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another fire alarm grandfathering question
May 20, 2017
another fire alarm grandfathering question [follow up to May 12, 2017 article]
  I want to get some information on the "Grandfathering" of fire alarm systems from Dave Miller. Although this is not the restaurant he had spoke of, I wanted another designers opinion on my issue. I recently lost a bid to update the fire alarm system in a five story sprinkler protected apartment building. The existing system was a much older and a proprietary fire alarm system that had only two smoke detectors in each rather large luxury apartment units which there are two units per floor. No smoke detectors in the bedrooms only the large hallway. The previous company also had a specially designed home made non-UL listed silence switch that would allow each tenant unit to silence their unit horn strobes (three per unit) if the system activated. They had a button they could press in each apartment to silence the horn strobes just in their unit. It is basically a latching relay to open their horn strobe circuit so they could go back to sleep while the rest of the building was in alarm. I was not going to re-use this switch and relay. I did my usual call the plan review person at the building department and spoke to a man who said I needed to install the 520hz sounders in the bedrooms even though this was just a fire alarm update. There were three other rooms that could easily become bedrooms so I quoted the 520hz horn strobes there as well. The 520hz horn strobe in the bedroom was within 16 feet of the pillow with a 177candella strobe.
  Even though this was just a fire alarm upgrade do you agree it was necessary to add the 520hz sounders even since the AHJ stated it was needed? I am assuming the winning bid who is also the existing company with the proprietary system is not getting a permit for the update although I have no proof of that its just a theory I have. I am not loosing any sleep on this and in fact, I actually sleep better not having any jobs like this. I was curious about how far the term "Grandfathering" can really go on a fire panel update in view of newer code requirements.      
Name withheld please.
    Dave and others are welcome to respond.
    All grandfathering means is that there is no legal requirement to submit new plans and specifications for approval.  That is probably governed by the Building Department who may work with the Fire Department, together the AHJ.  If no approval or permit is required then whatever is there ends up being grandfathered.  There could also be a "grandfathering" provision in the local codes and regulations that will permit an existing structure and appurtenants to remain even though some additional work is going to be done and requires a permit.  That may include an existing fire alarm, though that would surprise me since it's life safety issue.  


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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
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