§ 50.53. General fire alarm requirements.

 (a)  Plan approval. Approval for fire alarm systems shall be obtained at the same time as the building approval. See Chapter 49 (relating to administration). Three sets of plans showing the location of manual stations, automatic detection units, control or other panels, signaling devices and other required equipment shall be submitted for approval. The location of these devices may be incorporated on the architectural floor plans or may be on fire alarm or electrical wiring plans. The approval issued by the Department is only for the location of the equipment. Only equipment approved by the Department shall be used.

 (b)  Control panels. Control panels are required for manual and automatic fire alarm systems. A common control pannel may be installed where both are used.

   (1)  Operation. The primary function of the fire alarm control panel is to monitor alarm initiating devices such as manual stations, automatic detectors, sprinkler flow switches or other devices and cause upon alarm activation the operating of signaling devices to alert building occupants of possible danger from fire. Auxiliary functions such as fire company reporting, air handling systems start-up or shutdown, smoke barrier door closing, elevator capture and return and remote annunciation are secondary functions of the system and shall be given lower priority within the control panel operations. The control panel shall be designed with sufficient power capacity to operate all primary and secondary functions of the system simultaneously. Wherever both a manual fire alarm system and an automatic fire alarm system are used, all alarm indicating devices shall sound on an alarm origination in either system.

   (2)  Location. A fire alarm control panel shall be installed in a heated room with a clean, dry environment. The control panel shall be located in such a manner to protect it from tampering by installing it in a locked room or with a locked control panel door that is accessible only to authorized building personnel.

 (c)  Zoning.

   (1)  Manual and automatic fire alarm systems shall be designed with a minimum of one zone per floor. Manual and automatic devices may be connected to the same zone. Additional zones shall be provided for floor areas that exceed 20,000 square feet or areas exceeding 200 feet in any direction.

   (2)  When a zone is initiated, the zone indicator on the fire alarm control panel and any remote annunciators shall lock-in and continuously display the alarm condition until the actuated devices are reset and a system reset switch is activated.

   (3)  A maximum of 30 alarm initiating devices may be connected within a single zone.

 (d)  Annunciators.

   (1)  When required. Annunciators shall be installed in manual and automatic fire alarm systems when more than one zone is required.

   (2)  Locations. Annunciators shall be installed so that they are readily accessible for viewing alarm conditions. Annunciators shall not be in locked rooms, closets or other areas unless building personnel are available at all times to provide access.

   (3)  Types. Annunciators that indicate alarm zones may be one or a combination of the following types:

     (i)   Lamp illumination type. The actuation of an alarm zone illuminates the appropriate lamp. Each zone lamp shall be identified by a label or an adjacent zone chart describing the alarm zone.

     (ii)   Graphic type. The annunciator is represented by a panel that illustrates the building and zone layout. Either the graphic zone or adjacent lamp shall illuminate to designate the area of alarm.

     (iii)   Window drop type. The actuation of an alarm zone shall cause a window to mechanically or electrically drop to indicate the zone.

     (iv)   Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) display. A zone in alarm is represented by a numeric, English language or combination display on an electronic cathode ray tube.

     (v)   Hard copy print-out. The alarm zone is represented by a numeric, English language or combination print-out on hard copy paper. The printer shall include paper advance that would allow multiple zones to print without overprinting.

   (4)  Operation. Alarm conditions on any of the annunciators shall lock-in or maintain their alarm identification status until the device that initiated the alarm is reset and a system reset switch actuated. Control panels that indicate all the zones may serve as the annunciator if properly located for accessibility. Provisions shall be made to test all zone indicators without actuating the alarm devices. Trouble signals, system reset, bypass and other fire alarm system functions may be included with annunciator panels.

   (5)  Hard copy printing.

     (i)   When required. Hard copy printers shall be installed in manual and automatic detection fire alarm systems when 50 zones or more are required. If multi-function systems are used, fire alarm system alarms shall have priority and be readily distinguished from all other signals. If the multi-function system is not prioritized, a separate printer shall be used for fire alarm functions only. The order of priority shall be as follows:

       (A)   Fire alarm and process alarm.

       (B)   Supervisory and fire trouble signals.

       (C)   Hold-up and burglar alarms.

       (D)   Other signals.

     (ii)   Locations. Hard copy printers shall be installed in locations that are generally supervised by building personnel to prevent tampering and vandalism by unauthorized persons. If a printer is utilized for annunciation purposes, its accessibility to fire service and building officials shall be considered.

     (iii)   Operation. Hard copy printers shall provide positive documentation of all fire alarm conditions within the system. The documentation shall include a printed record of date, time of day, and a method of identifying the zone of alarm initiation. The zone identification may be by precoded punched holes, numeric or English language print. Printers shall be positive in operation with circuits designed to prevent confused documentation and shall store simultaneous alarm signals so that all alarm zones will be recorded.

 (e)  Signalling devices.

   (1)  Audible signalling devices shall be installed in all occupancies required to have a manual or automatic fire alarm system.

     (i)   Types. Audible signalling devices may be any approved bell, horn, chime, buzzer, siren or speaker. Signalling devices shall be electrically operated with wiring to the devices supervised for opens, shorts or grounds. Trouble conditions on the supervised circuits shall be indicated on the system fire alarm control panel.

     (ii)   Locations. Audible signalling devices shall be installed so that they can be heard above all other normal ambient noises in every occupied space of the facility. Calculations shall be made when placing audible signalling devices for a minimum of three decibels (dba) above the normal ambient noise levels. Considerations shall be made for surrounding acoustics, ceiling heights, room door penetrations, and ambient noise levels.

     (iii)   Usage. Audible signalling devices shall be of a distinctive sound and pitch from any other signalling devices used in the area. No more than one type of fire alarm signalling device may be used in an area. Audible signalling devices may be used for other purposes, providing fire alarm signalling has priority, and the alternate use signal is of a different sound and pitch.

     (iv)   Mounting. Audible signalling devices shall be mounted as close as practical to the ceiling in areas with ceilings 8 feet or less. In areas with higher ceilings, the audible signalling devices shall be installed at 8 feet. Signalling devices that provide adequate sound levels may be installed above the 8 foot height in large open areas.

   (2)  Visual signalling devices may be required by the Department in occupancies that shelter, employ, treat or provide entertainment for persons with known hearing impairments.

     (i)   Types. Visual signalling shall flash on and off when activated or in a manner that clearly signifies an alarm condition. The visual indicators shall be red or white with ‘‘Fire’’ inscribed. Strobe flashing is permitted providing the flash rate is outside the rate that affects persons with epileptic conditions. Visual signalling devices may be installed as combination units with audible signalling devices.

     (ii)   Locations. Visual signalling devices shall be installed so that they can be seen during alarm conditions from any point within corridors and large open areas. If smoke barrier sections are provided, a minimum of one visual signalling unit shall be provided in each smoke barrier section. In addition, visual signalling devices shall be installed in classrooms, apartments or other areas where it is known that persons with hearing impairments will normally reside or function in without the presence of persons with normal hearing capabilities.

     (iii)   Mounting. Visual signalling devices in corridors may be side wall or ceiling mounted within a maximum height of 8 feet above the finished floor. Visual signalling units that are designed for large open areas may be above the 8 foot height providing they are visible from all points of the area they are intended to cover.

   (3)  Presignal systems may only be used in special applications approved by the Department. When presignal systems are used, a method of initiating a general alarm shall be provided at each pull station and the control panel location.

 (f)  Supervision. Fire alarm control panels shall provide electrical supervision for all alarm initiating circuits, signalling circuits and normal operating power supplies. Supervision shall include wiring from the control panel terminations to the terminations of all the devices on the circuits.

   (1)  Trouble signals shall comply with the following:

     (i)   An open or grounded condition in these circuits shall cause a trouble signal to sound at the control panel.

     (ii)   The trouble signal shall be distinctive in sound from alarm signals, continuous in operation and may be common to all supervised circuits in a single system.

     (iii)   A trouble signal silence switch is permitted providing its operation transfers the trouble indication to a lamp or other visible indicator that remains on until the trouble condition is corrected. The trouble signal silence switch shall be electrically arranged so that the trouble signal will sound if the switch is in the silence position and no trouble exists in the system.

     (iv)   Trouble signals shall be installed at each fire alarm control panel either mounted in the control panel or mounted adjacent thereto. If the control panel is located in an area not regularly frequented by building personnel, additional trouble signals shall be installed in areas where they will be readily heard by building authorities.

   (2)  A single break or a single ground fault in any of the electrically supervised alarm initiating circuits or interruption and restoration of the main or secondary source of power to the control panel shall not cause signalling devices to operate. Trouble signals shall operate only on any of the conditions in this paragraph.

   (3)  Two wire circuits utilizing end-of-line supervisory devices or four wire circuits allowing for McCulloh operation are permitted for alarm initiating circuits. When end-of-line devices (E.O.L.) are used, the alarm initiating units containing the E.O.L. devices shall be clearly marked.

   (4)  In voice communication systems where speakers are used to produce audible fire alarm signals, a failure of a pre-amp unit, tone generator or audio amplifier shall cause a trouble signal on the control panel except pre-amps, tone generators, or audio amplifiers enclosed as integral parts serving only a single speaker. In these systems, the wiring to speakers shall be electrically supervised as in other signalling devices.

 (g)  Power source. Fire alarm systems shall be powered from two sources of electrical supply voltages.

   (1)  The main source of operating voltage shall be connected to the load side of the main service of commercial power or the main distribution service of an isolated power plant located on the premises. The connection shall be made through an overcurrent protective device in an approved manner with the overcurrent protective device lockable and conspicuously identified with the designation ‘‘Fire Alarm Supply.’’

   (2)  The second source of power may be one of the following:

     (i)   A generator set approved for emergency lighting power sized to accommodate the total load of its intended use including the fire alarm system. The fuel supply shall be sufficient to operate the auxiliary generator for a minimum of 12 hours with refueling available on short notice for an additional 12 hour period.

     (ii)   The second source or back-up power may be by the utilization of storage batteries located in the control panel or as near as possible in a separate cabinet adjacent to the control panel. Batteries used for fire alarm systems shall be designed for their intended use and shall not supply power or be used for other purposes. The transfer from loss of normal power to back-up battery source shall be automatic.

       (A)   Batteries shall be sized to operate the entire fire alarm system under normal load for a minimum of 24 hours during normal power outages with sufficient power to operate alarm signalling devices a minimum of 5 minutes after the 24 hour period.

       (B)   Automatic charging circuits shall be provided for recharging the batteries after use and for maintaining the batteries at full charge under conditions of normal power applied.

 (h)  Approved equipment. Detection devices, alarm indicating devices, control panels, and connected components of the fire alarm systems shall be listed by Underwriters’ Laboratories or approved by Factory Mutual or other accredited agency accepted by the Board. All such items shall be listed or approved for the purpose of its intended use and shall be installed in a manner not to exceed the maximum approved specifications.

 (i)  Wiring. Wiring and installation work shall be performed in accordance with the 1981 National Electrical Code as adopted by the National Fire Protection Association, Batterymarch Park, Quincy, Massachusetts 02269.

 (j)  Elevator detectors in a building that has a manual or automatic fire detection system. Elevator recall detectors shall be interconnected to the fire alarm control panel for monitoring alarm and trouble conditions. This monitoring shall be in addition to the operation for elevator recall.

 (k)  Automatic extinguishing systems. Buildings required to have automatic extinguishing systems and fire alarm systems shall comply with the following:

   (1)  Operation of an automatic extinguishing system shall cause the initiation of the fire alarm system.

   (2)  The closing of shut off valves shall operate the fire alarm trouble signal in a manner that does not disturb supervision of an alarm initiating or indicating circuits.

Cross References

   This section cited in 34 Pa. Code §  50.51 (relating to manual system); and 34 Pa. Code §  50.52 (relating to automatic system).

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