If you're getting ready to install or significantly upgrade your fire detection system, you may be wondering if you need to have both an automatic fire suppression system -- usually overhead sprinklers -- in addition to smoke detectors. As with many issues related to commercial building safety, the answer is: it depends.
Fire Codes Vary By Jurisdiction
U.S. fire codes are not "one size fits all." Although the National Fire Protection Association has regulations covering most fire detection and alarm systems, local municipalities are free to use their own system tailored to their populations. For that reason, you'll need to check your local fire codes as the ultimate authority on what you can and cannot do in a commercial building.
Most building and fire codes in place today do allow you to minimize the use of alarm systems, including smoke detectors, when you install an automatic sprinkler system. The sprinkler systems have built-in heat detectors that can identify fires and then turn on to put them out immediately, thus reducing risk to the building's occupants.
Often, a commercial building owner will choose to also include detectors and a fire alarm monitoring service that can alert the local fire department at the first sign of a fire.
The Benefits of Sprinklers
Sprinkler systems work by sensing heat and operating in that area of the building within 30 to 60 seconds to minimize spread of any fires. The resulting water usage is generally much less than if firefighters were to manually apply water.
New construction of commercial buildings may require the addition of sprinklers, again depending on your jurisdiction. You may decide to retroactively install sprinklers, especially during a remodel or an upgrade, even if not required by code. That's because sprinkler systems are effective in 96 percent of building fires to minimize loss of life and property.
Also, many insurance companies will lower your rates if a sprinkler system is installed.
The Benefits of Smoke Alarms and Fire Alarm Monitoring
If you don't need to have an alarm system with your sprinkler system, why have one? Because the added protection can save lives. With an average of 3,340 office fires each year, any extra seconds are valuable to reduce deaths, injuries and property damage.
On-site smoke alarms and strobes alert occupants of an issue immediately and encourage them to leave the building. Coupled with a emergency plan for getting people out of the building quickly, this can be the difference between a safe evacuation and one where people are injured.
To further reduce damage to the property, fire alarm monitoring service can be utilized to call for fire department help immediately, as soon as heat or a threat is identified. This can work even at night when a typical office building is unlikely to have any occupants and can help reduce your property losses.
When possible, it may work best for your commercial office building to utilize sprinklers, an on-site alarm system and alarm monitoring for the fastest resolution to a fire. For more information, contact a company like Fyr Fyter Inc.