Grill The Fire Expert

Oct. 27, 2008
Code Requirements Make Alphabet Soup


Q: A building department is requiring me to show the locations and specifications for the security alarm system components on the building fire alarm plan I'm submitting. This is not a combination burg/fire alarm system, either. I have never heard of this before. Have you?

—Signed: MYOB (mind your own business)

A: Presently, no rules exist requiring you to furnish this information by any state, national or international building/fire code. Nor it is likely there will ever be a local statute or code amendment requiring this information to be included with any plan review. Doing so makes the information public accessible and it is none of their business. There is no good reason to submit these private details for public approval.


Q: My inspector wants a strobe light installed in a walk-in beer cooler and one in the walk-in freezer located in the basement of the restaurant-bar. Is he serious?

—Signed: BYOB (bring your own booze).

A: Probably. However, ADAAG does not require “employee work areas” to be protected with visible appliances, just the public and common use areas. However, you should have horns (or other audible notification appliance) located so the fire alarm is clearly audible throughout the building's occupiable areas. Placing one outside the freezer is a good idea, but there is no requirement for anyone to be able to hear it from inside the freezer. Especially with its door completely closed. Freezers are not occupiable areas. You get in and you get out. Other building areas that are not accessible are crawlspaces (even if they contain plumbing, heating, wiring) and unfinished attics (even if they contain HVAC units).


Q: I recently had to move several horn-strobes and strobe lights in a public building and I think your readers should be informed so they don't make the same mistake I did. At what height do you place the strobe lights above the floor?

—Signed: Out-Of-Pocket.

A: You are correct. A lot of people know the simple answer to this question. NFPA 72 states that “the entire lens must be within 80 inches to 96 inches above the finished floor.”

The part not mentioned in NFPA 72 is that this measurement is to be taken from “the highest floor level within the space.” This is found in section “4.28.3* Visual Alarms” of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). Because of the building's two raised platforms in the performing arts area and the raised floor in the art display area, the strobe height used for protecting the occupants in these spaces should have been measured from those floor areas, not the main floor of the surrounding area. When the occupants of the main floor (the area next to t hese raised areas) are properly protected with their own strobe lights installed with the lens within 80 in. to 96 in. A.F.F, it will not matter that those strobes over the raised platforms seem too high, because each area has strobe lights installed at the proper height for the area they serve. Ceiling mounted strobe lights installed as if the floor was all the same level (the level of the lower floor) would also work.