fire protection services

Fire Alarm or Emergency Signaling at Schools

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.

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

Concealed Space Sprinkler Requirements

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.

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


How to Perform a Monthly Inspection of your Fire Extinguishers

Have you ever noticed that paper tag on your fire extinguishers? Flip it over! That’s for recording a monthly inspection.

All fire extinguishers are required by law to be properly inspected, tested and maintained. Fire extinguishers must be given a monthly visual inspection, an annual inspection and maintenance, and hydrostatic testing completed every 12 years.

If the proper fire extinguisher is used correctly, more than 90% of fires are extinguishable so it’s very important to make sure your extinguishers are in good working order.  The professional who conducts your annual inspections and maintenance can perform the monthly inspection (which will include checking seals and updating your online reports), or you can designate an employee to perform a more basic monthly inspection to check for repairs that would require a professional. Either way, EVERY EXTINGUISHER on the premises must be inspected EVERY MONTH according to NFPA 101(00), NFPA-10 and State of Ohio State Fire Code*.

How to perform a basic visual inspection of a Fire Extinguisher:extinguisher tag2

  1. Check that the extinguisher is in the designated place.
    (remember how far away from hazards different extinguishers should be?)
  2. Check the canister for dents or scratches.
    Anything that intrudes into the canister more than 1/16 of an inch makes it a deficient extinguisher.
  3. Check the hose for blockages.
  4. Make sure the gauge is reading in the green range.
  5. Ensure the pull pin is inserted properly.
  6. Make sure the hose is properly secured.
  7. Make sure there are no obstructions to access or visibility, and that operating instructions are facing forward.
  8. Initial and date the tag, to reflect inspection information.

If problems are found with any of the above items (dents, hose blockages, gauges not in the green range, pull pin missing, or hose cannot be properly secured to canister), call A1 as your extinguisher will need to be replaced or repaired.

For Rechargeable Extinguishers, if the following problems are found, call A1 for help as corrections or replacement of the extinguisher must be made:

  1. Safety seals are broken or missing.
  2. There is evidence of physical damage, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzle.
  3. Pressure gauge readings are not in the proper range or position (green).
  4. Operating instructions are not legible.
  5. Fullness cannot be confirmed by weighing or lifting.

For Nonrechargeable Extinguishers, if the following problems are found, call A1 for help as the extinguisher must be removed from use:

  1. There is evidence of physical damage, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzle.
  2. Pressure gauge readings are not in the proper range or position.
  3. Operating instructions are not legible.
  4. Fullness cannot be confirmed by weighing or lifting.

Note: Nonrechargeable extinguishers can be identified by markings such as “Discharge and Dispose of After Any Use,” “Discharge and Return to Manufacturer After Any Use,” or simply, “Nonrechargeable.”


So that’s a monthly inspection! Repeat the process for EVERY EXTINGUISHER to make sure you are compliant with State of Ohio Fire Code*.


Will Buchholz

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. Check out our Workplace Fire Extinguisher Training!


* NFPA 101(00), Sec. and Ohio Administrative Code 1301:7-7-09 require that portable fire extinguishers be inspected and maintained in accordance with NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. In other words, all fire extinguishers are required by law to be properly inspected, tested and maintained.

Standpipes: How to perform your weekly maintenance check

NFPA 25, Standard for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems, requires that a standpipe system be visually inspected on a regular basis.


If your building or facility has multiple levels or a large area such as an enclosed shopping mall then you may have a standpipe system. This water based fire system is an integral part of your building’s fire and safety design as it can supply the building’s sprinkler system and allows firefighters to hook up fire hoses directly on the level where a fire is occurring.

There are different types of standpipes, some may have water in them while others are dry and need to be hooked to a water supply for use; some  standpipes have enough pressure from the water supply to work on their own, while others need the help of a fire department pumper truck.

Pictured above is one example of a stand pipe with a 2 ½” hose vale. These vales should be checked weekly for damage, leaks, or missing caps.


What you need to do:
No matter what type you have, it is important to inspect your standpipe weekly for:

  • Signs of physical damage or leakage.
  • Make sure all control valves are in place.
  • Check for dry rot on the hose and cap gaskets.
  • Check for proper labels on equipment.
  • Make sure equipment is accessible – not blocked by boxes or other items.
  • Gauges on dry, pre-action, and deluge valves for standpipes should be inspected for normal air and water pressure; automatic standpipes can be inspected monthly.

Prevent Problemsstandpipe hose
The most common problems found with standpipes are related to housekeeping – keep your standpipes in good working order by keeping the area around the standpipe and valves cleaned and painted in order to prevent corrosion. Standpipes are commonly in need of maintenance for leaking valves, missing caps or handles, and damaged devices – all of which you will be able to see on your weekly checks so it can be fixed right away, before the problem escalates!

Your weekly checks should find any emergency maintenance problems, your required semi-annual and annual inspections will test the system thoroughly for issues you would not be able to see in your weekly checks. At the semi-annual inspection, your alarm devices, valve supervisory devices, and supervisory signal devices will be tested. In addition to these, the annual inspection will test the hose nozzles, hose storage devices and main drain.

Every 3 to 5 years, inspections will include a pressure test on hoses; testing of control valves, pressure-reducing valves and system flow; dry standpipe system piping, hydrostatic test; and a full flow test. Your inspector will lubricate and operate all valves and hose connections to ensure everything is working properly and they will remove the hoses from racks to reload them in order to keep them in good working order.

Read more about Standpipes, the different types, required inspections, and more in our Standpipe Systems Ebook. 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











Fires are 100% preventable. Proper equipment paired with well-trained individuals can save businesses and lives. In fact, most work environments must have an emergency action plan, functioning extinguishers, and trained extinguisher operators. OSHA’s requirements vary from one environment to the next—typically depending on size, occupancy, industry, and personnel. The more flammable material present in a place, the more strict OSHA requirements become.

You Need Fire Extinguisher Training or Education

Regardless of OSHA’s required training and education minimums, it’s a good idea to make yourself and the people around you prepared for an emergency.

Three reasons to fire train your staff:

  • OSHA usually requires training or education anyway.
  • You may get a better insurance rating.
  • Your staff will be well prepared in the event of a fire.

Fire Extinguisher Training vs Fire Education

Do you need either extinguisher training or fire education? The difference lies in the amount of hands on learning that takes place. Training includes supplementing the normal safety protocol information with real, hands on, extinguisher practice. Education is simply providing your staff with information about proper safety procedures and protocol—no hands on extinguisher practice included.

How do you know you are giving your staff the best knowledge for their position in the company? The answer lies in who is allowed to use an extinguisher. An employee that is included in your emergency action plan as an extinguisher operator must receive training. All other employees that are not designated extinguisher operators will only need extinguisher education.

OSHA Extinguisher Training
Guide to OSHA Extinguisher Training Requirements

Where You Can Find Fire Extinguisher Training

Schools and other government organizations can have their local fire department train or educate their staff. All other companies will need to pay a certified trainer. To book training or for more information, click here.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. For training or a personal evaluation please call us at 937-859-6198. For more information, visit us at

Will Buchholz

Simplify Budgeting for System Care

Life safety system expenses don’t end after the installation is completed. Periodic maintenance for a system may often times cost more that the system itself. Tests and maintenance can be easily planned, but emergencies and part failures can put unexpected strain on your budget. How can you accommodate unplanned upkeep? Putting budget money aside is a way to guard yourself, but what if the situation is much more serious than you anticipated?

A Real World Example
Recently, in a facility, the mother board burnt out three times from April to July. The particular motherboard costs a median amount of $800. The system is down, resulting in overnight shipping costs of $200 to keep operations moving according to plan. To diagnose the problem, the service company sends out a technician costing $50 per trip and $100 per hour with a 2 hour minimum in labor. Once the panel arrives, the tech returns to the location again, adding another $50 and $200 for the second trip. Since this happened 3 times in one year, multiply the total by three.

The Cost Breakdown:

Mother board                     $800
Shipping Cost                     $200

Trip 1 Charge                      $50
Trip 1 Labor                        $200

Trip 2 Charge                      $50
Trip 2 Labor                        $200
Subtotal                               $1500
Total for 3 Repairs              $4500

In a three month period, the company had to pay $4500 for unexpected low voltage repairs. That’s $4500 out of their budget.

How can You Save Your Budget?
Thankfully, the systems industry is moving towards offering better options for customers by offering plans that allow you to pay for any repairs your system upfront.

If the facility in the previous example had a service agreement with their service provider, they might have paid $3000 upfront to cover any electronic repairs over a 5 year period. That would mean, in a three month period, that facility saved $1500. Note that these savings do not include any other repairs that occur either previously, or after those 3 months.

Why are Service Agreements a Smart Choice?
1. Most service agreements include exclusive discounts, saving you money over time.
2. Your equipment will continue to run efficiently.
3. Your service provider will remind you when your systems are due for maintenance.
4. Possible issues or inefficiencies will be caught before an emergency repair is needed.
5. Your service provider will already know your equipment, which can facilitate a fast remedy.
6. If you need a system part replacement, you’ll save on the cost of the part.
7. Your equipment has a better chance of running more efficiently for the rest of its expected life.
8. You will eliminate unexpected service bills and have a better chance of staying on budget.
9. You have the guarantee of priority placement in the service queue.

Service agreements can be customized, and most facilities will benefit from having them. Budgeting for your systems doesn’t need to be difficult. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 937-859-6198.

Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Are You Sprinkler Savvy or Sprinklerstitous?

Sprinkler Savvy or Sprinklerstitious? Take This Test to Find Out.

There’s a lot of misinformation about fire sprinkler systems out there. Do you have the right information, or are you sprinklerstitious too?

Answer true or false to these statements. Scroll down for the answers and explanations to see how much you know!

1. Water damage from a sprinkler system costs more than the fire damage it prevents

2. Only one or two sprinkler heads go off when there’s a fire.

3. All you need is a smoke detector to save lives.

4. Sprinklers were designed to protect property, not so much lives.

5. Sprinklers don’t add too much additional cost to construction projects.

6. New buildings are much safer than older buildings.

7. Sprinkler systems can work fine in freezing temperatures.

8. Smoke detectors don’t set sprinklers off.

9. Smoke detectors will not put out a fire.

10. Most insurance companies value the use of fire sprinkler systems.

True or False Sprinkler Test Answers.

1. False. Water damage from a sprinkler will be much less severe than fire damage. Think of it this way, would you rather have your building get a little wet or let it burn to the ground.

2. True. Contrary to Hollywood portrayals, each sprinkler is individually activated. Only those affected by heat at 165 degrees will activate.

3. False. Smoke detectors save lives in offering a warning to get out. For people that have trouble moving, like the elderly, a sprinkler system will put out a fire early and keep everyone safe.

4. False. Sprinklers will protect both lives and property. In fact, statistics show that there has never been any multiple loss of life in a fully sprinklered building.

5. True. Sprinklers costs about 1-2% of the total construction costs. They are comparable to carpet costs, paved driveways, or adding a whirlpool bath.

6. False. Newer construction techniques make a facility much more susceptible to fire. You can learn more information from NFPA here.

7. True. With the right equipment, sprinkler systems will work fine in cold temperatures. You may need a dry pipe or preaction system as an alternative to water filled pipes.

8. True. Detectors are there to sense a fire and talk back to the panel. The panel will sound an alarm and notify the necessary parties to handle the emergency. Detectors will not set off the sprinklers.

9. False. Again, detectors offer warning, but will not put out any fires. You need some sort of suppression equipment for that.

10. True. Insurance companies will sometimes lower the value of your premiums and some are leading advocates for sprinkler systems.

So, are you sprinkler savvy, or sprinklerstitous? Do you have more questions? Click here to contact us.


Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Manage and Minimize Unwanted Alarms

That Darn Alarm is Going Off Again!

The fire alarm goes off. You stop operation, evacuate the building, and wait for the Fire Department to tell you it was a false alarm. What set it off? More importantly, how can you avoid all the drama in the future?

Smoke detectors are sophisticated electronic devices that need periodic testing and maintenance. To maintain the integrity of any fire alarm system, it is important to have a qualified person periodically test the system. Detectors should be tested periodically and maintained at regular intervals following the manufacturer’s practices. Detectors should be given a visual inspection at installation and at least twice a year thereafter.

It should be noted that national, state, and local laws require the testing of your systems.

Probable Causes of Unwanted Alarms:

  • Detectors installed in improper environments that have temperature extremes, excessive dust, dirt, or humidity, excessive air flow rates, or the normal presence of combustion particles
  • Detectors and the wiring are installed improperly causing interference from induced currents and noise in adjacent wiring systems, radio-frequency transmissions, and other types of electromagnetic effects
  • Inadequate maintenance causes gradual dust and dirt accumulation on the detector’s sensing chambers
  • Seasonal effects from the reactivation of a building’s heating system after an extended summer shutdown can cause alarms
  • Building maintenance issues, like accidental triggering of a detector’s magnetic test switch, or the introduction of plaster dust from drywall repairs
  • Induced current effects from lightning storms
  • Infestation from small insects
  • Vandalism or mischievous acts

Besides a troublesome environment, electronics can interfere with your alarm system.
Systems that can affect the alarm system include:

  • other security systems
  • walkie-talkies
  • mobile telephones
  • HVAC controls
  • elevator call systems
  • remote control equipment (door closers, etc.)
  • installation of microwave antenna

Maintain an Alarm Log
Keep an Alarm Log to indicate which individuals responded to the alarm and whether or not they took appropriate action. Periodic review of the cumulative Alarm Log can help those responsible for the detection system discern patterns in the reported alarms. An Alarm Log can show the start date of apparently causeless alarms and can eventually help identify the cause.

Who’s Responsible?

The owners of smoke detector-equipped fire alarm systems are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the detection system in the following ways:

  • Maintaining an Alarm Log and training appropriate personnel
  • Maintaining a Detector Maintenance Log that records inspection, testing and cleaning data for each detector in the system.
  • Maintaining a complete file of information on the alarm system in a readily accessible location.
  • Givimg maintenance personnel or contractors working on the building’s electrical systems copies of the alarm system wiring layout and locations.
  • Recording installations and modifications to all other building electromechanical systems.
  • Recording all actions taken during the investigation of a series of alarms, indicating a problem exists.

The installers of smoke detector equipped alarm systems are responsible for:

  • Providing specifications and installation instructions for the detectors, control panel, and auxiliary devices.
  • Verifying that the alarm system installation meets all applicable code requirements.
  • Testing a newly installed, expanded, or modified alarm system.
  • Providing troubleshooting assistance to the owners for a specified break-in period after installation.
  • Helping the owner set up appropriate Detector Maintenance and Alarm Logs for the system.
  • Providing initial instruction and training to the owner’s personnel or outside organization.
  • Providing troubleshooting assistance if nuisance alarm problems cannot be solved in-house.

The owner should conduct the initial investigation to find a solution, but if the personnel are unable to determine the cause for the alarms, the installer or representative of the manufacturer should be contacted to help isolate the problem.

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 at1-800-859-6198.v

Jack Menke

Overcoming Your Detector’s Limitations

You have your smoke detectors, now where to put them?

There is no one-size-fits-all for smoke detectors. When installing, updating, or inspecting your system, it’s crucial to account for the conditions of the facility to make the right choice.

To choose the right option for your needs, consider the following:

  • Smoke detectors should be located on every level of a building.
  • In areas where doors are usually closed, detectors should be located on both sides of the door.
  • Fires are often unpredictable in their growth, so choose your detector based on its sensing limitations and the conditions of the area it will cover.

Where You’ll Need a Smoke Detector
Smoke detectors should be installed in all areas of the premises. Total coverage include all rooms, halls, storage areas, basements, attics, lofts, spaces above suspended ceilings, closets, elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts, chutes, and other subdivisions and accessible spaces.

Where a Detector is a Bad Idea
Special conditions in a location can interfere with your smoke detectors and trip unwanted alarms. In some instances, a heat detector may be a better choice than a smoke detector:

  • Excessively Dusty or Dirty Areas – Installing smoke detectors in excessively dusty or dirty environments may require more maintenance than NFPA recommends.
  • Outdoors – Avoid using detectors outdoors, in open storage sheds, or other open structures affected by dust, air currents, or excessive ranges of humidity and temperature.
  • Wet or Excessively Humid Areas – Avoid damp, wet, or excessively humid areas, including areas next to bathrooms with showers.
  • Extreme Temperatures – Avoid very cold or very hot environments, or unheated buildings or rooms where temperatures can fall below or exceed the operating temperature range of the detector.
  • Areas with Combustion Particles – Avoid areas where particles of combustion are normally present, such as in kitchens or other areas with ovens and burners; or in garages.
  • Manufacturing Areas – Avoid manufacturing areas, battery rooms, or other areas where substantial quantities of vapors, gases, or fumes may be present.
  • Fluorescent Light Fixtures – Avoid placement near fluorescent light fixtures. Electrical noise generated by fluorescent light fixtures may cause unwanted alarms.

Placing detectors in areas that may trip an unwanted alarm happens all too often. Click here for tips to manage unwanted alarms.

At bare minimum, your detector must be at least 4 inches from all corners.


Questions? Click here to ask us.


Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Detector or Alarm?

Smoke Detector ≠ Smoke Alarm

Would you call a phillips screwdriver a flathead screwdriver? I think not! So why would you call a smoke detector a smoke alarm?

A smoke alarm is a stand-alone device with a built-in sounder, a power supply, and a sensor. A smoke alarm is not connected to a fire alarm control panel, but may interconnect with other smoke alarms within the building.

A smoke detector is part of a system, has only a built-in sensor and sends information to the fire alarm panel.

What Types of Detectors are out there?
The two most common smoke detectors are ionization and photoelectric. The sensing chambers of these detectors operate differently to sense visible or invisible combustion particles from developing fires.

Ionization detectors use positively or negatively charged ions to determine if an area is safe. Once combustion particles enter the air, they alter the internal plates’ measurements to detect smoke. In an ionization detector, dust and dirt can accumulate, increasing the chance of an unwanted alarm. The characteristics of an ionization detector make it more suitable for detection of fast flaming fires.

A photoelectric detector uses a light beam passing through air. The smoke blocks or obscures the beam, or causes the light to scatter. The detector senses smoke by monitoring the light. A photoelectric detector is subject to unwanted alarms from light reflected by insects, dirt, drywall dust, and other forms of contamination. Photoelectric smoke detectors are better suited to detect slow smoldering fires.

Each type of detector can detect both types of fires, but their respective response times will vary depending on the type of fire.

But Wait, There’s More!
Sometimes a facility requires a more exotic detector for special conditions.
Laser technology smoke detectors are designed for areas that require extremely early warning of fire. They are ideal for clean rooms, computer rooms or telecommunication centers, or any area with mission critical operations.

Aspiration smoke detectors use a pipe and fan system to sense the presence of smoke particulates.
These detectors are a good choice in clean rooms, areas which contain highly flammable liquid and gases, or rooms with goods easily damaged by fire, such as electronic rooms.

Multi-criteria detection contains multiple sensors that separately respond to physical stimulus such as heat, smoke, or fire gases. An alarm signal is determined through advanced algorithms based on input from these sensors. Several types of multi-criteria detection are available. The combination of sensors offers faster response times to real fires as well as better immunity to nuisance alarms in challenging environments.

Combination carbon monoxide and smoke detectors improve installation time and cost as well as offering a more aesthetically pleasing final product. This device type provides separate signals for each event.

So What Now?
Confused? You can request more specific information by clicking here.

Jack Menke