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Responses to technical fire alarm question
November 22,  2019
Responses to technical fire alarm question from November 11, 2019
            re using the DSC Neo panel for fire.  
            NJAC 5:23-6.8 and by reference 2015 International Building Code, New Jersey Edition;
[F] 907.1 General. This section covers the application, installation, performance and maintenance of fire alarm systems and their components.
[F] 907.1.3 Equipment. Systems and components shall be listed and approved for the purpose for which they are installed.
            The [F] indicates these code sections are also in the 2015 International Fire Code which is adopted in New Jersey as well.
            Hope that helps,
John Drucker
Fire and Electrical Subcode Official
New Jersey
            Good question Matt, and thanks for sharing with everyone.  Ken gave
a great answer so I’ll just add a couple of things.  
            States have adopted their own codes & “Authority’s Having Jurisdiction”
(AHJ), and every municipality in a state has adopted their own
codes & local AHJ’s.  You can see how this can get confusing! 
            The simple & short answer to your question is, if you install
a fire alarm system in a “non-required” situation as you have
described, you must still follow the adopted codes in that
jurisdiction even if the AHJ says that you don’t.  Don’t get
caught up in a political battle over this.  Follow the adopted
codes and don’t let anyone tell you to do less than that.  
            The adopted codes are the minimum so don’t use any  
“non-commercial” fire alarm equipment in this hardware store. 
That’s the bottom line or you have to walk away because
you are deciding between making a few dollars and life safety. 
After a building fire destroys life and property, you don’t want
to stand in front of a judge or jury trying to explain why you
didn’t follow the minimum code requirements.  This is a
life safety matter and the codes & standards are clearly
laid out for us to follow!
 Thank you,
Terry Crandall
Fire Alarms
            To be blunt, and in this litigious society, Matt is literally playing with fire.  NFPA 72 addresses "non-required" detection (Chapter 17).  In summary, it relieves the designer/installer from the spacing requirements.   In other words, if a room's layout would require 3 smoke detectors to meet Code, you can use only 1.  It doesn't, in my opinion, relieve you from all other requirements for Listings, supervision, wiring, battery backup, etc...  I don't know if DSC has a Listed "combination system", but I would encourage you to consider that option, or to use a different manufacturer's combo system.  Make sure the AHJ will allow the use of a combo system.
            I have seen where an AHJ will allow one or two smoke detectors on a burg system, but 10 would be pushing it.  I would encourage you to have that conversation with the AHJ.  And by all means, prepare drawings and submit for approval/permit.
            Finally, just because the AHJ approves what you do, doesn't relieve you of the design responsibility.   You also have to maintain and test the system/detectors, etc...  
            I think you have to bottom line this one.  Are 10 smoke detectors worth placing your business in potential jeopardy,  or at least an expensive and protracted legal situation should it go sideways? I have a client who just took a near miss on this kind of scenario (from before I started doing their fire alarm designs), and the pucker factor was out there for them.
Dave Miller, SET
MCG Design Services
            In response to the fire alarm question from Matt M, it doesn't matter if the commercial building is required to have a fire alarm or not. If a fire alarm is to be installed, it MUST be per the NFPA 72 which would require a UL Listed fire alarm control and devices. My recommendation for him would be to change the DSC panel to a commercial burg/fire combo panel which would meet the requirements per UL listing and Fire Code.
  Isaac "Ike" Hayden
Dynamic Security Professionals, Inc.
            Responding to Matt who asked for technical advice about installing fire sensors on a non-commercial panel.  I know nothing about fire alarms other than that losses in fires can result in injuries or serious death, and more liability exposure to the alarm company.
            We were asked by the local Probate Court to operate a burg company for an owner with Alzheimer’s.  Even though we are bunch of accountants and bookkeepers, I do have a Texas Burg License and I am a Qualified Manager.  We hired a licensed Alarm Company to provide service and upgrades. 
            We discovered that the owner didn’t have a Fire License but that he had a handful of fire accounts.  We went through the customer list and called each fire customer and gave them three choices.
  *  We would refer them to a licensed Fire Alarm Company to install a conforming system
  *  We would disconnect the fire devices so that the system was burg only.
  *  We would disconnect the entire system
            By the way, the owner had 800 customers and none had signed a contract.  We sent Kirschenbaum Burg Contracts to each of them.
            One customer had a DSC Power 832 panel in a dry cleaner.  It had four burg zones and two fire.  He had the Fire Marshal call me and tell me that the system was acceptable because a fire alarm was not required for that location and “something is better than nothing”.  I told the Fire Marshall that I didn’t want to be sitting on a witness stand after a loss explaining why I continued to monitor that location without a conforming fire system.  I have testified in numerous law suits all over the country (I only represent Alarm Companies, never customers) and have heard plaintiffs’ attorneys rip honest well-meaning people to pieces on the witness stand.  I also considered that if there was a loss that resulted in injury or death that this would affect me deeply. 
            My advice is, even if there are no standards for a particular location, find some and follow them.  Use NFPA Standards, code from an adjoining jurisdiction, something, do your best to conform to some Code.  My other advice, make sure that the customers are all under contract.  In the case above the alarm company had unlimited liability.  The owners may even have found themselves dragged into the case.  It is also probable that the insurance company, who thought that the customer was under contract, and for an Intrusion Alarm, wouldn’t deny coverage.  In this case we purchased Ken’s contracts, circulated them to the 800 customers, and had all but eight under contract within 90 days.  We disconnected the remaining customers and I slept a lot better at night.
 Mitch Reitman
 Reitman Consulting Group
|Fort Worth, TX 76133

            In my 40 years’ experience don’t do it, and if you think you can, get proof in writing from a AHJ (normally a fire marshal) that his gives you permission to put in a partial system. If the AHJ wants Fire Alarm Plans We have a in house drafting team that can help you out.
Jeff Bertuccio Sr
Fire Alarm Plans for the Industry
Alarm Tech Security
(631) 979-4500 ext 145 Drafting Department
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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
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