The Importance of Designing a Fire Alarm System as per Codes
Designing a fire alarm system as per codes is essential because it ensures that the fire alarm system will function as intended during a fire emergency. The codes set the standards for the design, installation, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, and failure to comply with these codes can result in serious consequences.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publishes codes and standards that set the minimum requirements for fire alarm systems. These codes and standards are updated regularly to reflect the latest technologies, best practices, and lessons learned from past fire incidents. Compliance with the codes and standards ensures that fire alarm systems are designed and installed correctly and that they will provide early detection of a fire, notification of building occupants, and activation of fire suppression systems. In India, National Building Code (NBC) provides a comprehensive framework for fire safety in buildings, including fire alarm system design requirements, such as the placement of detection and alarm devices and the minimum sound pressure level of notification appliances. IS:1642 outlines the minimum requirements for fire alarm systems in buildings, including the types of detectors, the minimum spacing between detectors, and the minimum sound output of alarm devices. The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, applies specifically to the state of Maharashtra and provides guidelines for fire prevention and life safety measures, including fire alarm systems.
Sector-Specific Design Requirements
Different sectors have different fire safety requirements based on the nature of their operations, occupancy, and risks. Here are some of the sector-specific design requirements applicable for pharma, hospitality, and manufacturing.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities have specific design requirements for their fire alarm systems due to the high-risk nature of their operations. The design should take into account the hazardous materials used, the need for continuous operation, and the potential impact of a fire on nearby communities. The fire alarm system should be designed to provide early detection of a fire, automatic shutdown of equipment, and activation of suppression systems to prevent the spread of fire.
Hotels have unique design requirements for their fire alarm systems to ensure the safety of guests and employees. The fire alarm system should be designed to provide early detection of a fire, notification of guests and employees, and safe evacuation. The design should take into account the hotel’s occupancy, the presence of combustible materials, and the potential impact of a fire on the building’s structure and neighboring properties.Sounder bases are recommended to be installed in guest rooms to ensure that guests are alerted in the event of a fire.
Hospitals have unique features, including complex building layouts, high occupant loads, and specific hazard areas, such as operating rooms and patient care areas. To ensure effective fire detection and notification, fire alarm systems must be designed with these features in mind. For example, voice evacuation and visual alarms may be required for patients with limited mobility or cognitive impairments
Manufacturing facilities have unique design requirements for their fire alarm systems due to the presence of hazardous materials, flammable liquids, and high-risk processes. The fire alarm system should be designed to provide early detection of a fire, automatic shutdown of equipment, and activation of suppression systems to prevent the spread of fire. The design should also take into account the need for continuous operation and the potential impact of a fire on nearby communities.
Pitfalls of Wrong Design
The consequences of wrong design can be severe and even fatal. A fire alarm system that is not designed as per codes may not provide early detection of a fire, may not alert building occupants, or may not activate suppression systems. This can result in property damage, business interruption, injury, or loss of life.
Faulty design can also lead to false alarms, which can result in a loss of productivity, unnecessary evacuation, and increased costs for building owners. False alarms can also result in a loss of credibility for the fire alarm system and the building’s fire safety program.
Sonali Panigrahy, Design Engineer – IBMS Solutions at Trisim Global Solutions, an engineering company with focus on Smart Buildings and Smart Cities said “Designing a fire alarm system as per codes is essential for any fire alarm project. wrong design of fire alarm systems can lead to dangerous situations, where the safety of occupants and property is at risk. It is, therefore, critical to ensure that fire alarm systems are designed and installed according to the specific requirements of each facility and adhere to the relevant codes and standards. Integration with Building Management Systems (BMS) is a critical aspect of a properly designed fire alarm system. BMS integration allows for the coordination of different building systems, including HVAC, lighting, and security, to ensure a comprehensive and efficient response in emergency situations. In the event of a fire, BMS integration ensures that HVAC systems are shut down, preventing the circulation of smoke across the building and reducing the risk of smoke inhalation by occupants.”
Furthermore, BMS integration can help facilitate proper evacuation procedures during a fire emergency. For instance, the system can provide clear evacuation routes and instructions, indicating the nearest exits and the safest evacuation paths. The integration of fire alarm systems with BMS can also provide real-time information on the location of occupants in the building, which can help first responders identify areas that require priority attention during an emergency.
According to Chandan Pradhan, Regional Manager – Sales at Trisim Global Solutions “The design of a fire alarm system must comply with the relevant codes and standards, such as NFPA 72, to ensure the system’s effectiveness in detecting and responding to fire incidents. Components, such as smoke detectors, heat detectors, manual pull stations, and notification appliances, must be carefully placed and configured to match the building’s layout and usage. Design engineers must not only have OEM certifications but hands-on experience in designing fire alarm systems for government buildings to provide valuable insights into unique requirements and design a system that meets building specific requirements.”
The aspect of cybersecurity should also be considered when designing fire alarm systems to prevent malicious attacks that can disable or manipulate the system. Cybersecurity threats can come in the form of hacking attempts or malware attacks, making it important to ensure that the system is designed with secure communication protocols and access controls. Failure to consider cybersecurity risks can lead to serious consequences.