What is a fire alarm system and why is it important?

Fires spread FAST! According to the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, a building fire can become deadly in just 3 minutes. With so little time to escape to safety, rapid detection and notification are crucial. That’s where fire alarm systems come in.

A fire alarm system is a network of electrical components that detects and notifies people of a fire or other emergency event. Because their primary function is to protect life, fire alarm systems can also be referred to as life safety systems.

Fire alarm systems can be complex, especially when integrated with other systems in a building. Furthermore, they must adhere to building codes, electrical codes, fire alarm codes, and other standards and regulations. It can be difficult for business owners and facility managers to tackle such an important aspect of their building’s safety. So, we’ll dive into an overview of fire alarm systems to familiarize you with common terminology and help you get a better understanding.

Who needs a fire alarm system?

National and state laws require most commercial properties to have a fire alarm system for life safety purposes. These include retail, factories, offices, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and more. Currently, Ohio does not require fire alarm systems for single residences.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) outlines the minimum requirements for commercial fire alarm systems in NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. The NFPA determines specifications based on property/occupancy type. For instance, a chemical factory will have significantly different life safety requirements than a high-rise apartment complex.

Additionally, there may be fire alarm regulations set forth by your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). For example, rural areas on the outskirts of Lima may have different regulations than those in the densely populated area of downtown Columbus.

The Buying Process

There are many reasons why you may be searching for a fire alarm system for your business. New construction or property conversion/takeover may require a fire alarm system. You may need to add to your existing system due to an addition or renovation. Maybe you need to update your existing outdated or discontinued system. Or possibly, you’re just trying to meet your AHJ’s requirements after an inspection.

Whatever the reason, the codes and regulations governing commercial fire alarm systems can make the buying process daunting. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to walk you through every step of the way.

Getting Quotes for Fire Alarm Systems

First, you’ll want to contact local installers to get quotes for your fire alarm system. Unless your property is new construction, the installer should schedule an on-site consultation to inspect the existing system and property. They may also request a copy of your building’s floor plans. These will enable the installer to provide an accurate quote for your business’s life safety needs.

As with all quotes, you should know what the price includes and excludes. Ask questions to get a clear picture of the products and services quoted.


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