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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

Extinguisher Distance Requirements

Portable extinguisher locations are dependent on both the hazards and the occupancy types. A school will experience different hazards than a doctor’s office. Translating NFPA requirements can be tricky. Here’s the code down to the safest, most basic minimums.

ABC Extinguishers
An ABC extinguisher is the most commonly used extinguisher in facilities today. These extinguishers provide coverage for areas with normal combustibles, flammable liquids, and electrical fires. ABC’s are a fundamental necessity for light to ordinary hazard areas such as schools or offices. Typically, though there are small exceptions depending on extinguisher size, these extinguishers should cover a maximum of 50 ft from a hazard.

D Extinguishers
D Class portable extinguishers suppress combustible metal fires. These extinguishers must be a maximum for 75 ft from the hazard. D’s require more attention during the selection process as their size requirements are dependent on the types of combustible metals present, as well as manufacturer recommendations.

K Extinguishers
K hazards are those involving cooking oils, grease, or any other combustible cooking media. K’s must be located at a maximum of 30 ft from the hazard. I also recommend using a kitchen hood suppression system for large cooking appliances.

CO2 Extinguishers
CO2 extinguishers are used in special hazard areas consisting of equipment or processes of exceptionally high value, unique or irreplaceable assets (museums, archives, art galleries, records storage), or production is of greater value than the equipment itself. CO2’s usually accompany laboratories, mechanical rooms, fuel or battery stations, and flammable liquid storage areas. These extinguishes work by removing the oxygen that fire requires and by cooling the material that’s ablaze. CO2’s are best used for BC rated fires and are usually ineffective when used with an A rated fire. CO2’s must be located at a maximum of 75 ft from the hazard.

Clean Agent Extinguishers
Clean agent extinguishers consist of halons, halotrons and FE-36’s that leave no residue and cause no damage. Like the CO2’s extinguishers protect high-value assets such as computer rooms, telecommunications facilities, process control rooms, museums, archives, marine, hospitals, banks, laboratories, and airplanes. Clean agent extinguishers are ABC rated and must be located at a maximum of 75 ft from the hazard. As an additional note: Halon extinguishers have been discontinued due to their negative environmental effects. FE-36 extinguishers are the recommended replacement for halons.

Extinguishers require a monthly visual inspection to pinpoint any physical damage or tampering with the device. All extinguishers need an annual inspection performed by a certified professional.

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.

Will Buchholz