Monitoring Requirements for Fire Alarms

Posted November 13, 2019 by Koorsen Fire & Security

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Fire alarm monitoring is a critical part of a comprehensive fire protection system. When a fire alarm goes off in your building, monitoring ensures that the signal is quickly assessed to verify that it’s not a false alarm and then transmitted to first responders within minutes. With fire alarm monitoring, business owners can be confident that even if a fire breaks out when their building is unoccupied, it will still be quickly reported to emergency services, saving potentially tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. 

This post will help you determine whether your building requires fire alarm monitoring and what your options are for meeting those requirements.  

How to Determine if your Building Requires Fire Alarm Monitoring 

The most important consideration in determining whether a fire alarm system is required is the occupancy classification of the building in question. Depending on your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), this may be based on the International Building Code (IBC) occupancy classifications or those contained in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code. However, a comparison of the classifications defined in these codes will reveal that they are very similar. For this post, we will summarize the requirements for fire alarm monitoring based on the occupancy classifications in NFPA 101.  

The main requirements for fire alarm monitoring and notification are found in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4.2, which states that fire alarm systems required for any occupancy be equipped to transmit notification of a fire alarm or other emergency automatically to the municipal fire department and fire brigade (if provided). Any of the following means may be used if acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ):

  • Central Supervising Station
  • Remote Supervising Station
  • Proprietary Supervising Station
  • Auxiliary System

The table below summarizes the monitoring and notification requirements for most occupancies. Note that the requirements differ a bit between new and existing occupancies (i.e. buildings/facilities). For example, fire alarm systems in most new occupancies must be equipped to transmit notification of a fire alarm or other emergency automatically, as well as supervisory signals. Trouble signals must also be audible and visibly displayed either at an approved, remotely located receiving facility or at a location within the protected building that is constantly attended by qualified personnel. 

For existing installations where none of the means described in Section 9.6.4.2 are available, a plan for monitoring and notification of the municipal fire department is allowed if approved by the AHJ. 

There are no specific monitoring and notification requirements for structures in which fire alarms are not required. In these cases, owners are advised to work with a company that specializes in fire protection systems design to determine the best monitoring equipment to be used based on their goals and objectives. 

Emergency Forces Notification Requirements by Occupancy Type

New Occupancy Existing Occupancy
Assembly Occupancies

Monitoring and fire department notification is required for any assembly occupancy where the maximum occupant load exceeds 300 people. When required, the building must have someone manning a receiving station where the alarm must send a signal whenever it’s initiated.

For new occupancies, if the AHJ determines that having a constantly attended receiving station isn’t practical, the owner may instead provide automatically transmitted evacuation or relocation instructions and a system that is monitored by a supervising station.  

Monitoring and fire department notification is required for any assembly occupancy where the maximum occupant load exceeds 300 people. When required, the building must have someone manning a receiving station where the alarm must send a signal whenever it’s initiated.   

For existing occupancies, if the AHJ finds that providing monitoring by a supervising station is impractical, the owner may implement a voice-only announcement.  

Business and Mercantile Occupancies
Monitoring and fire department notification in all new business and mercantile occupancies must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4.  Existing businesses and mercantile occupancies are generally not required to meet monitoring requirements until they replace their fire alarms, at which time they will have to install alarms equipped for monitoring and notification as required by NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. 
Educational Facilities 
New educational facilities must meet the monitoring and fire department notification requirements in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4 

Wherever the school authorities determine that an actual fire exists, they must immediately call the local fire department using the public fire alarm system or other available facilities.  

They may continue to use this method of notification until it comes time to replace their fire alarm system, at which point they must install a means for monitoring and automatic emergency forces notification that complies with NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. 

Daycare Facilities
Monitoring and fire department notification for new daycare facilities must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4.  All existing daycare facilities except those caring for 100 clients or less, must meet the monitoring and fire department notification requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4 
Health Care Facilities 
Monitoring and fire department notification for all new and existing health care facilities must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. 
Ambulatory Health Care Facilities 
Monitoring and fire department notification for all new and existing ambulatory health care facilities must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. 
Residential Board and Care Facilities
Monitoring and fire department notification in new and existing residential board and care facilities must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4, if they provide sleeping accommodations for more than 16 residents. 
Industrial and Storage Occupancies
Monitoring is required for storage or industrial occupancies only when the building is occupied. Given this, if your storage or industrial facility is rarely occupied, it may be tempting to forgo monitoring. However, doing so is risky business when you consider recent data from the NFPA, which shows that on average, U.S. businesses suffer more than $645 million in property losses each year from fires in their storage facilities alone. Compared to these numbers, the cost of monitoring your storage or industrial facility, even when unoccupied, makes good sense.  
Detention and Correctional Facilities

Monitoring and fire department notification in correctional occupancies must meet the requirements of NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. However, if the facility has a system that employs a positive alarm sequence or staff who can promptly notify the fire department to monitor the alarm system, no other monitoring is required.  

Likewise, the requirements in Section 9.6.4 do not apply where there is a constantly attended location on site that can promptly notify the fire department or has instead direct communication with a control room that can notify the fire department. In these cases, the procedures for logging alarms and immediate notification of the fire department must be documented in the facility’s fire plan.

Hotels and Dormitories

Monitoring and fire department notification in all new hotels and dormitories must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. 

For existing hotels and dormitories, the system must have provisions for the immediate notification of the public fire department by telephone or other means in case of fire. Where there is no public fire department, notification shall be made to the private fire brigade.

Lodging and Rooming Houses

Not addressed 

Apartment Buildings

Monitoring and fire department notification in new and existing apartment buildings must follow the requirements established in NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4. 

One and Two Family Dwellings

Not addressed 

 

Understanding your Options for Fire Alarm Monitoring and Notification

Monitored alarm systems are those in which the fire alarm control panel relays any alarm signals to a supervising station via a telephone line, cellular connection, radio channel, or over the Internet. When a signal is received, trained monitoring station staff alert emergency services to the facility’s alarm. A supervising station is a facility that receives signals from the premises where the fire alarms are installed and which is staffed with personnel trained to assess and respond to fire alarm signals. The four different options for monitoring and fire department notification allowed by NFPA 101, Section 9.6.4.2 are described in more detail below:

  • Central Supervising Stations – These are monitoring stations that meet the UL 827 Standard for Central Station Alarm Services, which requires more stringent standards than remote station monitoring. Central supervising station monitoring services are by far the most common method for fire alarm monitoring services and can only be obtained by a UL-listed provider. Central monitoring services provide the installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance for the alarm system, 24/7 monitoring services by trained personnel, and a runner service. With a runner service, a runner is a person who, with every alarm, supervisory or trouble signal received, goes to the building to investigate. 
  • Remote Supervising Stations – While similar to central supervising stations, remote supervising stations put the responsibility for installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of the alarm system on the owner. While the requirement for 24/7 monitoring still applies, there is no requirement for a runner to check on the signals received.  
  • Proprietary Supervising Stations – Proprietary supervising stations are those that protect multiple properties under the same ownership, which may or may not be contiguous. As with the other types of supervising stations, the personnel staffing them must be properly trained to assess and respond to fire alarm signals.
  • Auxiliary Systems – These fire alarm systems work like central monitoring stations except that the signal is transmitted directly to the public fire reporting system, which is owned and operated by the local municipality. Transmission is accomplished through a fire alarm box that is connected to municipal circuits or with the municipal alarm receiving station. Regardless of which type of supervisory station is used, when the alarm system is triggered, visible and audible alarms should activate in the station. In cases where none of the above monitoring options are practical, the facility may use a different, approved plan for notifying emergency forces.

Koorsen Can Help

Knowing that your fire alarm system requires monitoring is the first step to ensuring it will protect your building and your business if a fire ever breaks out. Making sure you have the right fire alarm system – one that is equipped with the proper monitoring devices and reliable notification services – could be the difference between life and death for your business. According to the the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster like a fire. And, 25 percent of those that do reopen, fail within the first year. Koorsen offers one-stop shopping for business owners seeking peace of mind, with fire safety engineers who can design your system, factory-trained and NICET-certified technicians to install and maintain it, and central station monitoring services to ensure your business is protected 24/7. Contact Koorsen today to learn more.

Topics: Monitoring, Fire Alarm Systems

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is believed to be reliable, but Koorsen Fire & Security assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. It does not constitute professional advice. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information's accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.