I am interested in getting opinions from the Officials who enforce fire code. I work for a Fire Alarm Retrofit Manufacturing company and we develop life safety product that meet the requirements as stated by UL and NFPA but would like to hear from Authorities in the field.

Testing and enforcement seems to vary from state to state with regards to audibility. Is audibility tested in your state/county/city for multi-unit housing as per NFPA 72 standards (75db at the pillow)? Do you casually or aggressively enforce the NFPA 72 standard for this aspect of the fire alarm system? I appreciate any information you can provide me.

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Lets put it this way,apart from being able to reach everyone to alert them,my experience is the louder the better otherwise if it is not at a nuisance level that requires people to leave to avoid it they will ignore it and continue as if nothing is wrong.
Our office does enforce the 75 Db at the pillow level. If you can't hear the fire alarm, you can't get out, but on the other hand you don't want the alarm to be so loud as to cause hearing loss.
ADA compliance alone should negate any further discussion...

However, understanding that you are looking for specific input, here's some thoughts:

One typical application for fire alarms is college dorms. Having piercing louder than hell alarms blaring to the point of hearing loss is a good thing... My hearing is already shot from sirens and the alarms didn't affect me much. With that said, and with so many children suffering from hearing loss (walkmans, iPods, ear buds and LOUD music = hearing loss), you have to have loud obnoxious alarms to get folks attention in addition to flashing lights.

Alarms are consistently used for other things besides waking people up at night. Tornado alerts, hazardous materials spills and other things out there trigger an alarm activation. It's not always fire alarms.

Regardless, in addition to audible alarms, it is also important to have visual alarming as well. One problem with the alarm industry and fire code is that there are really no standards as far as warning light colors and audible alarm types when it comes to hazmat detection triggering an alarm. You also have the audible, and again, louder is better because in this scenario, you have to hear the alarm over emergency generators or other equipment that makes a lot of noise. You have to be able to get the attention of the workers, no different from waking folks up out of a sound sleep. That is why having strobes go off in a hotel room is alway guaranteed to get folks attention, unless we are dealing with the visually impaired.

The simple answer Teresa, if you have the chance to make logical changes in this business through code language revisions.

Health hazards should use a blue light or strobe.
Fire hazards should use a red light or strobe.
Reactivity hazards should use a yellow light.

That's it... All I am suggesting is that the industry adopt what is a national standard for identifying the presence of hazardous materials. Why reinvent the wheel?


Thank you all for your comments, we are gathering information on compliancy with regards to building owners and how it changes from state to state. We totally appreciate your comments. Keep up the good work out there in the field and be safe.

Extremely loud alarms in conjunction with flashing lights helps save lives.  The louder the better!

I work for my state as a fire inspector, and here are some of my thoughts;

We were in training not too long ago about fire alarms and their inspection and testing.  During the class the instructor played an informative video pertaining to use of "Voice Alarms" instead of piercing shreaks.  They went to a home of a volunteer firefighter who had three kids ages 13, 4, and 2, who volunteered to do a study of audible alarms and their effectiveness.  When the kids were asleep (around midnight, 1am) they set off the fire alarms.  Shockingly...None of the kids even stirred.  The oldest (13 year old girl) pulled her blankets over her head and went back to sleep.  The 2 year old never even woke up, the 4 year old tossed and turned but never got out of bed or woke up fully.

Then, the next night they used a newer style alarm using the recorded voices of their parents.  The mothers voice was heard saying things like "Get up kids, there is a fire and you need to get out, find mommy and daddy now!  Get out!" and the kids instantly got out of bed and responded to the alarm.  Just some food for thought to all of you alarm companies and contractors out there.


Also, with audible and visual alarms, generally they put visual alarms in healthcare facilities for those that need it such as deaf people, and they use strobes in public bathrooms instead of audibles to cut back on hearing damage in the confined bathroom area.  The strobes are used in schools also.

Good info Brian

Any chance you could find out more on the video. My detectors are 10 years old in 2012 and I'd like to find out as much info as I can for the bedroom alarms before I replace them. I did a quick google search on voice fire alarm study and did find some good info but am really interested to know what is being presented to code enforcement. 

We did install a wireless system in our church that alternates between beeps and a voice alerts with a few programed locations each detector can be set to. Basically tells you what detector has been set off. Worked well when we did a test fire drill. 

Thanks for the info in advance. 

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