Can you monitor our existing smoke detectors?

There are generally two types of smoke detectors which may be installed in your home: 120v sensors generally installed by an electrician; and “low voltage” smoke detectors that are generally connected to, and monitored by, a security alarm system. More details about the differences in these systems are available on our blog.

If your smoke sensors are currently not monitored by an alarm system, they generally can not be monitored; however there are some exceptions.

Can we get a variance on our fire alarm system?

Fire alarm systems are strictly regulated and must meet minimum requirements. However, in some cases, the local authority will allow for exceptions or variances from current code requirements. While this is generally not recommended, there are some circumstances where it may be worth exploring a variance. Possible exceptions include:

  • Voluntarily upgrading a grandfathered fire alarm system where a complete upgrade may not be economically feasible, but a significant partial upgrade is desired.
  • Upgrading only part of a property, as the rest of it is unaffected by renovations.
  • Meeting requirements specified in code that is more current than that adopted by the local authority. Local authorities are generally not using the most recent code and, in some cases, you may want to install a system or devices that meet more recent code than the authority recognizes (e.g., wireless devices).
  • Or, if full code compliance is not practical or feasible. This process often involves a dialog with the local inspectors. In this case, you will want to work with a firm that has the right resources and relationships.

What is better; hardwired or wireless alarm systems?

Modern wireless systems are very effective and generally considered as reliable as hardwired security alarm devices. However, there are differences from security alarm manufacturer to manufacturer. These can affect the reliability of wireless technology or of certain types of alarm sensors. Of course, wireless alarm systems require batteries in the devices. Batteries should last between three and five years depending on the usage.

Does my multi-unit residential project require a fire alarm system?

International Building Code (IBC 907.2.9) indicates that fire alarm systems are required in properties where any of the following conditions are met:

  • A sleeping unit is located three or more stories from above the ground exit level
  • A sleeping unit is located more than one story below the egress
  • The building has more than 16 units

These are only a few of the conditions and requirements. For questions about your project, please contact us for a fire alarm system consultation at no cost.

How are fire alarm systems regulated?

Fire alarm system design, installation, and monitoring are regulated by the local "authorities having jurisdiction" or AHJ's. In Washington DC, this is the District of Columbia Department of Regulatory Affairs.

In Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, properties are required to have a fire alarm system in accordance with NFPA 72. This code reference specifies how a fire alarm system must be designed, installed, monitored, and tested. It is a comprehensive code reference that provides a roadmap for many aspects of your fire alarm system.

Other code references that may be relevant to your fire alarm system are the International Residential Code and International Commercial Code. Urban Alarm will work with you to determine the full code requirements for your fire alarm project.

Fire alarm system code and requirements evolve on a regular basis. Your fire alarm company should have specialists that understand the requirements and are in regular communication with the local permitting and inspections offices.