Are We Required to Use Conduit for All Fire Alarms?
-- Starting out with the NFPA 70 Code, most of the wiring requirements for conduit are with Class III wiring. With Class III wiring, being power limited wiring, it's allowed to be the rules shown in NFPA 70, which is the National Electrical Code, and also in the NFPA 72, which is specifically fire alarm systems...Read More
Can the Fire Alarm Control Panel Trip a Remote NAC Panel?
-- The panel's output to the NAC Circuit (Notification Appliance Circuit) has two conditions. When the panel is not in alarm, the panel is supervising the wiring in the circuit by checking the continuity of the Conventional Class A or Class B wires. A small current is run through one of the wires, the end of line resistor, and back through the other wire. If the current stops because the wire breaks or comes loose, the panel's trouble light and buzzer are turned on... Read More
How do You Program Fire Alarm Systems?
-- To start with, all models of fire alarm system are programmed differently. I don't know of a single source of information that will cover all of them. Mostly the programming manuals for each model has to be consulted. The software is usually user friendly and self-explanatory... Read More
Are Smoke Detectors Needed Above False Ceilings?
-- Occupancy, and the type of fire alarm system that should be installed, is determined by the NFPA 101 or the International Building Code. These books show that one type of occupancy, for instance a gas or petrol station, requires a totally different type of fire alarm system than an apartment building. The books also indicate that for some types of occupancy, total coverage by smoke detectors is required, and pull stations are required at all exits... except if the building has total coverage by a... Read More
Is it Mandatory to use 20.4 Volts for NAC Calculations?
-- To understand the requirements in the code, the question isn't -Is it mandatory to follow the code?-, the question is -Why?-. To understand the -Why- of the requirements, we have to backwards-engineer the requirements. When performing the voltage drop calculations for the Notification Appliance Circuit (NAC), there are two concerns that have to be dealt with before even determining what voltage to use. One is Life-Safety and Reasonableness, and the other is... Read More
What is Required for Different Types of Detector?
-- The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) talks about smoke detectors in terms of the sensitivity of a smoke detector. The smoke detector has to go into alarm if the smoke reaches a certain level of -Obscuration-. Obscuration is how much smoke it takes to block, or obscure, enough light to... Read More
How is a Ground Fault Different from a Pull Station?
-- When the fire alarm system is green light normal, there are no alarms and all wires from the panel to the devices are complete. At this time, the panel is checking continuity of the wires to make sure all devices are connected. It's supervising the wires. The panel is causing a small amount of current to flow out of the panel on one of the screw terminals of the circuit, pushing this current all the way to... Read More
What is an Area of Refuge?
-- You hear the message "Use the Stairs, "you see the sign "In case of fire, don't take the elevator." To get out of the building from the higher floors, when the building is on fire, the stairs ... Read More
Is it Even Legal to Show a Trouble for a Closed Valve?
-- What was common to all of the really old panels was that they were three-condition systems. They were either green-light normal, amber-light trouble, or they were in a red-light fire alarm condition. They did not have the relays or the circuitry to be capable of having a dual-alarm system: in addition to the red-light general alarm, they did have an amber-light supervisory alarm... Read More
What are Some of the Technical Issues for CO Detectors?
-- An issue with carbon monoxide detectors is they have an Expiration Date. It's not the date that is etched in the law, it's the date that it just won't work anymore. Usually, when the carbon monoxide detector has reached the time it won't work anymore, it will somehow indicate trouble... Read More
How Do I Find this Intermittent Ground Fault?
-- The ground fault may be there all the time, just not bad enough to always turn on the ground fault light. Sometimes the ground fault is worse, turning on the ground fault light- sometimes the ground fault is better, turning off the ground fault light. Check with technical support for the panel to find out what this threshold for...Read More
Why Install Service Loops on Ceiling Smoke Detectors?
-- Planning for -In Case the Device Has to Move-. Often times, a smoke detector has to be relocated. The relocation could be just a few inches or fractions of a meter away, to quite a few feet or several meters away. Having to move the smoke detector doesn't happen very often, but it does happen...Read More
What is the Interfacing Equipment in a Fire Alarm System?
-- Much of the interface equipment is installed by others, like the elevators, the sprinkler system, the kitchen's range hood suppression and gas shunt, the HVAC air handlers and smoke dampers, etc. It isn't directly installed, maintained, or serviced by the fire alarm company, but the bottom line is that someone has to take some responsibility for the entire Fire Detection and Alarm System...Read More
What Makes a False Alarm so Dangerous?
-- Each false fire alarm increases the severity of a real fire. The increased severity from false alarms comes from the greater chance of loss of life or a greater chance of injury. This is a progression - with no false... Read More
Can I use Conventional Detectors on Addressedable Systems?
-- The NFPA is not against mixing conventional devices and addressable devices, so long as the mixing is in the prescribed acceptance process. The prescribed acceptance process is a procedure using a series of steps for manufacturing, testing, listing for use, labeling, and finally acceptance. Having gone through the steps, the manufacturer shows you in their installation sheets how to connect the parts into the system...Read More
Are Addressable Fire Alarm Systems Different from Conventional Systems?
-- Many fire alarm people think that an addressable fire alarm system is totally different from a conventional fire alarm system. But is it? A NAC circuit -Notification Appliance Circuit-, for instance, is a totally conventional circuit. Any addressable panel that has a NAC circuit has a conventional NAC circuit. If there are..Read More
How does an SLC Carry Both Signals and Power?
-- Over the SLC, the devices send their signals as strings of data. The data signals can be looked at as a rapid string of zeros and ones, or another way of looking at it is the data is a rapid string of voltage being turned off and on...Read More
How do I Address the Pull Stations?
-- The numbers that you dial into the devices are address numbers. They're shortcut addresses. Instead of saying -Pull Station, 2nd Floor, North Stair- you dial in the 2 digit number. It's much easier for the electronics to use a 2 digit number instead of the long description; the short number takes a lot less time to send than the long description...Read More
What do Alarm Output Modules do on the SLC?
-- The Signaling Line Circuit -SLC- for the building wiring for a fire alarm system is the communication and power circuit that is connected between the fire alarm panel and the Addressable Input Modules -AIM- and devices, and the Addressable Output Modules -AOM-...Read More
Can Fire Alarm Software Automatically Assign Addresses?
-- With the manufacturer I'm most used to, they can automatically assign the devices to addresses, and the leave it up to the programmer to label the devices. I have found problems with this automatic addressing by fire alarm control panels. The issues that occur become much greater as the fire alarm system becomes larger than the very smallest ones. The issue is in the assigning of location labels. Because each...Read More
How is the Standby Power Calculated?
-- In case there's a power outage, the fire alarm system still has to detect fire and warn people of fire. It would be nice if the fire alarm system could do this for days, weeks, or even years, until eventually the power can be restored, but the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is reasonable. In most cases, the NFPA is happy if the system can continue to work without power for 24 hours. This is the standby period. If there is a fire detected at the end of that 24 hours, the system still has to sound the alarm. Usually sounding the alarm takes up a much higher level of current than when the alarm system is standing by, so sounding the alarm has to be calculated separately. This is...Read More
Are Breaker Locks Required if There's No Control Panel?
-- A Fire Detection and Alarm System is a system that detects fire and warns people of danger. As such, it should never be turned off; it's a life-safety system. If it's 120-volt detectors and pull stations connected to relays that sound bells throughout a building, it's still a life-safety fire alarm system. If it ever was turned off, people occupying a building would not be warned of a fire...Read More
Can You Put Initiating Devices on a NAC Panel?
-- The letters -NAC- don't stand for the panel-on-the-wall, the letters -NAC- actually stand for the electrical circuit that's outside of the panel. The Notification Appliance Circuit, or NAC is the electrical -Circuit- that carries power to the Notification Appliances like horns and strobes...Read More
What is the Difference Between Class A and Class B NAC Circuits?
-- The short explanation is that coming into the panel for Class A, there are a total of 4 wires, and for Class B, there are a total of 2 wires. However, to understand that short explanation, one needs to know the difference between Class B and Class A from a life-safety point of view. Electricity has to get to the horns and strobes in order for the horns and strobes to warn people of a fire. For electricity to flow, however, the electrons require a complete electrical path. Electrons cannot flow through a wire, unless there is somewhere to go...Read More
What is the Best Way to Test Duct Detectors?
-- To find out what happens when a magnet or key is used on a smoke detector or a duct smoke detector, use a magnet or a key. Fires do not carry magnets or keys around with them, so to find out if a duct smoke detector senses smoke, test using canned smoke... Read More
How are the Horns and Strobes Activated?
-- A fire alarm system is a Detect Fire and Warm People about the Fire system. It has automatic detection devices like smoke detectors, heat detectors, and waterflow switches -- it has manually operated input devices like pull stations and MCPs -Manual Call Points-. The detection devices send their alarms to a Fire Alarm Control Panel or FACP. Automatically deciding what to do when there are alarms, the control the control panel has circuitry to sound the alarm. Providing electrical power to...Read More
Are Speaker Circuits Required to be Classified?
-- Classification isn't really the exact method of installing wires, classification is knowing how the system deals with failures. When something goes wrong with the system, does the fire alarm system warn the building owner that there's a problem? Is there a method to get around the problem so the system will detect-and-warn even if there's a problem?...Read More
How Does the Panel Know the Address?
-- When a fire alarm system is first set up, there are two types of devices that are programmed - one type of device is the Control Panel and the other type of device are all the smoked detectors, heat detectors, pull stations, flow switches, relay outputs, etc...Read More
Why are Modules Needed in a Fire Alarm System?
-- The modules attached to the Signaling Line Circuit, or SLC, are the inputs and outputs of the fire alarm system. Rather than have all the devices, with all their wires, connect directly to the control panel, the devices connect to modules and the modules connect to a single SLC...Read More
How does an SLC Module get Power to Send Signals?
-- The power being referred to as being interrupted is generated by the SLC power supply. This is a low current power supply and its output is designed to be regularly shorted out. The panel, though, is looking at the SLC terminals. A lot of the signal sending and receiving is dependent on what the panel is seeing. To see the signals, the Signaling Line Circuit terminals are constantly...Read More
Can the Fire Alarm Zones be for Multiple Floors?
-- A zone on a fire alarm panel display is shown either with labeled lights -like "Basement", "1st Floor", "2nd Floor", "3rd Floor", Etc.- or with words on a graphic display. -- A zone is where you are going to send the fire department when there's a fire -- A zone is where you are going to send the building owners when there's a false alarm -- A zone is where you are going to send the fire alarm technician when the system needs fixing -- If the fire alarm system is an addressable system that uses words on the display, all the devices are shown as separate devices, each device is actually ...Read More
Should the HVAC System be Shut Down on Alarm?
-- The idea behind the fire alarm system shutting down the HAVC in case of fire is that the fire alarm shutting-down the fans will save lives. When a fire is detected, rather than allowing the whole building to fill smoke, the fire alarm system closes the fire doors, closes the fire dampers in the ductwork, and shuts down the air circulating fans...Read More
What do We Include in Battery Calculations?
-- When deciding what to include in the battery calculations, we look at the reasons for making these calculations in the first place. A fire alarm system is a life safety system; if the system doesn't work, people can get hurt - or worse. The times that the fire alarm system is supposed to work are -Always-, including the time during a power outage...Read More
How are Lamps Tested on Fire Alarm Panels?
-- The purpose of the lamp test is to catch problems with the lamps before there is a fire. In the olden days, before there were LED lamps, there were incandescent lamps. Incandescent lamps used a small wire -the filament- that got hot enough to produce light. It may take many years, but eventually all incandescent lamps burn out; their filaments burn out. Some will burn out sooner than others...Read More
Do I Have to Use a PVC Pipe That's Listed?
-- The NFPA 72 Code in their definitions say that an Air Sampling-Type Detector consists of the pipe or tubing network connected to the detector where the air is then analyzed. That means that in order to be listed as an air sampling-type smoke detector, the manufacturer's PVC pipe is listed to be used with the specific air sampling system...Read More
What is the Maximum Number of Zones Permitted?
-- The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) doesn't decide how many inputs or outputs can be on a fire alarm panel, and they don't decide how many zones we can attach to a fire alarm control panel. These decisions are left up to the manufacturer of the panel. The NFPA, however, does indirectly control how well the panel is going to work. Once the panel is designed and ready, the manufacturer has to get the panel tested by a...Read More
Can There be Too Many T-Taps on an SLC?
-- As a technician trying to follow wires through a building, trying to fix a problem with the wiring can be made more difficult because of the number of T-Taps. If there aren't enough T-taps, sometimes trying to follow the wire past all of the devices...Read More
What Happens when One Battery is Hooked In Backwards?
-- Sealed Lead Acid batteries have very little internal resistance, so a forward 12-volt battery and a reversed 12-volt battery connected in series constitute a dead short. This, though, is when they are first connected to a charger. If there's an internal fuse on the charger, the fuse will probably burn out. If there isn't a fuse, probably the charger has some sort of current limiting. This part is mostly a design issue for the charger circuit, and the design will be different for each model of Fire Alarm Control Panel or NAC Power Supply...Read More
What Causes an Open NAC?
-- I am going to a job site where on the service call ticket states that a NAC is reading open circuit. What can cause an open circuit on the NAC line? Read More
How do I Fix this Comm Fail Light?
-- Listen to the Phone Lines. The only way to tell what is happening on the telephone lines is to listen to them. Use your butt set as a test tool to hear exactly what is happening. Just listening to what is happening can help you understand what is wrong. The sequence is...Read More
Why is There an EOL Resistor on a Pressure Switch?
-- In a fire alarm system, all devices have to be continually checked to make sure they never come loose. For conventional devices on Class B systems, like the pressure switch, the best the fire alarm panel can do is make sure the wires are always connected. The resistor is used to make sure...Read More
What Happens to the SLC when a Device is Disconnected?
-- A Signaling Line Circuit (SLC) has two purposes: (1. An SLC is used to send signals between the control panel and the devices on the loop (2. An SLC is used to provide power from the control panel to the devices on the loop. To understand what is going on electrically...Read More
Does Anyone Make a Generator/Tester for SLC Circuits?
-- There are no actual test generators designed for fire alarm system Signaling Line Circuits -SLCs-. The real reason has a root cause in attitude. All manufacturers are extremely proprietary. The attitude is because they are afraid that if anyone can connect another manufacturer's equipment to their Type Accepted Fire Alarm System, and something bad happens...Read More
Can I Use a NAC Circuit for a Sounder Base?
-- When the horns and strobes in the hallways of the building are not sounding the alarm -the alarm is silent-, the sounder base circuit is still providing full power to the sounder base. That is so the smoke detector can turn on the sounder base when the rest of the building is silent. Think of the sounder base and the attached smoke detector as a residential smoke alarm...Read More
Why Doesn't the SPF Turn-On with Smoke in the Stairway?
-- There's a problem with smoke in the stairwell. More people die in a fire because they breathed smoke than people die because they were burned. Because of that, so that people can escape both fire and smoke, they use the narrow stairwell as an escape route. The stairwell has to be free of smoke...Read More
What is the Trigger Voltage for a Booster Power Supply?
-- Most fire alarm control panels can provide a limited amount of power for the horns and strobes, but extra power for the horns and strobes can be provided by a Booster Power Supply -BPS-. The term -Trigger Voltage- for the BPS is a shorthand term for -Whatever voltage is necessary to turn on the Booster Power Supply-. Depending on...Read More
What is Voltage Free Interfacing?
-- The terms -Potential Free- or -Voltage Free- are engineering terms for -The module has relay contact outputs only-, and it doesn't provide power for anything, or supervise anything -- it doesn't check continuity of any wires. It also doesn't provide power or voltage to activate anything...Read More
Do I Have to Use a PVC Pipe That's Listed?
-- The word Listed means that a nationally known, third-party testing laboratory like UL, ULC, CE, FM, etc. has tested the pipe for use in Aspiration Systems for Air Sampling. Once the testing laboratory knows that the pipe is going to be adequate for this purpose, they say that it is adequate by...Read More
What is a Repeater Panel in a Fire Alarm System?
-- A Repeater panel is used in a remote location, away from the control panel. It passively displays the condition of the fire alarm panel. If there are control buttons on the Repeater panel, it can also actively control the fire alarm system. A LCD display is an expanded version of the Repeater panel...Read More
What is a Fire Alarm System?
-- The idea behind fire alarm systems is to save lives and protect property. A fire alarm system does this by detecting fire -either automatically or when someone sees a fire- and then warning everyone in the building about the fire. A person, having seen a fire, could run down the halls shouting...Read More
Where Should I Install the Fire Control Panel?
-- If all the horns and strobes in the entire building sound off so everyone in the building leaves in less than five minutes, then any fire protection of the fire alarm system only has to be good enough for everyone to leave. If only some of the people are told to leave, and some people wait their turn to leave, then once a fire starts, any fire alarm equipment including...Read More
How Important is it to Label Wires?
-- Good options for the labels come in two varieties --- Labeling Machines - The labels look good, but care must be taken in choosing the machine type. --- Cloth Tape - The labels looks ugly, and care must be taken in choosing the tape type. However, the writing put on the tape using sharpie pens NEVER rubs off... Read More
What is a 4 Wire Smoke Detector?
-- Even though it uses an internal protection resistor and internal alarm relay contacts, a 4 wire smoke detector is basically a 2 wire smoke detector; it detects smoke and sends an alarm ... Read More
Why Doesn't a Smoke Detector Always Detect?
-- The NFPA wants smoke detectors tested in place to make sure smoke enters the smoke chamber. Keep in mind that a smoke detector can't detect smoke that doesn't get to the detector. When a smoke detector doesn't... Read More
What's the Difference Between Class A and Class B?
-- The Fire Alarm System is a Life Safety System - so the occupants of a building can escape quickly, the idea behind a Fire Alarm System is that it will provide a warning that there is a fire. The trouble is, if something is wrong with the system, like a wire is broken somewhere in the building, the Fire Alarm System... Read More
What Is the Difference Between Conventional and Addressable?
-- The word conventional doesn't mean Old and Obsolete, the word conventional means Sanctioned by General Custom. The conventional fire alarm system is the standard way, or ordinary way of making a fire alarm system. The Addressable portion of a fire alarm system isn't a replacement for a conventional fire alarm system, the Addressable portion is ...Read More
Firefighter Don't Reset the False Alarm
-- When the alarm sounds and the firefighter arrives, even for a false alarm, the firefighter is on site for property protection and life safety. So when leaving, from the point of view of the firefighter, the ... Read More
Is an EOL Resistor Needed for an Addressable System?
-- Normally, as I know, an addressable fire alarm circuit is without end of line resistor and conventional fire alarm circuit has an end of line resistor... But I found some documents online showing the FAS (Fire Alarm System) to work using an end of line resistor to measure electrical current and resistor. So how does an addressable system work? Read More
NFPA's 7 Classes of Fire Alarm Paths
-- The NFPA has divided the signal paths in a fire alarm system into 7 classifications: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, Class E, Class N, Class X. These classifications don't show how to wire up anything, these classifications show what happens when things go wrong... Read More
How is a Pathway Classified?
-- The classification for a pathway is not determined by the method of carrying a signal or the type of signal the pathway is carrying - The classification is determined by what the pathway isn't or can't do - the classification is a process of elimination...Read More
If It's There -- It Has To Work
-- Whether its smoke detectors on the ceiling or the firefighter's telephone system, people think that if it's there, it's real and it works. Sometimes, people even stake their lives on that device or system ... Read More
What is Class N Power Over Internet (PoE)?
-- Powering detectors and modules, Class N communication paths using Power over Ethernet (PoE) is coming to a fire alarm system near you. Probably not all of the systems or devices will use Class N PoE paths, but enough...Read More
What Is Fire Alarm Trouble Power?
-- In the "Old School" type of fire alarm system, before the smoke detector was invented, even though the fire alarm systems used AC, all voltages were in a steady state: either on or off. Until someone ... Read More
What is a Four Wire Smoke Detector?
-- A 4-wire smoke detector is just like a 2-wire smoke detector, except that it receives its power from an auxiliary power supply rather than the conventional Initiating Device Circuit. Both the 4-wire and the 2-wire smoke detector sense particles in the air and call the particles smoke... Read More
What is a Fire Alarm Zone?
-- Building zones aren't determined by where the wires are run for the fire alarm system, building zones are determined by the building's fire-control -- fire-fighting divisions and by the building's smoke-control divisions... Read More