Fire & Life Safety: Hotel/Motel Fire Alarms and Detection

Get the most out of smoke and fire annunciation devices

The average new hotel or motel can be a fairly easy entry-level commercial fire alarm project for a properly licensed and insured company with limited fire alarm experience. Even though these projects can be larger than an average store or business, much of the installation is repetitive from floor to floor (note that buildings with more than seven floors are considered high rises and are thus not entry-level projects).

Hotel and motel fire alarm systems often need to incorporate safety control functions such as elevator recall, sprinkler system connections and sleeping room ADA-compliant visual appliances. While most commercial occupancies do not have provisions for smoke detection, hotels and motels have requirements for both smoke alarms and detectors.

A common contract requirement for one of these jobs might read: “Activation of room system smoke sensor shall immediately and automatically sound an alarm (three pulse temporal pattern) within the room of incident and annunciate at the front desk.”


Smoke Alarms & Warning Systems

This annunciation of smoke alarms can be accomplished a couple of ways. In new construction, an intelligent system of smoke detectors may be used to provide the required alarm and detection normally provided by single-station or multiple-station 120 VAC smoke alarms, even though the minimum — and most often provided arrangement — is to install a UL 217 smoke alarm in each guest room. How you meet code is up to you; and the AHJ will check that it has been met.

Keep in mind that the code is not equipment-specific — the code language is based on results. Any listed equipment, installed per the manufacturer’s printed instructions, located as required by the adopted codes and standards, performing measurable/verifiable actions, will meet code. Plan approval will pave the way for you.

For new installations, the use of an intelligent, addressable fire alarm system could perform the local warning function traditionally provided by in-room smoke alarm(s). Intelligent systems can provide the occupant notification using a sounder base on the smoke detectors installed in each guest room or suite. A sounder base located in that room, or all sounder bases located in the same suite, would address the requirement to cause a temporal-three signal when any of the smoke detectors in that unit activates.

This is the same operation as provided by a single-station smoke alarm or interconnected multiple-station smoke alarms, and is specified by the building and fire codes.

To satisfy the building owner’s requested annunciation of the in-room smoke alarms at the front desk (remember, NFPA 72 states the owner is also an AHJ), the in-room detectors could be programmed to cause a “supervisory signal” at the front desk, even though an “alarm signal” will be produced in that particular room or suite. Silent Knight’s SD505-6SB sounder base is able to be mapped to activate whenever the building’s fire alarm system activates, which eliminates the need for system sounders to be installed in each guest room/suite.

Attention fire chiefs reading this column: Ask your kids or their friends the first thing they do when they stay at a hotel/motel for a party or wedding? Don’t be surprised if they say “Take down the smoke alarms.” Using system-type smoke detectors in place of smoke alarms will expose this all-too-common practice (yes, across the country) immediately at the front desk. When 110 VAC smoke alarms are disconnected, nothing happens because there is no supervision of the smoke alarms.

Encourage system-type detection in all tenant sleeping areas, and reduce the risk associated with the malicious disabling of 110 VAC smoke alarms.


Trouble Signals

An existing hotel wants to monitor the guest room smoke alarms (individual and interconnected 110 volt AC alarms without relays of the same model) at the front desk. The facility has 12 two-bedroom suites with three detectors in each, interconnected using a third conductor that causes all three to sound if any one of them senses smoke. The owner doesn’t want to change out every smoke alarm.

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