Grill The Fire Expert

Avoiding Getting the Shaft
I’m in a pickle. I recently installed a fire alarm system in a two story non-sprinkled building in New Jersey with two new LU/LA elevators. The elevator company insists that smoke detectors be installed at the top of the hoistways in order to give them final approval. Through my General Contractor, I advised them to refer to NFPA 72 regarding when smoke detectors are allowed in the shaft. Also, the shafts are non-combustible rated. I have installed smoke detectors in the lobbies and mechanical rooms for recall. We ran our plan by the elevator sub-contractor and he deferred to the sprinkler sub. After we explained the request made by the elevator company, he said to put heat detectors in the shafts. My question is: should I install anything in the shaft and, if so, which code calls for it (aside from the sub-contractor’s request)?

The way I have interpreted NFPA 72 regarding this issue is that if an elevator hoistway is sprinkled and not suitable for smoke detectors, then an acceptable detector, such as a heat detector, can be installed, and only then. I hope you can find a moment to answer me. Thanks.
G. Dill/Pittsburgh, PA.

A: No smokes, no heats, no sprinklers. LU/LA elevators are special and are not required to provide recall. LU/LA stands for Limited Use/Limited Access. However, your state Elevator Code addresses these types of elevators and you will have to refer to that to make sure they have not Jersey-ized the National Elevator Code. If these were commercial passenger elevators, then the non-combustible feature would exempt them, as well.

The National Fire Alarm Code does not provide any answers to your question since it simply supplements the ANSI A17.1 elevator code rules for how to perform the recall and shunt-trip functions. Information on whether or not recall is needed is only found in the elevator code(s). I’d be surprised that your LU/LA’s short travel distance would qualify them to provide recall even if it were a regular passenger elevator.

A Box for Wire Protection
I am a fire alarm distributor and one of our electrical contractors is installing a fire alarm system in our facility. The contractor wants to use single gang plaster rings for mounting the horn strobes and pull stations. I thought you had to use a back-box in order to protect the wiring connection. Am I right or can he use the plaster rings? I read your articles every month in Security Dealer magazine and find them very informative.
Thank You, —Bill R.

A: You are correct. All fire alarm devices must now be installed according to the rules of Chapter 3, Article 370 of NFPA 70. Basically, these are: where the chosen wiring method involves conduit, electrical metallic tubing, Type AC cable, Type MC cable, Type MI cable, nonmetallic-sheathed cable, or other cables. A box or conduit body complying with Article 370 shall be installed at each conductor splice point, outlet, switch point, junction point, or pull point.

Specifically, it says. “An integral junction box or wiring compartment as part of approved equipment shall be permitted.”

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 Greg Kessinger at 888-910-2272; e-mail:; or visit his website at