When Mother Nature has a hissy fit, the fire alarm systems protecting our apartment complexes can malfunction.  The moisture and electrical charges produce by storms can influence these systems to produce signals that aren’t really there.  Various articles contained in NFPA 70, “National Electrical Code” are intended to prevent this from happening.  Folks may not know that many articles of the NEC apply to the installation of fire alarm systems other than those identified in article 760.

While I paraphrase, here are a few simple references for installing a more reliable fire alarm system.

First; take a look at Article 300.5 which states anything underground is considered a wet environment; therefore the wire must be rated for that environment.  The typical wire used for fire alarm system installations; FPLP, FPLR, CPL, etc. is not rated for wet environments.  Not only are they not rated, they can in fact absorb water if submerged for an extended period of time.

Second; Article 760.32 discusses leaving one building with the circuitry and entering another.  These circuits must meet the requirements of Parts, II, III and IV of Article 800 or meet the installation requirements of Part I of Article 300.

Third; Article 800.90 discusses that the location of an A/C power surge suppressor is critical.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions. Many will state recommend installing the suppressor outside the FACP and allow at least three to six feet of circuit wiring from the device to the FACP terminal connections.  The minimum three feet of wire circuit is necessary to allow the device to clamp down on the voltage surge.

I live in an apartment complex with 38 buildings and whenever there was heavy rain or lightning, the fire alarm system would trigger the alarm in one of the buildings and roll the fire trucks.  It was never the same building with each storm.  Their solution was to relocate the A/C surge suppressors approximately four feet above the FACP and the unwanted alarms have stopped.  Go figure!

Fourth; Proper grounding of electrical and data surge suppressors is critical.  Take a look at Article 250.53 of the NEC Handbook, there are some great illustrations.

Fifth; all boxes must be rated for the environment in which they are installed and this information can be found in Article 314.

I could provide more but the National Electrical Code Handbook is approximately 1400 pages, so I encourage you to get a copy and follow the instructions for a more reliable fire alarm system.

The simple truth is; education is the path to a more reliable, properly functioning system.

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