CODE & STANDARD REFERENCES
When is a fire alarm system required for Group I Occupancies?
Continuing in our series of fire alarm system requirements based upon occupancy type, today we are going to discuss Group I or institutional occupancies.
Institutional occupancies are complex, as they deal with supervision provided by staff members for occupants who are incapable of self-preservation or where the occupants are incarcerated. Our discussion today will be at the 10,000-foot level as group I occupancies have very specific and detailed requirements based upon multiple groups and subgroups which could easily have its own video series.
Institutional occupancies have four main groups, we will cover the basic definition. In the event you will be involved in the design or plan review of a group I occupancy, we strongly encourage you to spend multiple hours reviewing all the subcategories and conditions for each group I classification.
Group I-1 Include facilities for more than 16 persons excluding staff who reside on a 24-hour basis in a supervised environment and receive custodial care. This group includes alcohol and drug centers, assisted living facilities, and group homes to name a few. popular examples of this group would include the Betty Ford clinic or Passages in Malibu.
Group I-2 are defined based on two conditions:
Condition 1 includes facilities providing nursing and medical care but do not provide emergency care and primarily include nursing homes and foster care facilities.
Condition 2 include facilities providing nursing and medical care and could provide emergency care with the primary occupancy being hospitals.
Group I-3 include facilities that are inhabited by more than five occupants who are under restraint or security. Occupants in an I-3 facility are incapable of self-preservation due to the security measures not under the occupants’ control. No mystery here, these occupancies include jails, prisons, and correctional facilities.
There are five separate conditions applicable to a group I-3 occupancy the user needs to be aware of.
Group I-4 include facilities occupied by more than five occupants of any age who receive custodial care for fewer than 24 hours per day by people other than parents, guardians or family members in a home which is not their primary residence. This occupancy group includes adult daycare and child daycare facilities
Here in today’s example, we are discussing requirements based on the International Building Code, which is the most popular model building code in the United States. If your jurisdiction differs from the IBC, the answer lies in your own code path under your adopted building code.
Once again, we will find our fire alarm system requirements in section 907 of the IBC. Section 907.2.6 provides us with our requirements for institutional occupancy fire alarm systems.
A manual fire alarm system which activates occupant notification shall be installed in Group I occupancies.
An automatic smoke detection system that activates the occupant notification system in accordance with section 907.5 shall be provided for group I-1 occupancies Group I-2 occupancies and Group I-3 occupancies as directed by the specific requirements for each group.
Manual fire alarm boxes are not required at exits if located at all care providers control stations or other constantly attended staff locations. The fire alarm boxes need to be visible and provided with ready access and not exceed 200 feet travel distance.
Occupant notification systems are not required to be activated where private mode signaling is installed and meets NFPA 72 as approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. Emergency evacuation plans and staff training are required to use this exception.
MINIMUM CODE REQUIREMENTS
Our example for today is a retrofit of an existing single-story Group I-2 Mental Healthcare Facility. The existing building is a 90,000 square foot Type V building non-rated with interior corridors. The building has an existing automatic fire sprinkler system installed throughout.
Based on our example, we can meet the minimum requirements of the IBC Section 907.2.6 by providing the following scope of work:
Manual fire alarm boxes are required at each nurse’s station and all non-patient area exits from the building. Automatic smoke detection installed within the corridors: (1) Connect the fire sprinkler system and the building Smoke detection system to the fire alarm control unit, (2) Provide horns and strobes throughout all areas of the building which will activate upon sprinkler water flow, manual fire alarm box or smoke detector actuation. Once again, it is important to understand the use of the facility and to verify the specific conditions applicable to the occupancy group classification.
PYSCHIATRIC HOSPITAL EXAMPLE
We recently completed a design of a combination fire alarm and voice evacuation system using very early smoke detection aspiration otherwise known as VESDA for a Group I-2 psychiatric hospital retrofit. The system design was above and beyond minimum code requirements based upon the owner’s request.
Each sleeping room was provided with its own addressable sampling port with a flush finish against the ceiling so that the patients could not harm themselves. All the nurse’s stations received new annunciator’s panels so that real time data would be displayed within seconds of the incoming alarm, trouble, or supervisory signals to the fire alarm control unit.
New manual fire alarm boxes were also provided at each nurse’s station to allow full control of initiating an alarm by trained personnel.
Patient areas within a psychiatric hospital are not an ideal location for your typical horns and strobes for obvious reasons. Our design featured a staff alerting chime located at the nurse’s station. The goal of the overall design was to provide full control and accessibility for the 24/7 trained staff located at each nurse’s station.
Whether you are meeting code minimums or going above and beyond the code at the owners request, we hope this high-level discussion on group I occupancy fire alarm system requirements provides a springboard for you to research the codes and learn about institutional occupancies.
Until next time, I am Al Yakel and this is MeyerFire University.
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