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A COMPARISON OF FIRE

ALARM SYSTEM
REQUIREMENTS IN THE
US AND UK
James R. Lugar Jr., P.E.
Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc.
SFPE 2012 Savannah, GA
Presentation Objective
Compare fire alarm system design methods and products
commonly used in North America and Europe
This discussion will focus on requirements in the United
States and the United Kingdom
US discussion limited to model codes, current editions as published
UK discussion limited to the scope of the Building Regulations for
England and Wales (for buildings other than dwellings)
Presentation Overview
This presentation will answer the following questions:
How does legislation impact fire alarm design?
What are common fire alarm design practices?
What are common fire alarm system components?
How is the fire service summoned?
Terminology Differences
United States
Fire alarm control unit
(FACU)
Manual fire alarm box
Horn or speaker;
strobe)
Central Station
United Kingdom
Control and Indicating
Equipment (CIE)
Manual call point
Bell, sounder or
speaker; beacon
Alarm receiving centre
Note: Some are also functional differences, which will be discussed
later
Legislation - US
Law
State or local law adopts building and fire codes
Intl Code Council and Natl. Fire Prot. Assoc.
(NFPA)
Code
Intl Bldg. Code or NFPA 101 define level
NFPA 72, Natl. Fire Alarm & Signaling Code
Std.
NFPA 72 ref. other standards for products
Ex.: UL 864 control units, UL 1971 visible signals
Legislation - UK
Law
Building Regulations England and Wales
Provide appropriate provisions for early warning of
fire
Guide
BS 5839 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems for
Bldgs.
Part 1: Code of Practice Provides Recommendations
Implement
BAFE Compliance / LPS 1014 Company
BS EN 54 Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems
Differences in Approach, Generalized
Generally favors active fire protection, and provides mostly
prescriptive requirements to establish the minimum
requirements to safeguard public health, safety, and
welfare.
Generally favors passive fire protection and provides
recommended practices to comply with requirements. For
Means of warning and escape, The building shall be
designed and constructed so that there are appropriate
provisions for the early warning of fire, and appropriate
means of escape in case of fire from the building to a place
of safety outside the building capable of being safely and
effectively used at all material times.
Neither document is intended to restrict alternate methods that provide a
level of safety that is equivalent to the minimum requirements.
What Level of System? - US
Level of alarm is prescriptive
based on inherent hazards of
occupancy classification,
building height, contents, etc.
Fire alarm system is
designed, installed,
inspected, tested, and
maintained per NFPA 72.
In general detectors are
used sparingly fire
detection is primarily via
sprinkler water flow signals
What Level of System? - UK
BS 5839-1 Fire Detection Levels
Type L:
Protection of
Life
L1: Installed throughout the protected building
L2: Installed only in defined parts of the building
L3: Designed for early warning to permit occupant
escape
L4: Installed for protection of escape routes
L5: Installed in specific areas per fire safety
objectives
Type P:
Property
Protection
P1: Installed throughout the protected building
P2: Installed only in defined parts of the building
Type M:
Manual
Manual alarms only no detection provided
Product Approvals
United States
Regulations and model codes
require compliance with NFPA 72
and applicable standards, with
ANSI/UL standards usually cited
as examples
Conformity can be demonstrated
by listing of the product by a
Nationally Recognized Testing
Laboratory (NRTL) as complying
with that standard
Some states require State Fire
Marshal approval (based on
NRTL report) in order to permit
products to be disallowed should
local problems emerge (ex
California)
United Kingdom
Regulations require compliance
with ISO, CEN, or national
standards (in that order)
Example BS EN 54
Conformity can be
demonstrated by the CE mark
authorized by any Notified Body
within the EU
CE mark must be accepted in
any EU member country
regardless of the testing
organization
National testing lab marks signifying
compliance with national standards
may only be recognized in that
country (ex VdS in Germany)
Manual Alarm Initiation
United States
Manual fire alarm box
(pull station)
Usually required but can
be omitted in some
sprinklered occupancies
(with one at an attended
location)
United Kingdom
Manual Call Point (break
glass)
Primary component of fire
alarm system required in
Type L and M installations
(optional Type P)
Detection Zones BS 5839-1
Detectors (and call points) are required to be zoned to
direct responders to the fire
Zone indication provided at the CIE
Also applicable to addressable systems
Recommendations provided for:
General zoning
Maximum floor area
Search distance


No similar requirements provided in US codes.
Alarm Notification - US
Minimum and maximum audibility levels throughout per
NFPA 72
Intelligible speech (voice alarm systems)
Accessibility guidelines require visible notification via
strobes in all public or common use areas
Visible Notification - US
NFPA 72 provides specific
requirements for:
Flash rates and
synchronization
Mounting locations and
heights
Spacing based on strobe
intensity in candelas (cd)
Wall mounted
Ceiling mounted

Wall-mounted
Ceiling-mounted
Alarm Notification - UK
Audible sounders
Provided for Types L
and M, optional Type P
Typical 65dBA min or
5dBA above ambient;
limited areas 60dBA;
75dBA sleeping areas
Voice can be used,
esp. for staged
evacuations
Above: Examples of
sounders from Tyco
Visual Alarm Signals - UK
Used to supplement
audible where deemed
ineffective
Red color preferred;
mount above 2.1m
(82.7 in.)
Can be used for
hearing impaired
tactile devices more
common
Tyco beacon
Tyco beacon integral
with sensor (for
sleeping area)
Fire Alarm System Wiring
Both NFPA 72 and BS 5839-1 include provisions for
protection of circuits and redundancy based on the
inherent hazard, such as:
Separation of circuit types and routing for redundancy
Fire-resistance of wiring for staged evacuations
Adequate support of system wiring

System Wiring, Continued
United States
Wire types can include
plenum, riser, or circuit
integrity (rated)
Protection is part
prescriptive and part
designers discretion. NFPA
72 defines:
Circuit classes based on
redundancy
3 levels of survivability
Ex.: 2 hr. fire resistance
required for selective
evacuations

United Kingdom
Fire alarm wiring is
standard fire resistance or
enhanced fire resistance
Enhanced fire resistance
is recommended for
multiple conditions
including unsprinklered
buildings with staged
evacuations or
unsprinklered high-rise
buildings

Summoning the Fire Service
United States
The fire alarm system is
required to automatically
transmit signals: common
methods include
Central Station
Proprietary Station
NFPA 72 includes specific
transmission requirements
Occupants can also call, but
monitoring is generally
mandatory

United Kingdom
The primary method is by
public emergency call
system
Alarm receiving centres
(ARCs) can be used for
Type L and M when
warranted
ARCs are used for Type P
(property protection)
Any Questions?
Thanks for your participation!
Contact Information:
James R. Lugar Jr., P.E.
Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc.
3384 Peachtree Rd. NE Suite 550
Atlanta, GA 30326
+1 (404) 239-1000
jlugar@rjagroup.com