Building Standards Advisory
Building Standards Advisory
Promoting construction of safe, healthy, habitable buildings
Fire Alarm Monitoring
Question
“Does a fire alarm system in a building need to be
monitored?”
“Under what circumstances does an existing alarm
system in a building need to be updated?”
Answer
Fire alarm system monitoring, described within the
National Building Code (NBC) as “Signals to Fire
Department” may be required depending on the type
of alarm system required if any.
Fire alarm updates are only required when:
• the original system has been changed since it was
designed and installed.
• the original system has been expanded since it
was designed and installed.
• the original system cannot be repaired without it
being changed.
Background
The NBC does not use the term, “monitored”. The
term “notify the fire department” is found in NBC
2010 Division B, Article 3.2.4.8., Signals to Fire
Department.
NBC 2010, Division B, Article 3.2.4.8 Signals to Fire
Department
1) A single-stage fire alarm system installed in a
building of assembly occupancy that has an
occupant load more than 300 shall be designed
to notify the fire department, in conformance
with Sentence (4), that an alarm signal has been
initiated.
saskatchewan.ca/buildingstandards | 306-787-4113
2) A fire alarm system that includes waterflowindicating devices shall be designed to notify the
fire department in conformance with Sentence (4)
when an alarm is initiated.
3) A 2-stage fire alarm system shall be designed to
notify the fire department, in conformance with
Sentence (4), that an alert signal has been initiated.
4) Notification of the fire department, as required
by Sentences (1), (2) and (3), shall be provided in
conformance with CAN/ULC-S561, “Installation and
Services for Fire Signal Receiving Centres and
Systems.”
5) Where a single-stage fire alarm system is
installed in a building that is not sprinklered
throughout and Sentence (1) does not apply, a
legible notice that is not easily removed shall be
affixed to the wall near each manual station stating
a) that the fire department is to be notified in the
event of a fire emergency, and
b) the emergency telephone number for the
municipality or for the fire department.
The requirement for signals to fire department has
been found in the NBC since the NBC 1965 was
published. Fire alarm systems in assembly occupancy
classifications were required to be connected directly
to the fire department via municipal alarm systems.
This requirement was essential for the timely
notification of the fire department. Today, direct
connection is more likely through an outside “Signal
Receiving Centre”. Direct connection to the fire
department is no longer practical.
Fire Alarm Monitoring
The notification of the fire department, where
required shall be provided in conformance with
CAN/ULC-S561, “Installation and Services for Fire
Signal Receiving Centres and Systems.”
Existing Buildings and Existing Fire Alarm Systems
Earlier codes, such as the NBC 1995 required large
occupancies with single-stage fire alarm systems,
waterflow detecting devices, and 2-stage fire alarm
systems to notify the fire department at actuation of
the alarm system. NBC 1995 allowed the signal to the
fire department to be by way of:
• independent central station, National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) 71, “Standard for
the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Central
Station Protective Signaling Systems for
Watchman Fire Alarm and Supervisory
Service”;or,
• a proprietary control centre NFPA 72: “National
Fire Alarm and Signaling Code” .
Where the above facilities are not available in a
municipality, this article allows for:
• an independent system to transmit signals to the
fire department.
Lastly, where a single-stage fire alarm system or a
local group of sprinklers is installed, the occupancy is
not an assembly occupancy, and the occupant load is
not greater than 300, a permanent legible notice shall
be affixed to the wall near each manual “pull” station,
stating to notify the fire department or 911.
The Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC)
standard CAN/ULC-S536, “Inspection and Testing of
Fire Alarm Systems”, referenced in the National Fire
Code (NFC), fire alarm systems shall be inspected and
tested in conformance with CAN/ULC-S536 which
requires actions on a daily, monthly, and annual basis.
The NFC indicates that the system needs be
maintained, tested, and work to its original design.
Unless it is found that the system is not working as
originally intended, it does not need to be updated.
saskatchewan.ca/buildingstandards | 306-787-4113
Application of New Code Requirements to Fire
Alarm Systems that are Being Upgraded or
Replaced
Building owners, designers, and the local authority
(municipality) should determine the original design
parameters and standards for an existing fire alarm
system. When dealing with existing conditions, the
authority having jurisdiction may determine if other
measures are needed to provide an acceptable
degree of fire alarm system reliability. In cases where
fire alarm systems are being expanded or replaced
due to the modernization of a building, all provisions
of the current adopted code would apply.
Analysis Procedure
Several factors need to be considered when
determining if an alarm system and proposed changes
to the system continue to meet the needs of the
building in which it is installed and complies with the
applicable standards:
1. Is the alarm system in safe and operable working
condition?
2. What year was the building constructed?
3. What regulations or code applied to the building
at time of construction or when the alarm system
was installed?
4. What upgrading is being done to the building and
to what standard?
5. Have changes to the building affected the design
or safety of the original system?
6. Determining the extent of new code
requirements applicable in providing an
acceptable degree of safety.
When the original components of a fire alarm system
fail, become outdated, or obsolete, these
components need to be replaced. This may cause the
working ability of the entire system to be reviewed. It
is also possible that components are no longer
available for older systems. If the system is expanded
the new portions need to communicate with the
existing system. Should the expansion or should
replacement parts affect the ability of the entire
system to function as intended the system may need
to be updated or replaced.
Fire Alarm Monitoring
If a fire alarm system has not been changed since it
was originally installed and it was not required to
notify the fire department at that time, upgrading the
system to notify the fire department is not required. If
a fire alarm system has been modified since it was
installed then the system would need to meet all
provisions of the code currently adopted and in effect.
Building Standards and Licensing Branch
Building Standards Advisory
100 - 1855 Victoria Avenue
Fire Alarm Monitoring
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 3T2
October 2015
(306) 787-4113 Phone
(306) 798-4172 Fax
building.standards@gov.sk.ca
Original approved and signed by:
www.saskatchewan.ca/buildingstandards
Wm. Hawkins, Executive Director/Chief Building Official
This advisory is published by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations for purposes of providing information to users on the topic contained herein.
In case of conflict between The Uniform Building and Accessibility Standard Act (the UBAS Act), the National Building Code of Canada 2010 (NBC 2010) and this
advisory, provisions of the UBAS Act and NBC 2010 shall apply.
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