Grill The Fire Expert: Fire Insurance/Power Concerns


A: There is a major fire alarm association who has many benefits you should check out. It’s the NBFAA (National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association). If you feel like you need to send me an e-mail explaining to me that the NBFAA is a security alarm association, you should know that well over half of the members also provide fire alarm and detection either as part of their business or as their only business. The NBFAA offers it members an insurance option called the SARRG program that can offer a significant savings over your present premium. Up to five million dollars of specialized coverage could be available to your company.

This program was born of the Liability Risk Retention Act (LRRA) of 1986, a federal law that was passed by Congress to help U.S. businesses, professionals, and municipalities obtain liability insurance. If you aren’t already a SARRG policy holder, you can visit and click on the “Quick Quote” button to download a one-page quote form. This FREE, easy, anyone-can-get-one, quote will give you an idea on how much your company has been overpaying for liability coverage. And by the way, this is only one of the great member benefits provided by the NBFAA.

Power for an Evac System

Q: I am employed by a mid-size manufacturing firm and one of my jobs is to keep up our plant’s security and fire alarm systems. Our present fire alarm system has several annunciators, keypads and input modules. If we add a voice evacuation system, would we then have to install larger standby batteries to operate the fire alarm control panel for 15 minutes, or does this 15 minute rule apply just to the voice evacuation panel?

The plan is to have the FACP continue to power the strobe lights, while the audible signal is provided by the speakers connected to the new Voice/Evac panel. The problem is that the FACP already has the largest size batteries allowed by the manufacturer and changing the FACP isn’t a very attractive option. This conflict came up during a plant safety planning session with the local fire chief.

A: The fire alarm control panel’s battery backup system must also last for the full 15 minutes. The fire department needs the alarm and supervisory information provided by the devices connected to the FACP to help them fight the fire effectively. Having the voice evacuation capability does no good if the people using it aren’t sure of what’s going on in remote parts of the building. You should consider having the voice evacuation panel also provide the strobe light power or have a dedicated power booster installed to take on some of the electrical load now provided by your FACP as possible options.

Greg Kessinger, SET, CFPS, president of an alarm installing company since 1981, teaches NICET training classes to fire alarm system designers and installers and continuing education seminars for Ohio’s fire alarm inspectors. You can reach him at 888-910-2272; e-mail:; or visit his website at