International Codes for Monitoring Sprinklers

Sprinklers: When, Where and How
What are the International Code Council rules for the monitoring of sprinkler systems?

A: Under the International Building/Fire Codes, all code-required sprinkler systems must meet the following minimum requirements. While the ICC may require these rules, your state or city would have to adopt them as written.

  • 903.4 Sprinkler system monitoring and alarms. All valves controlling the water supply for automatic sprinkler systems and water-flow switches on all sprinkler systems shall be electrically supervised.
  • Exceptions:
  1. Automatic sprinkler systems protecting one- and two-family dwellings.
  2. Limited area systems serving fewer than 20 sprinklers.
  3. Automatic sprinkler systems installed in accordance with 13R where a common supply main is used to supply both domestic and automatic sprinkler systems and a separate shutoff valve for the automatic sprinkler system is not provided.
  4. Jockey pump control valves that are sealed or locked in the open position.
  5. Control valves to commercial kitchen hoods, paint spray booths or dip tanks that are sealed or locked in the open position.
  6. Valves controlling the fuel supply to fire pump engines that are sealed or locked in the open position.
  7. Trim valves to pressure switches in dry, pre-action and deluge sprinkler systems that are sealed or locked in the open position.
  • 903.4.1 Signals. Alarm, supervisory and trouble signals shall be distinctly different and shall be automatically transmitted to an approved central station, remote supervising station or proprietary supervising station as defined in
  • NFPA72 or, when approved by the code official, shall sound an audible signal at a constantly attended location.

    1. Underground key or hub valves in roadway boxes provided by the municipality or public utility are not required to be monitored.
    2. Backflow prevention device test valves, located in limited area sprinkler system supply piping, shall be locked in the open position. In occupancies required to be equipped with a fire alarm system, the backflow preventer valves shall be electrically supervised by a tamper switch installed in accordance with NFPA 72 and separately annunciated.
    • 903.4.2 Alarms. Approved audible devices shall be connected to every automatic sprinkler system. Such sprinkler water-flow alarm devices shall be activated by water flow equivalent to the flow of a single sprinkler of the smallest orifice size installed in the system. Alarm devices shall be provided on the exterior of the building in an approved location.

    Where a fire alarm system is installed, actuation of the automatic sprinkler system shall actuate the building fire alarm system.

    • 903.4.3 Floor control valves. Approved supervised indicating control valves shall be provided at the point of connection to the riser on each floor in high-rise buildings.
    • 903.5 Testing and maintenance. Sprinkler systems shall be tested and maintained in accordance with Section 901 (of the IFC).

    This is a recent list of states that have adopted IBC/IRC/IFC codes, in some form. A list of individually adopting cities may also be found on their website, shown below.

    IBC = International Building Code.   	X = Effective Statewide.   
    IRC = International Residential Code.  	A = Adopted, by may not yet be effective.   
    IFC = International Fire Code.   	L = Adopted by Local Governments.

    The ICC states that they make every effort to provide current, and accurate code adoption information, but some jurisdictions do not notify the ICC of their adoptions, amendments, or changes to their codes. To ensure you have accurate information, please contact each state/local jurisdiction directly for information concerning your specific code requirements.

    When you determine that your state or local jurisdiction has adopted the IBC (or IFC) into law, then you will need to purchase that document in order to determine which buildings (or what parts of certain buildings) are required to install fire/sprinkler alarm systems, and what minimum level of protection is required for them. The IFC will contain additional testing and maintenance rules for these systems. A word of caution: make sure you purchase the proper code edition used by your state/local jurisdiction! Not every state will adopt an ICC code "as is" and some feel a need to amend it because they feel 'special'. You need to check out the list of these states on the website by clicking on "ICC STORE" and then on the "State and Local Codes" link. You may also call them and talk to them, if you feel unsure of the correct edition to order. But in any event, if you design or install fire alarm systems, then you must own the current set of building/fire code rules telling you where and when to install fire alarm and detection equipment. NFPA 72 then indicates how to install the fire alarm equipment to enhance overall system reliability.

    About the author: 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