Month: September 2016
Keeping your design-build project on schedule can be a challenge. Planning, communicating and coordinating all the different trade professionals is important and one set-back can cause a ripple effect for others. Here are a few items General Contractors can check off the list to keep the fire protection part of the plan on moving forward.
Have background CAD Drawings available
Your fire protection project starts with installation drawings which overlay with the project’s background CAD drawing. The design of a fire protection project cannot begin until these original drawings are received. When you select your Life Safety partner, have your project’s CAD drawings ready to hand over so that the fire protection design can begin immediately. To delay the start of the design can lead to slow submittals, unnecessary delays, or even missed deadlines.
Coordination with other trades
To have a successful fire protection design, your Life Safety partner will need to coordinate efforts with other trades during construction. Successful communication between trades will limit delays and errors in project delivery. For example, your HVAC professional needs to provide an accurate count of duct detectors installed and their location. If you have an excavation company performing the underground work of laying the pipe for the fire sprinkler water connection, they need to communicate with your life safety company concerning the details and timeline.
Cut out the Phone Company
We all know utilities move at their own pace. Waiting on the phone company to provide a dedicated line for your fire sprinkler monitoring system can be frustrating and cause an unnecessary delay. By utilizing cell monitoring you can cut out the phone company altogether. Take back control of your project. Your Life Safety partner can install a cell dialer during construction. Cell monitoring will not only save you time in your project schedule, it is also more cost effective for sprinkler monitoring. If you will be selling the property, this is a money-saving feature you can pass on to your buyer. If the property will be for tenant use, having cell monitoring means you don’t have to worry about relying on the tenant’s phone line or interrupted monitoring when tenants move in and out. Read more about the benefits of cell monitoring.
Communicate Permit Notes/Changes
When permits are returned with comments it is imperative that these notes be passed back along to your subcontractors including your Life Safety partner. If changes are required but not implemented, you can fail your final walk-through and delay occupancy. Even small changes can take time and cause extra expense if they have to be corrected after all work is complete; however, the delay and expense can be minimized if the changes are communicated during construction.
Communicate Changes to Project Schedule
Changes to your project schedule need to be communicated to your Life Safety partner and other subcontractors as soon as possible. If you are changing your project to a phased project, experiencing delays, or accelerating your project getting all of your partners on-board with that change as quickly as possible can be the difference in successfully meeting your new timeline.
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What should school alarms have: horns and strobes or audio messages?
Most state fire, building, and life safety codes require all new K-12 schools to have a fire alarm system which includes horns and strobes. For schools with more than 100 occupants, it is required by NFPA that the systems initiate an audio alarm to notify occupants. This alarm must meet requirements of, and is installed in accordance with, NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
A fire alarm system has at least horns and strobes that signal when the system is activated. The horns and strobes are the traditional alert and are required for all fire alarm systems. Adding audio messages to your fire alarm takes your system to the next level. Audio messages can be individualized for specific circumstances, instead of a generic horn and strobe, and provide more information for how to respond to the situation.
NFPA 72 permits the emergency voice/alarm communications system to provide other uses, such as for public address (PA) or mass notification purposes. Some features of the PA system may seem to interfere with an emergency communication system such as the ability to lower the volume on speakers, emergency notification systems can override the local volume controls to reset them to the emergency sound level. In addition, emergency notification systems need to be set to override any PA non-emergency messages. Specific design requirements for a school’s emergency communication system also include the ability to broadcast live voice messages by paging zones, and requires an emergency power supply which can support the system for 24 hours.
NFPA 72, Chapter 24, provides guidance for messages recorded in the emergency communication system. It requires that messages be developed to address each scenario outlined in the school’s emergency response plan (which means schools are required to have an emergency response plan). Emergency messages must have content that provides information and instructions to the building occupants. An evacuation message must use the standard alarm evacuation signal consisting of a Temporal-3 alarm signal (which is the recommended standard evacuation pattern for smoke and fire alarms) for at least two cycles before and after the recorded voice message.
While this overview was a general review of requirements for school emergency notification systems, it is important to review your state and local code requirements as they may dictate other design requirements. You should also review your emergency response plan with your local police and fire department to get their input and coordinate responses.
Attics: Determining if sprinklers are required
First, it is important to remember the difference between Code and Standards. Code tells us what needs to be done for fire protection and comes from the IBC, International Fire Code, or State Building Code. Standards pick up at this point outlining how the fire protection needs to be carried out; these are from the National Fire Protection Association.
While codes and standards are created to provide clarity on what is required, there can sometimes be varied interpretations on how a standard is applied. These interpretations can vary geographically or depending on the role of the interpreter in the life safety profession. To avoid this confusion, the NFPA technical committees work to ensure the language of the codes and standards is clear and can be enforced only in the intended manner. However, there are still cases where various interpretations exist and one such area is the idea of providing automatic sprinkler protection in attics.
NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, the standard for the installation of automatic sprinkler systems never specifically addresses whether or not an attic requires sprinkler protection. Section 8.1 states that all spaces should be protected unless there is a specific exemption somewhere in the standard. Since there is no specific “attic sprinkler exemption” in NFPA 13, many people think that all attics require sprinklers.
The real answer is a bit more complicated. Since there is no outright exemption for attics, the NFPA various standards on concealed spaces must be read to determine whether or not each particular attic space is considered a concealed space that does not require sprinklers. Currently, there is even some confusion on whether attics are even considered to be concealed spaces. NFPA 13 does not declare attics to be concealed spaces because not all attics are created the same from a fire development and fire spread perspective. Because of this, the standard is written to take into consideration hazards present in an attic when determining if it is a concealed space and if it requires sprinkler protection.
Adding to the confusion are two different staff interpretations from NFPA staff members in the last five years. The first interpretation stated that attics cannot be considered concealed spaces and so always require sprinklers. The second interpretation attempted to clarify that attics can be concealed spaces, and therefore may not always require sprinklers.
To determine if your attic requires sprinklers, your sprinkler system designer and reviewing authority should consider the following:
* what are the construction materials?
* can the space be occupied?
* are goods stored in the space?
* what is the quantity of combustible material?
* what level of access is provided to the space?
The answers to these questions will allow them to determine whether or not the space qualifies as a concealed space and if it needs sprinklers.
School security is an important and complex issue. Outlined here are some best management practices for any school security program.
A study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of public schools reporting the use of security cameras has increased from 19 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2013. In this same time period there was also an 18 percent increase in the number of schools controlling access to the school during the day by locking or monitoring doors.
Improving school security is a serious concern and securing doors is an important part of that security. As with any public facility, this security must be looked at from all aspects – not just keeping intruders out, but also providing safe egress in case of an emergency. Several states, ignoring both existing codes and warnings from their fire marshal, have approved the installation and use of barricade devices. Many of these devices are not code compliant and could prohibit safe egress and endanger the life safety of the school’s occupants in the event of an emergency.
Rather than installing devices that could risk the lives of their students and staff, we encourage schools to consult security and life safety experts to evaluate options for security measures that work with, not hinder, life safety. Your life safety experts can also work with you to develop protocols that include best practices for perimeter security and access control which will allow you to provide a secure learning environment.
Having a single point of entry available during school hours allows for a more secure environment. School’s should have clear signage with directions to the entrance and a visitor management center. This entrance should be monitored during school hours for more control over who should and should not be allowed to enter the building.
Visitors: Controlled Entry and Management
Entry to the school should be arranged so that visitors are funneled from the door to the office before having access to the rest of the school building. Having a vestibule that connects the main entrance and the office allows for staff to safely monitor visitors before granting access to the school. The vestibule can be open during arrival and dismissal of students but locked during the day. As visitors enter the vestibule, an intercom system, camera, impact-resistant windows and pass-through drawers allow staff to verify the identity and purpose of the visitor to allow or deny access with access-controlled electronic locks.
Electronic Access Control
Electronic access control allows for doors to be locked and unlocked remotely. Access controlled doors provide better security, additional reporting of activity, and more control over secured areas. Access control systems utilize a card or fob as a lock release mechanism which provides a more secure system than traditional keys which can be copied and distributed. Cards and fobs can be deactivated, given limited access by area or time, and provide a log of activity for when they are used. In addition to providing better perimeter security, access control can be utilized within the school to limit access to computer labs, classrooms, etc to only those with authority to enter the area. These systems also provide a method to quickly lock-down areas should an emergency situation arise, as the electronic locks can be activated through the central system and can be integrated into the emergency response system with video cameras, digital video recording, and alarm monitoring.
Having a secured perimeter and protocols for school access are the first steps in providing a secured learning environment. An interconnected communications system can pull all of your security systems together and alert first-responders when an alert occurs. While these communications systems can be expensive, there are programs to assist schools with the cost. Talk to your security adviser about possibilities, and always coordinate with your local police and fire departments.
A1 helps our educational clients complete a grant application with Alertus for a full license of their desktop alerting system, which provides alerts to all computers during an emergency. The grant provides the Alertus software for all desktops and laptops within the school, whether managed or personally owned, allowing schools to integrate existing IT assets into their security system.
After your security systems and protocols are in place, training and drills for your staff are imperative. For a security system to be effective, everyone must understand how it works, what they should and should not do in order to work with the system and not impede it, and what their response should be to an emergency alert. Remember to explain and train on every aspect of your security system including policies, procedures and technology. Drills should be repeated to ensure every staff member will understand and remember the actions they should take in an emergency. During your training, it should be stated clearly that these policies and procedures are not optional but required behaviors to ensure the security of staff and students.