Fire & Life Safety: Permit Process Primer

Answering common questions associated with the review of fire installation plans

The reason for rejection will be put in writing listing what information is lacking or things they believe need to be changed and/or corrected. All is not lost if the reviewer made an error — you can explain the misunderstanding to the building official and provide clarification in writing by responding to each listed “deficiency.” Sometimes all they are looking for is assurance from you in writing, that the system wiring will be installed in compliance with the 2013 edition of the NEC, for example. Sometimes a note or other change on the drawings will be required. Most jurisdictions allow simple clarifications or changes to be resubmitted without an additional charge. Any “violations” listed in the rejection of the permit application should have the applicable code numbers associated with them. Make sure they are applicable, citing the correct edition/year, and whether any code “exceptions” were considered.


Do I have to get a permit from the fire department, too?

Fire departments usually do not provide permits for construction — this is normally the job of the building departments; however, as a courtesy, some building departments ask for an additional set of plans to be provided so that the local fire official may also review the plans. Don’t worry; they will review for the compliance with the same rules, codes, and standards the building department enforces.


When do I need to get a permit to install security alarm and other low voltage systems?

Any electrical power supplied by other than a Class II power supply source, or voltages greater than 30 volts rms/42 volts peak, or 60 volts dc, you should determine if an electrical permit or special licensing is needed. Always check local business licensing requirements. While a permit for the installation of a security system may not be required in all cases, the installation company may be required to have a license. In Ohio, for example, we exempt any permit for “electrical wiring, devices, appliances, apparatus or equipment operating at less than twenty-five volts and not capable of supplying more than fifty watts of energy.” Fire alarm systems required in certain occupancies are specifically addressed. To locate your state’s license requirements, you can begin at the Small Business Administrations’ website:


Greg Kessinger is SD&I’s fire alarm and codes expert and a regular contributor. Email him your fire & life safety questions at