One of the top concerns for any business owner today is choosing and maintaining a fire alarm system that is in compliance with local, state and federal building codes, which are continuously updated and changed over time. First and foremost, new and replacement fire alarm systems must be in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 72, which is the National Fire Protection Association’s guidelines for commercial fire alarm installation.
NFPA 72 provides requirements for fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications, as well as for mass notification systems used for weather emergencies; terrorist events; biological, chemical, and nuclear emergencies; and other threats.
Some other key commercial building regulations and codes that should be integrated into your strategy include:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- The International Building Code (IBC)
- The General Services Administration (GSA)
In addition to detecting smoke, flames, changes in temperature, and even gases such as CO2, today’s smart commercial fire alarm systems are connected to a central monitoring center, as well as sprinkler or other suppression systems. The monitoring center will notify the fire department and engage the sprinkler systems, if needed, while a smart system can alert everyone in the building, send out mass notifications, etc.—key lifesaving communication resources to be able to utilize when the time comes.
Some of the main components of commercial fire detection systems include:
- Manual alarm stations
- Automatic fire alarm detectors
- Supervisory devices
- Supervised waterflow devices
- Systems designed to meet stringent fire code
- Monitor Fire Suppression/Sprinkler Systems
Obviously, the cost of a fire alarm system is based on the size of your building, the number of floors and square footage being covered, as well as any special adherence to local and federal occupational codes. Installing a system during a new construction is the most cost-effective approach, with installation and retrofitting of equipment in older buildings will add to the overall costs per square foot.
A basic fire alarm system, which could include smoke, heat and CO2 detectors and alarms with monitoring, for example, can cost anywhere from $2 to $3 per square foot up to $4 to $6 per square foot for a more complex system for a larger building. A sprinkler system, which may be required by law, can cost twice that per square foot, but it is important to work with a dealer (more on this next) that can handle system integration of fire, security and video surveillance, for example, as a fire and security professional can provide you with the many cost options available, especially when integrating other systems with fire, such as security, audio, lights, and video.
Monitoring and Other Costs
Another important cost consideration is monitoring, where monthly fees can be anywhere from $40 to $60, or more, based on the size of the facility and number of alarms and sensors being monitored.
This is why it is so important to understand the monitoring side of things, specifically the monitoring facility or central monitoring station your security company uses. Some run their own, while others work with an established third party. Regardless of which, you need to make sure the monitoring company can handle your needs. You also need to ask them if they are TMA Five-Diamond certified, as this ensures that the monitoring facility is meeting minimum standards set up by The Monitoring Association, the leading authority on monitoring.
Businesses that take advantage of video verification can eliminate false alarms, as the central station that is monitoring your security system gets to look at a clip of the activity before alerting the authorities.
Miscellaneous fees, such as system warranties and any special licenses that may be required, can account for about 10 percent of the overall cost, so be sure to factor those in as well.
Finding a Dealer
As a business owner or facility manager, you are not only trying to provide a safe and protected business and property but also pass those tough commercial fire inspections, which always seem to come when you least expect them. This is why it is essentially important to work with a dealer that understands the St. Louis fire inspection codes and will keep you in compliance.
A professional can also help you determine what type of alarm system is best for your business/building, such as conventional versus addressable fire alarms, and the benefits and costs for each. Simply put, addressable fire alarms provide the exact area of the alarm sensor whereas a conventional system, which may be considered by some to be the old school method, identifies the zone where the alarm was triggered. Both have their advantages and cost savings associated with them.
A good dealer should ask to come and do an inspection and analysis of your building and provide a complete breakdown of equipment needed, including costs for installation, maintenance, and warranties, if applicable.
It is also important to make sure the company is licensed by the National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technologies, and is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, for example.
A reputable dealer that is well versed in fire and security system design and installation should be able to integrate all of the systems within your building to help you achieve not only a safer and better protected building but also achieve operational efficiencies and preventive maintenance measures to save money and reduce downtime, as well as improve the ease of entrance for fire and other emergency personnel responding to an alarm.
For example, integrating your fire system with your lighting, audio and security systems can provide easier exit for those in the building and more guided access for first responders, notifying them of where people are by using lights, keeping empty rooms dark, saving time and possibly lives, as every second counts during a real emergency. Access to certain doors or areas can also be given in real time, which can be a critical control feature to have during an emergency.
Learn More About Commercial Security
Contact us to learn more about commercial security and commercial fire systems or to get a quote for the cost of commercial fire equipment for your St. Louis business.