Month: October 2016

Prevent Fire Alarm Trouble Signals

Limit the inconvenience of trouble signals from your Fire Alarm system by being pro-active in replacing batteries.

Fire alarms are a system of multiple devices working together to detect and warn people through visual and audio appliances when smoke, fire, carbon monoxide or other emergencies are present. The fire alarm panel is the electrical panel that monitors all components of the system. It also sends trouble signals for problems found within the fire alarm system, problems which may cause the system to not work properly and put your people and assets at risk.  Fire alarm systems are prone to errors given the sheer number of devices involved so regular inspections and maintenance are key in keeping your system operating properly. Regular maintenance can also limit the number of trouble signals you receive each year as your Life Safety Partner will inspect and service the devices to keep them running properly.

Fire alarms need to be able to work during an emergency, and since emergencies can cause power outages a battery back-up to your system is an important component. When your battery power runs low, your fire alarm system will send a trouble signal to the central monitoring station, who will then call the system owner. The fire alarm panel will also beep locally at the panel and annunciator if one is present.

Trouble signals from your Fire Alarm system won’t wait for a convenient time; whether you are in a meeting, out of town, or sleeping at 2 a.m. you will be receiving the alert and need to address it immediately. By pro-actively replacing your system batteries every two years, you can limit both the number of trouble signals you receive and the increased costs of emergency service from your Life Safety Partner.

Parts of the Fire Alarm System:

Fire alarm control panel (FACP) – also known as the fire alarm control unit, is the hub of the system. It monitors inputs and system integrity, controls outputs and relays information.

Smoke Detectors – smoke detectors have built in sensors, and when smoke is found in the atmosphere, they send information to the fire alarm panel. The two most common types of smoke detectors are ionization and photoelectric. The sensing chambers of these detectors operate differently to sense visible or invisible combustion particles from developing fires.

Primary power supply – commonly the non-switched 120 or 240 volt alternating current course supplied from a commercial power utility. In non-residential applications, a branch circuit is dedicated to the fire alarm system and its constituents. “Dedicated branch circuits” should not be confused with “Individual branch circuits” which supply energy to a single appliance.

Secondary (backup) power supplies – This component, commonly consisting of sealed lead-acid storage batteries or other emergency sources including generators, is used to supply energy in the event of a primary power failure.

Initiating devices: This component acts as an input to the fire alarm control unit and are either manually or automatically activated, such as pull stations, heat detectors, or smoke detectors. Heat and smoke detectors have different categories of both kinds. Some categories are beam, photoelectrical, aspiration, and duct.

Notification appliances: This component uses energy supplied from the fire alarm system or other stored energy source, to inform people of the need to take action, usually to evacuate. This is done by means of a flashing light, strobe light, electromechanical horn, “beeper horn”, chime, bell, speaker, or a combination of these devices.

Building safety interfaces: This interface allows the fire alarm system to control aspects of the building environment and to prepare the building for fire, and to control the spread of smoke fumes and fire by influencing air movement, lighting, process control, human transport and exit. Building safety interfaces include magnetic smoke door holders, duct mounted smoke detection, emergency elevator service, and public address rack.

Can you ensure each device in your fire alarm is being inspected and tested? You can if your Life Safety Partner uses a barcoded method of inspection, ensuring the inspector finds and tests each device efficiently. Your inspection report should list the results for each device, as well as the date/time stamp for when it was last inspected. These details will provide you with piece of mind and your AHJ inspector with full system information.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Room Construction for a Clean Agent System

Clean Agent Systems are the best fire protection system for your server rooms. For this suppression system to work properly, your server room construction needs to be specifically designed to limit leaks and hold the gaseous agent.

In reports from the NFPA, when automatic extinguishing equipment was reported present, sprinklers were reported in 72% of the fires. Wet-pipe sprinklers were reported for 90% of the fires with sprinklers present, compared to 7% for dry-pipe sprinklers and 3% for other sprinklers.

When wet-pipe sprinklers were present, 56% of fires were reported as too small to activate operational sprinklers. Clean agent systems can activate faster than traditional wet-pipe sprinklers and, since they do not use water, will not damage your electrical equipment when used. Debris, smoke, and water clean-up wreaks havoc on electronic gear. It also prevents your business from getting back to business as usual.

Server Room Construction for a Clean Agent Suppression System

Server rooms are generally constructed with the perimeter walls extending from the true ceiling (as opposed to drop ceilings and the like) to the lowest structural unit, either the floor itself or the concrete slab underneath the floor. This creates a fire rated barrier for the room and reduces the leaks a room will have in an Integrity Fan Test.

Server rooms should be prepared for a clean agent suppression system by inspecting the walls and slab for leakage points, sealing them with fire retardant materials, and fitting the doors with pressure seals around the jams and thresholds.

When constructing a server room, your contractors should ensure the following points are followed to allow for a clean agent suppression system.

Doors & Windows
General Contractor

  • All doors must have a threshold and sweep installed
  • Egress doors should swing out of the protected space
  • Doors may require weather stripping around the jam to ensure an air tight seal
  • Latching mechanisms are necessary and door closures are required
  • If doors to the server room must remain open, an electromagnet door holder will be required which can be released prior to agent discharge
  • All types of windows, pass through, or openings must be fire caulked and sealed

Walls, Ceiling & Floorroom-construction1
General Contractor

  • Porous block walls must be sealed from slab-to-slab to prevent gas from leaking out of the block; two or three coats of paint are typically required
  • Server rooms should be enclosed with wall partitions that extend slab-to-slab; in areas where this is not possible, all ceiling tiles should be clipped and openings caulked
  • All walls should be caulked around the inside perimeter of the room where the walls rest on the floor slab and the walls intersect with the ceiling slab above
  • Upgraded, noncombustible ceiling tiles are recommended
  • Drywall should be caulked at the joints of the walls and floor, and at the roof or floor above
  • Any penetration to the walls, including conduit, cable trays, outlets, switches and wire troughs, must be fire caulked and sealed
  • If a raised floor continues out of the protected space, bulkheads must be installed under the floor directly under the partitions; these bulkheads must be caulked top and bottom
  • All floor drains should have traps which are designed to have water in them at all times

HVAC Specialties
Mechanical Contractor

  • To ensure the protected area is air tight, dampers may be required in the ductwork at the perimeter walls of each protected space
  • Dampers must be spring loaded or motor operated to provide 100% air shut off
  • A 5% minimum leakage requirement must be met so the dampers must be UL #5555
  • With clean agent fire suppression, the HVAC will be shut down prior to discharge, self-contained HVAC units may continue to run (if included in design calculations)
  • HVAC shut down control relays should be installed to within 3 feet of each unit
  • All exhaust fans should be dampered; fire alarm system control relays are used to shut down any fans
  • All fresh air intakes should be dampered and closed using fire alarm system control relays

Power and Interface Wiring
Electrical Contractor

  • 120 VAC dedicated 15 AMP circuit to the suppression control panel is required
  • Power to all dampers – control relays within 3 feet of damper
  • Fire alarm monitoring – contacts for alarm, supervisory and trouble conditions are available within the fire control panel; connection is handled by your fire system contractor
  • Purge system control wiring to HVAC units and exhaust fans are interfaced with fire alarm system control panel; connection is handled by your fire system contractor

Pressure Relief Vents

While ensuring that your server room is sufficiently sealed to contain the suppression agent for at least 10 minutes, you also have to take into consideration the maximum amount of pressure the room’s construction can withstand. The suppression agent is released with force, in a sealed room, if not calculated properly the pressure could be higher than the room can withstand. NFPA 2001, Section 5.3.7 states, “if the developed pressures present a threat to the structural strength of the enclosure, venting shall be provided to prevent excessive pressures.” Your suppression system designer should calculate Peak Pressure equations for your server room to determine if you need Pressure Relief Vents installed.

In addition to calculating if a pressure relief vent is necessary, and what size it should be, your designer should also calculate the leakage rate for the vent to ensure it will open and close at the correct pressure and will vent the proper amount of pressure to outdoors.

If Pressure Relief Vents need to be installed, here are some guidelines for optimizing performance:

  • Install vents as high as possible so that the lighter air, not the denser agent, is vented
  • Vents should open at pressures no lower than .007 PSI (50 Pa) so they don’t open unintentionally under normal HVAC pressures and no higher than .02 PSI (100 Pa) so the pressure is vented early enough to prevent it from becoming excessive
  • Specify the correct direction for venting with the Pressure Relief Vent. Inert agent discharges always create positive pressures and must have venting out of the enclosure, but halocarbons may create positive and/or negative pressures creating a need to be vented in either direction or both, depending on the agent and the humidity
  • All Pressure Relief Vents should be inspected annually to confirm they will open according to their specifications and to verify that the vent path to outdoors has not been accidently restricted

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Save space in your Server Room

Do I have to put the clean agent tanks in my data room?

Networks and Servers are the backbone of an organization. If you had to complete all transactions manually for a week, how would your business and customers cope? Server rooms typically house the most concentrated cluster of expensive assets. Your clean agent tanks don’t have to be in the same room to work properly.

No, you can store them in a neighboring space.

clean agent tank
A medium sized clean agent tank, with a fire extinguisher for size comparison.

Space in your server room is valuable, you want to utilize the protected space in your server room for the necessary electronic hardware. This is an advantage of clean agent suppression systems, as you can have the chemical agent tanks stored in a neighboring space, such as a supply closet, instead of inside the server room itself.

Clean Agent Systems are the best method of fire protection for IT rooms as they provide protection which, when activated, will not cause damage to your equipment as water from a traditional sprinkler will. If water on your expensive electronic equipment wasn’t bad enough, the water sitting in sprinkler pipes is not clear, clean water like you see in the movies. Typically, it is dirty water pouring over your electronics.

Before you store your clean agent tanks outside your server room, understand the advantages of having them inside your server room.

You need to be aware that storing the clean agent tanks in a neighboring space means you need to be diligent in your pipe inspections. If you have a leak in the pipes between your tanks and the server room, you may lose too much agent at discharge to suppress the fire. While your Life Safety Partner can inspect the pipes and test them each year during your annual inspections, problems can crop up in between inspections. If the tanks are stored in your IT room, then a leak is not as problematic since the agent is still ending up in the IT room where the fire is occurring.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Smoke & Fire Detection in a Server Room

In 2015, there was a fire every 23 seconds totaling 1,345,500 fires in the US alone, causing in excess of $14.3 billion in property damage. The goal of a fire protection system is to detect and alert of fire in the early stages and then bring the fire under control. The advantages of early detection are to allow as much time as possible for evacuation and to protect assets from extensive damage.

Server rooms are small spaces designed to accommodate valuable electronic systems which generate a large amount of heat, therefore requiring heavy cooling and ventilation. The combination of heat producing devices and the sensitivity of the electronic equipment put specific requirements on the fire safety system.

A highly sensitive Aspirated Smoke Detector created specifically for smaller areas is the preferred choice for smoke detection in server rooms. Air-aspirating, or air-sampling detectors, are able to detect a fire in its incipient stages and therefore provide earlier warning and faster response time for the suppression system. Air-aspirating detection has the ability to detect smoke at differing levels and provide corresponding alarms; for example, if the detector finds a very low level of smoke, indicating that a fire is about to begin (such as an overheated wire that is smoking), a pre-alarm signal can be activated to alert staff to investigate and take action. If high levels of smoke are detected the suppression system can be discharged to control the fire.

Another option is cross-zoned, spot-type smoke detectors, using multiple technologies. These detectors often have multiple analog sensors so that they respond to smoke, heat and carbon dioxide sensing elements. You can use photoelectric smoke detectors, as they are cheaper than the ones using multiple technologies, but they do not react as quickly to every fire scenario. The multi-criteria detectors are often able to respond faster than traditional type detectors and reduce false alarms. Cross-zoned smoke detection is the preferred strategy to use in server rooms with spot-type smoke detectors as it relies on the activation of two alarms before the suppression system is activated. While this limits the potential for false alarms setting off the suppression system, it can result in a delay of activation when the suppression system is needed. However, with the increased ventilation and airflow in the server room, the cross-zoned system is necessary with spot-type smoke detectors to ensure the space is sufficiently protected.

Some server rooms utilize a pressurized raised floor to provide cold air to IT equipment and an above-ceiling area as a hot air return. Due to the potential for fire within these areas, because of HVAC piping, electrical feeders, or IT cables, detectors should be placed within these spaces.

IT rooms are laid out with the basic premise to isolate hot aisles and cold aisles from each other and prevent hot and cold air from mixing. This system helps to keep IT equipment cool while also being an energy and cost-saving measure for server rooms. If this system is in place in your server room, the layout of the room and any barriers constructed need to be taken into consideration when designing the fire detection and suppression system – if it prevents the flow of air it will prevent the flow of smoke and suppression gas.

What does in-rack detection and suppression mean?

Smoke detection and suppression systems have been designed to fit in an enclosed IT rack. While this type of system is optional in a server room fire suppression system, it has advantages of early detection within the server rack. Being placed within the IT equipment, the system can detect smoke in the earliest stages shut down the connected equipment while activating fans to prevent a fire from overheating devices. Should the fire continue the system will release a suppression agent within the rack enclosure. Read more about these systems here.

Learn more about server room fire protection, and why clean agent systems are the best choice to protect electronics.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Server Room Fire Extinguisher

What type of fire extinguisher should I have to supplement the suppression system in my server room?

In 2006 to 2010, there were an estimated 209 reported U.S. structure fires per year that started in electronic equipment rooms. The annual, average estimated losses from fires in 2006 to 2010 include five civilian injuries, and $11.9 million in direct property damage.

While your building and server room should have fire protection in the form of sprinklers and a Clean Agent Suppression System, it is important to have a fire extinguisher near your server room to use for small fires before your Clean Agent Suppression System activates.

CO2 fire extinguishers have traditionally been used in small spaces. However, as CO2 fire extinguishers work by displacing oxygen in the space with carbon monoxide they pose a risk of asphyxiation to the user, especially in a small space such as a server room. Also, these extinguishers can create condensation which can lead to corrosion and damage to your equipment.

A better option is an extinguisher with a clean agent chemical in it, such as a Halotron Extinguisher, as this is not harmful to the user or the equipment. Clean Agent fire suppression utilizes inert gases and chemical agents to extinguish a fire. The clean agent is waterless and does not cause condensation so it is completely safe to use on electronic equipment.

Learn more about Clean Agent Suppression Systems.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Performing a Room Integrity Test for Clean Agent Systems

If you have a Clean Agent System, it is necessary to perform a Room Integrity Fan Test at installation and during your annual inspection.

What if you lost a single day’s worth of data? Even in a small business of 15 office employees, saving work on a network server can be expensive. What if you lost a week, or even a month of data?

In 2006 to 2010, there were an estimated 209 reported U.S. structure fires per year that started in electronic equipment rooms. Clean Agent Systems are the best choice for fire protection in an IT room.

Inspections: Room Integrity Fan Test

A Room Integrity Fan Test, or Door Test, measures how well-sealed a room is by sealing the room and using a fan to draw a vacuum and pressurize the space. The fan speed is adjusted to obtain a flow pressure equal to that exerted during a fire suppression system discharge. The fan is also reversed to depressurize the room, and readings are taken at both the pressurized and depressurized state. Readings obtained are entered into a computer program designed to calculate the equivalent leakage area (ELA) for the room. Because it is measuring oxygen, which is lighter than clean agent chemicals, the ELA calculated is always a worst case leakage calculation for the room. The retention time for the air in the room is what decides if the room is properly sealed for a gaseous suppression system, as the gas must be able to be held in the room for long enough to extinguish the fire and ensure that it does not reignite. A minimum retention time of ten minutes applies in most cases.

If a Room Integrity Fan Test is unable to be conducted, NFPA 2001 Annex C.1.2.2 (5) allows for the option to seek approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction to waive the quantitative results of a standard door fan test and instead conduct a detailed leak inspection. In this inspection, the door fan is used to blow air into the room while an inspector uses a smoke pencil to closely examine all floor and walls to look for leaks.

A Room Integrity Fan Test should be performed annually. Throughout the year, the property owner/manager should be maintaining a log of any penetration created in the room walls, etc. whether from internal staff or contractors. This information will be reviewed by the Fire Safety Professional performing the Room Integrity Fan Test. A clean agent fire suppression system is dependent on maintaining a certain level of the gas in the server room for a particular length of time, if the leaks are not sealed properly and too much gas leaks out then the fire may reignite.

Learn more about constructing a server room so that it is properly sealed for a clean agent system.

What other Inspections are needed for a Clean Agent Suppression System?

Twice a year clean agent suppression systems need to be inspected to check the agent quantity and pressure of the refillable containers. Your Inspector will also check the agent tanks for any physical damage that would require the tanks to be replaced. Annually, a detailed inspection of the clean agent system is required. During this inspection, all systems must be thoroughly inspected and tested to ensure proper operation (it is not required for the agent to be discharged). This is when your Room Integrity Fan Test will be performed. In addition, the hoses will be checked for signs of damage, and the smoke detectors will be tested along with your alarm panels. Your clean agent system has its own alarm panel separate from your building’s alarm panel. If you clean agent system is activated, it should notify and set off the alarm system for your building as a whole. Because of this, both the clean agent alarm panel and the building alarm panel are tested.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Server Room Fire Protection

What type of fire protection system is best for a Server Room? While pre-action sprinkler systems can be used in a server room, Clean Agent Systems have definite advantages.

Between 2006 and 2010, there were an estimated 209 reported U.S. structure fires per year that started in electronic equipment rooms, according to the NFPA. It was also reported that 64% of fires in commercial buildings are due to power and climate control equipment – both of which run 24/7/365 in server rooms. The goal of a fire protection system is to detect and alert of fire in the early stages and then bring the fire under control. The advantages of early detection are to allow as much time as possible for evacuation and to protect assets from extensive damage.

For any size business, having a networked server for all employees to save work to is expensive. The benefits of this are so widely accepted that it is the standard in businesses. Consider if you lost a single day’s worth of data. According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.

It is important to have a protection system customized for your server room, as these rooms are designed specifically to house and maintain valuable and expensive assets for companies. The electronic equipment is sensitive to damage, and the set-up of the room is specific to maintain the equipment – a set-up which can interfere with fire protection if not taken into account. Click here to learn more about smoke and fire detection in server rooms.

Pre-action sprinkler systems are occasionally used in server rooms for fire protection. The benefit to the pre-action system is that the water is not stored in the sprinkler pipes, reducing the risk of pipes leaking and causing damage to the IT equipment. Water damage can still be caused by your dry sprinkler system though if there is a leak in your pipes or a hole due to corrosion from MIC, and your pre-action valve is released due to error (during a test for example). Even with your sprinkler heads intact, you now have water spraying down on your equipment from the leaks. Pre-action systems do have a lowered risk of water damage due to false alarms, as the pre-action system requires two separate events in order for water to flow out of the sprinkler system; first, the smoke detectors must identify a developing fire which releases the pre-action valve allowing water to flow into the sprinkler pipes, second, the sprinkler heads must be activated by heat to allow water to flow out into the room. While these precautions do reduce the chance of water damage in the event of a faulty system or false alarm, if an actual fire occurs water damage is guaranteed.

Water from a sprinkler system could cause as much (if not more) damage as the fire itself to the sensitive assets in your server room. Clean agent systems, however, limit the damage to computer equipment by utilizing a gas that requires no clean up after activation and will not harm your sensitive electronics.


Halon gas, which was traditionally used in server room fire protection systems, has been shown to deplete the ozone and is unsafe for humans. Today, most server rooms use a clean chemical agent such as FM200 which does not contain any ozone depleting agents and protects electronic assets without leaving residue or oily deposits. The effectiveness of clean agents is dependent on how tightly sealed the room is, as the agent must be contained in the intended room for an extended period of time to put the fire out and ensure it does not reignite. NFPA 2001 2008 5.6, Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems, sets the minimum concentration amount that needs to be held in the room for at least 10 minutes. To ensure this standard is met, a Room Integrity Fan Test must be completed at the time of installation and annually thereafter.

In addition to the detectors, alarm, and suppression agent, the fire suppression system in your server room should be able to shut down the ventilation for the room by closing dampers in the HVAC system. This is important for containing the fire, reducing the amount of agent required and keeping the room sealed for the use of the chemical suppression agent.

Space in your server room is valuable, you want to utilize the protected space in your server room for the necessary electronic hardware. This is one advantage to clean agent suppression systems, as you can have the chemical agent tanks stored in a neighboring space, such as a supply closet, instead of inside the server room itself. However, the disadvantage to storing the tanks in a neighboring space is that if you have a leak in the pipes you may lose too much agent at discharge to suppress the fire. If the tanks are stored in your IT room, then a leak is not as problematic since the agent is still ending up in the IT room where the fire is occurring.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Rental Properties and Smoke Alarms

Because the terms “smoke detectors” and “smoke alarms” are used almost interchangeably it can be confusing to distinguish between the two devices. A smoke detector is part of the fire alarm system, it has a built-in sensor for smoke and sends a signal to the fire alarm panel. A smoke alarm is a stand-alone device with a sensor for smoke, a sounder, and a power supply. A smoke alarm is not connected to a fire alarm control panel, but may be interconnected with other smoke alarms within the building.

Legal requirements of Smoke Alarms in Rental Properties

In Ohio, every apartment or rental property must have a smoke alarm installed in the immediate vicinity outside of all sleeping rooms, as well as inside each sleeping room. Alarm signaling devices must be clearly audible in all bedrooms within the unit when all internal doors are closed. Outside of the apartment units, property owners are required to have alarms installed in or near the return air stream for each floor. If the apartment does not have central return air systems, alarms need to be installed on each floor on the corridor or lobby side and within five feet of all stairway and elevator doors. If the apartment complex has fire walls and fire doors, smoke alarms must also be placed on each side of, and within fifteen feet of, the fire doors. Ohio also requires the smoke alarms to be interconnected within each unit and to have the primary power for smoke alarms to be from the building wiring with a battery backup.

In Indiana, an apartment or rental property must have at least one functional smoke alarm installed outside of each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms. Smoke Alarms must be on each additional story of the dwelling, including basements, cellars, and habitable attics. Unless there is a door between levels in dwellings with split levels, a smoke alarm must be installed only on the upper level if the lower level is less than one full story below the upper level. All smoke alarms must be battery operated or hard wired into the dwelling’s electrical system, accessible for servicing and testing, maintained, and tested at least one time every six months by the unit occupant.

In Kentucky, smoke alarms are required to be installed in each sleeping room, outside each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms, and on each additional story of a dwelling, including basements. Smoke alarms are prohibited from being installed in locations where the temperatures fall below 32 degrees F or rise above 100 degrees F. It is not recommended to install smoke alarms in crawl spaces, uninhabitable attics, or closer than 3 feet from the door to a kitchen or bathroom with a tub or shower, with the exception of alarms specifically listed for the application.

Check your Local Laws
Wherever you are, it is important to review your local laws for requirements. For example, in Cincinnati it has been legally required since 2013 for all rental properties to have photoelectric smoke alarms installed outside the structure’s sleeping quarters. In addition, rental property owners are now required to inspect the photoelectric smoke alarms annually and when executing new lease agreements, and document their findings on the proper form which is checked by the Cincinnati Fire Inspectors and Community Development Building Officials.

Placement and Mounting of Smoke Alarms

NFPA 72 has guidelines for the placement of smoke alarms on walls or ceilings. A smoke alarm mounted on a ceiling is not to be closer than 4 inches from a wall. If mounted on a wall, the top of a smoke alarm must be between 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Mounting of a smoke alarm on a sloped, pitched, or cathedral ceiling, must be at or within 3 feet of the highest point of the peak.



Power Requirements and Interconnected Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are also required to be interconnected such that the activation of one alarm will cause all the alarms in the individual unit to sound. This is to ensure that every occupant in that unit can hear the alarm regardless of any closed doors between the individual and the sounding alarm.Smoke alarms are required to receive their primary power from the electrical service and a secondary power source of a battery. While it is the responsibility of the property owner or manager to install and maintain smoke alarms, it is generally the responsibility of the tenant or occupant to regularly test the smoke alarms and notify the landlord of any required maintenance. Owners are responsible for all smoke alarms in common areas, and should test smoke alarms inside apartments at a change of tenancy.


You can read more about smoke sensing technology here.

If you are a property manager, you may also be interested in reading about Carbon Monoxide Detection and Grill Safety & Laws for rental properties.



Jack Menke
Jack Menke




Sprinkler Heads

Sprinkler heads are an important piece of your intricate sprinkler system. As such, it is necessary to understand how they work and what is required in maintaining them.

A fire sprinkler system is made up of a network of piping connected to a water supply. Individual sprinkler heads are placed along the piping to protect the area beneath them. These sprinklers individually activated by a heat source. Unlike in the movies, when a fire occurs only the sprinkler head above the fire activates, efficiently applying water only where it is needed.

How a Sprinkler Head works

Each sprinkler head consists of a plug held in place with a trigger mechanism. The most common type of trigger is a glass bulb filled with heat-sensitive, glycerin-based liquid. When the temperature around the sprinkler head is high enough to expand the glycerin-based liquid (most commonly designed at 155 degrees) the glass bulb breaks and the plug is forced out by the pressurized water or air in the pipes. This allows the water to flow out of the sprinkler and directly into the deflector plate of the sprinkler head which is designed to distribute water in an even pattern. Water will continue to flow until the main valve is shut off.

A less common trigger mechanism than the glass bulb is a two-part metal link which is held together with a solder point. When the ambient temperature is high enough to melt the solder point, the plug is released and water flows over the sprinkler head.  sprinkler heads

Smoke will not activate a fire sprinkler and only the sprinklers close enough to the heat source to reach the rated temperature activate. When a sprinkler activates, the water flows forcefully down over the flames, extinguishing them completely in most cases, or at least controlling the heat and spread of the fire and limiting the development of toxic smoke.

Sprinklers are so effective because of how quickly they react. They reduce the risk of death or injury from a fire because they dramatically reduce heat, flames and smoke which gives people time to evacuate.

Required and Recommended Inspections and Testing

As you can see, sprinkler heads are an important component of your sprinkler system. They must be inspected visually annually. Sprinkler head inspections ensure that water can discharge properly; they are checked for obstructions, damage, corrosion, and paint or other foreign material which may interfere with the sprinkler head operation.

Once your sprinkler heads are 50 years old, they should be tested at that time, followed by testing every 10 years after until they are 75 years old, at which point they must be tested every 5 years. Unlike plumbing, electrical, or HVAC systems, sprinkler systems can sit inactive for years if no fire emergency occurs. As a result of this idleness, proper testing is the only way to ensure the sprinkler system and the sprinkler heads are working correctly. To test your sprinkler heads, your Life Safety Partner will remove 1%, but at least 4, of your sprinkler heads from different areas of your sprinkler system and perform a plunge test. The plunge test measures the amount of time it takes for the sprinkler head to activate. If a sprinkler head fails, then all sprinkler heads in the area from where that particular head was taken must be replaced.

Dry-type sprinkler heads have a much higher failure rate than other types and must be tested every 10 years, starting at 10 years instead of 50. This is due to their susceptibility to corrosion both internally, when moisture condenses inside the device, and externally. In addition, dry-type sprinklers are usually installed in harsher environments which provide greater opportunity for damage to the sprinkler heads. In addition sprinklers with fast response elements should be tested every tested or replaced after 20 years and sprinklers exposed to a harsh environment every 5 years. You should consult with your Life Safety Partner about the costs of testing them versus replacing them.

Another requirement for sprinkler heads is that you have a cabinet with spare heads onsite.  A sprinkler head may need to be replaced for any number of reasons, it may have become coated with a foreign material or activated due to a fire. The area the sprinkler was protecting is now unprotected until it is replaced. Worse, if the sprinkler is damaged and cannot hold pressure, the entire sprinkler system must be shut down and is rendered inoperable which leaves the entire facility unprotected. Sprinkler heads need to be replaced as quickly as possible to keep your system running or get it back in service. There are many different sprinkler head types, depending on the availability of the type you need it could take days or even weeks to order a new one. Keeping extra sprinkler heads onsite is required and ensures uninterrupted fire protection of your business, life, and property. You can read more about spare sprinkler head cabinet requirements here.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane

Fire Sprinkler Inspections

Fire Sprinkler inspections are an important step in your Life Safety program.

Sprinklers are very reliable and can last as long as the building in which they are installed. As with any other mechanical system, sprinkler systems and its external components each have their own design, inspection, and maintenance requirements. As you would expect, there is a long list of inspections and tests required. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tests of items such as bearings, couplings, coolant, fuel, batteries, oil, gauges, etc. are just a small sampling. In addition, the different systems must be run tested periodically to ensure functionality.

Sprinkler inspections differ somewhat based on what type of system you have, but all systems must have professional inspections quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. Fire sprinkler systems are comprised of piping, sensory parts, sprinkler heads, pumps, valves, gauges, and many other parts that work together in order to provide fire protection. If any one of these parts has a problem, it can cause your system to work less efficiently or become inoperable. Regular maintenance and inspections of the equipment will not only ensure everything is working and ready if needed it will also help eliminate costly repair bills down the road due to neglected equipment.

For a complete list of what inspections are required for each system, visit A1’s inspections page, or check out our comprehensive Inspections Ebook.

In between your professional inspections and maintenance, it is important that you check your fire safety systems and devices. Look for leaks, damaged areas, gauges that are not in the proper range, rust, or any other indicators that your system may not be functioning properly. Self-inspections will allow you to catch problems early, alert your fire safety company, and keep your system running to protect lives and assets. As always, some cities and states require more frequent professional inspections so be sure to check your State and Local Code.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Nick Duke
Nick Duke
A1 Inspections Supervisor