When is a fire alarm system required in the IBC?
When it comes to fire alarm systems most people think that NFPA 72 provides the requirements. NFPA 72 is the National Fire alarm and signaling code; it is a reference standard and provides the how to install test and maintain a fire alarm system.
In order to determine when a fire alarm system is required, though, we need to break it down into the Why and the How.
IBC CODE ADOPTION
Most of the United States uses the International Building Code. The International Building Code otherwise known as the IBC is what is known as a model code.
The IBC is in use or adopted in 50 states, the District of Columbia, US Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. State code adoption occurs through either legislative or Regulatory agency actions. Legislative action is through the state legislature.
In addition to the state level, each city and county has a period of time where they can add their own specific amendments to the model code as long as the amendment is more restrictive than the model code. Once this process is complete the model code with all of the amendments becomes law. This process typically occurs every three years for each state that adopts the IBC.
The IBC provides us with our Why when it comes to fire alarm system requirements.
There are other Codes that require fire alarm systems such as NFPA 101 life safety code, which applies to health care facilities, NFPA 99, NFPA 5000, or NFPA 1, which we will cover in future courses.
The focus of today's course is IBC section 907 which provides the specific requirements for the installation of fire alarm systems in the built environment.
IBC SECTIONS & OCCUPANCIES
IBC section 901.1 Is the general requirement for Fire Protection systems and indicates the provisions Chapter 9 shall specify where Fire Protection systems are required.
Section 907 of IBC indicates where fire alarm systems are required based upon occupancy types.
Section 907.1 provides the general requirements for fire alarm systems for new and existing buildings and structures.
Section 907.2 provides requirements for new building and new structures based upon occupancy groups starting with 907.2.1 for Group A occupancies, through 907.2.9 group R occupancies.
Each occupancy group has specific drivers for requiring a fire alarm system based upon the number of occupants, the capabilities of the occupants and the height of the building.
Required fire alarm systems are either manual fire alarm systems which include manual fire alarm boxes, automatic smoke detection system or both. In the event of an alarm activation, required fire alarm systems must provide occupant notification throughout the area protected by the system.
The occupancy group, occupant load, height of the building and capability of the occupants can be determined from the building data and code summary provided by the designer of record and typically included as part of the basis of design of a project.
In the event this information is not available you can go to chapter 3 of the International Building Code and find the occupancy group which most closely fits the project. If the building contains two or more occupancies it will be considered a mixed occupancy building and will need to meet the separation requirements of IBC section 508 to determine if the entire building requires a fire alarm system or only specific occupancies.
Mixed occupancy buildings are a bit more complex, but check the links below where we break those out in a little more detail.
ALARM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Once we know the occupancy type, occupant load and building height, we can determine whether or not a fire alarm system is required using the provisions of section 907.2.1 through 907.2.9 for Group A through R occupancies. If there are no requirements indicated, the proposed building or structure needs to be reviewed for the special occupancy and use provisions of section 907.2.10 through 907.2.22.
The following sections provide fire alarm system requirements for detailed occupancies and uses:
These are a few examples of the detailed occupancies and uses.
If the building is existing the international existing building code IEBC will apply, assuming it’s adopted for the jurisdiction.
If a fire alarm system is not required based upon the IBC or the IEBC, the next step is to check with the building owner and ask if they have an insurance provider.
Some insurance providers such as FM global or factory mutual provide fire alarm system requirements above and beyond model code as part of protection of the assets they ensure. You will also want to check with the building owner to see if they want to install a fire alarm system voluntarily to provide an extra level of life safety for the occupants of their building.
I’m Al Yakel, this is MeyerFire University.
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