Fire & Life Safety

Private and public a La Mode

Locating private mode annunciators and sounders is up to the responders. NFPA 72 states "All required annunciation means shall be located as required by the authority having jurisdiction to facilitate an efficient response to the fire situation." If the owner's fire alarm system isn't required by code (i.e. it was voluntarily installed), then the annunciator(s) must be located where "those persons directly concerned with the implementation and direction of emergency action" have access to them.

Private Mode Audible notification appliances (not required to be as loud as public mode appliance) need to be located where these people directly concerned with emergency action will likely hear the alarm (thereby letting them know of the need to get to a nearby annunciator to see what's going on). The emergency plan may include using the building's voice announcement speakers or emergency sirens to make any further notifications. Even though these annunciators are not required, you should still consider placing one where the fire department can easily use it upon their arrival at the facility.

Textual notification appliances used for annunciation include vacuum fluorescent keypads, LCD display screens, video monitors and printers. These are often other types of private mode visible notification.

Private mode audible notification signals are usually chimes and/or coded signals but may also include cryptic voice announcements such as "May I have your attention, please. Code Red."

When providing the notification, remember there is no third operating mode for fire alarm notification-it's either required to be Public Mode or allowed to be Private Mode.

Greg Kessinger is SD&I's longtime resident fire alarm and codes expert and a regular contributor to the magazine. Reach him at