integrity test which consists of checking the tightness of all piping followed by introducing nitrogen or dry air at normal operating pressure into the piping system to verify that all nozzles can discharge the gas. No hydrostatic test is required; 5) Verifying required labels and instructions are provided; 6) Verifying that the system is connected to the building alarm system, if one is provided within the building; 7) Verifying that the manual release devices are readily accessible and properly identified; 8) A witnessing of the system operational tests which shall include the operation of all automatic detection and manual releasing devices, the automatic gas shut off, the shunt-tripping of electrical power, and the shutdown of makeup air supply to the hood; 9) Verifying that the releasing control panel is on a dedicated circuit and labeled, readily accessible with limited unauthorized access; 10) Verifying that the system is placed in full service by the contractor, which includes the reconnection of the extinguishing agent tanks, notifying the monitoring agency, providing the owner with a copy of all manufacturer’s specifications and manuals and, if applicable, providing a signed acceptance test report to the AHJ.
Scott McBride – Fire Protection Consultant
Stay up to date on the latest Fire, Building and Life Safety code changes and equipment by attending one of our seminars. FSCI is teaching seminars throughout the United States, led by our experienced staff of Matt Davis, Keith Frangiamore, Brent Gooden, George Michehl & Warren Olsen. Whether you are a Contractor, Architect, Technician, Engineer or an Authority Having Jurisdiction, each seminar is full of practical insights and first-hand experiences to help you comply with applicable codes and standards. FSCI can also provide custom seminars at your location. Be sure to check out our schedule of upcoming seminars on our website. Contact us to learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling our office at (847) 697-1300.