Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
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Do We Have to Get a Permit to Replace a Power Supply?

I have a question about something


Greetings Douglas,

While looking to clarify information about the replacement of a fire alarm system power supply, I came upon your web page. I was wondering if you would be willing to supply me with some information.

Is it customary for a fire department to require a fire alarm modification permit to replace a remote power supply? We are replacing only one of the five existing with the exact same make and model.

They tried to say: The fire alarm booster is an appliance and not a device and falls under the modification permit.

Thank you, M G

The short answer is that the fire department can require anything they want to. The long answer has some explanation.

I live in the Twin Cities Minnesota. There are 110 Municipalities, each with their own interpretations of the NFPA Code.

I haven't heard of exactly the issue you have where you need a permit to replace a power supply, but one municipality here requires more. They require that the whole fire alarm system shall be upgraded to current code if the control panel is replaced, even with the exact same model. Think about putting mini-horns in each bedroom of each apartment. A medium size apartment building can cost more than $100K just to replace a small control panel.

Our problem is not with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They're just a publishing house that produces a guidebook (NFPA72). Actually, the NFPA has no more enforcement capability than any other reference book in the library.

Our problem is with the government that makes the laws we have to obey. The fire department is a division of the local government, and the fire marshal or fire inspector is the interpreter of the law for the government. You might be able to change the fire marshal's mind, you might be able to appeal the decision to a superior, but in the end, what the fire marshal says is what goes.

I have seen many requirements enforced by some municipalities and not by others. The best I can recommend is to remember what is required by this fire department, do what they require, and go on. You have more important things to do than to fight city hall.

Douglas Krantz
Based on his electronics training, and his understanding of Life Safety, Douglas Krantz has compiled his knowledge of Conventional Fire Alarm Systems into the book Make It Work - Conventional Fire Alarms. The book covers the basics of the Conventional Fire Alarm System, and shows how Life Safety and internal supervision affects the fire alarm system.

Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

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