Fire alarm services and changing building code

How Professional Fire Alarm System Services Can Help You Meet Changing Fire Codes

How do you keep up with evolving fire codes for your property?

Amid everyday business concerns, like revenue growth and sales projections, you still can’t afford to lose sight of fire safety. Whether you’re in charge of an apartment community or school district, you need to stay code compliant to protect not only your property and employees (as well as students and residents!) but also to remain on the right side of the law.

Few features are as important to compliance as a correctly installed fire alarm system. The right fire alarm system services can help you meet fire codes—even as they continuously change to meet higher safety standards. And their ever-changing nature can make complying with fire codes challenging if you try to go it alone.

The consequences of non-compliance, unfortunately, make the headlines all too often.

Non-compliance increases the risk of fire damage

A recent example includes the devastating apartment fire in the Bronx that claimed the lives of 17 people, including eight children. In that case, malfunctioning fire doors exacerbated the spread and exposed the risks of poor building maintenance. Apartment fires accounted for 6% of the total of 1.4 million fires in the United States in 2020, causing 10% of the civilian fire deaths and 19% of the injuries.

According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), the top five causes of apartment fires include:

  • Cooking – 73.6%
  • Heating – 5.2%
  • Appliances – 2.8%
  • Open flame – 2.6%
  • Other/unintentional/careless – 2.6%

When it comes to fires in offices and other business properties, cooking is, again, the leading source, followed by electrical equipment fires and intentionally-set fires. Although the true number of business fires may seem relatively small—3,300 a year—they still cause more than $100 million in property damage.

You can decrease the chances of a high-impact fire if your building is up to code, which includes the use of fire alarm system services. This explains why fires at apartment construction sites can be so damaging.

Without passive fire protection measures like sheetrock and other finishes, flames can quickly spread to exposed lumber and plywood. If the site also lacks fire protection systems—like 24/7 expert monitoring support—it will take even longer for the fire department to arrive to bring the flames under control.

Challenges of staying up to code

Let’s look at a few of the challenges you may face as you try to determine what actions are needed to stay up to code.

Complex fire codes

Do you, for instance, know the details of the 2022 edition of the NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code? Released every three years, it is the world’s most widely accepted and applied installation standard, involving hundreds of experts who pour thousands of hours into updating, modernizing, and clarifying code requirements.

To quote the standard, “it establishes minimum required levels of performance, extent of redundancy and quality of installation but does not establish the only methods by which these requirements are to be achieved.”

Does it sound ambiguous? Well, you’re onto something—it typically takes a trained eye to sort through the requirements.

Consulting-Specifying Engineer, a trade publication, notes the complexity: “As with any consensus standard, some requirements are straightforward and clear, while others remain hotly debated and tend to be consistently modified from edition-to-edition or remain somewhat confusing and challenging to the users interpreting the code.”

Many variables

The fire code also changes based on a range of variables. If your building includes a large assembly space, a change in occupancy levels can trigger new codes and requirements. On the other hand, if you simply change the activity occurring in your space, the room may suddenly be treated as an assembly space and subject to another section of the code.

For example, you may be required to install or modify the fire alarm system, change door hardware, add more paths of egress, evaluate exit signage and emergency lighting, and even update your construction.

Occupancy requirements

In addition to local fire codes and regulations, the building’s occupancy type can invite more authorities having jurisdiction (AJH) than your local fire marshal. To take a few examples:

  • Any business with employees must follow the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for fire safety.
  • Hospitals must comply with OSHA and any requirements established by the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).
  • A building under construction or renovation must follow specific building and electrical codes for fire safety and regulation.
  • Insurance companies may incentivize voluntary protection measures to go above and beyond current regulations.
  • Property owners may also add their own standards when renting to other businesses, requiring compliance to approve the lease.

Rate of adoption

Despite your best efforts to keep track of the current editions of the NFPA fire codes, it may still not be enough to insulate you from issues with regulatory authorities. State and local governments do not necessarily instantly adopt the latest editions. In addition, local jurisdictions may modify certain regulations or decide only to adopt select sections.

Fire alarm system services can help you meet fire codes

How can you navigate such a complex environment?

  • Your local fire marshal is a reliable resource for questions about fire regulations. Although the fire marshal’s role is enforcement, you do share the same goal: Keeping your property and people safe.
  • Consider the advantages of using a trusted alarm company’s fire alarm system services. Alarm companies stay on top of updates and changes to the fire codes—plus they have relationships with authorities having jurisdiction. The business model of a company like Bay Alarm rests on servicing you with an NFPA 72 compliant system that you need to gain occupancy into a building.

Since commercial fire alarm systems are complex, they require planning and design before installation. To ensure the optimal, code-compliant fit for your property, Bay Alarm experts complete the process in stages:

  1. Evaluating your needs
  2. Designing your fire system
  3. Helping you get your system approved by the local AHJ
  4. Installing your system
  5. Testing, inspection, and ongoing maintenance

When the codes change, so do our fire alarm system services. How can we help you? Contact Bay Alarm today for a free consultation.


Start a conversation with a Bay Alarm security expert.

1 (800) 610-1000