Fire Detection Alarm


The intent of this program is to assist Amherst College with the installation, modification and alterations of the fire detection systems on the campus. The information identified here-in shall be used by the architects, engineers and the College as a guide for new installations and system upgrades.


The guide will apply to all academic, residential and storage buildings owned or leased by the College. This includes the installation of temporary systems that are incorporated into alterations and new construction during construction, demolition and renovation.


1. If an existing fire detection / suppression system is to be replaced or modified, the appropriate project manager, shop supervisor or outside contractor shall make the Amherst Fire Department aware of such modification by completing the necessary permits and submitting, as soon as practical the “Fire Alarm System Upgrade Notification” form enclosed. (The form is also available on the “I” drive).

2. A one hundred percent (100%) in-house test of all devices shall be conducted with the installer by Amherst College Electric Shop, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Amherst College Police Department, if  they so desire. The installer will perform the final acceptance test after both the college and the fire department have received the appropriate paperwork. The paperwork will include a narrative as required by the building code and NFPA 72, all owner documentation, and applicable permits.

o It is the responsibility of the appropriate project manager and/or shop to verify correct design, placement and testing of the fire detection system before the college accepts the building or part there-of.


Addressable Device – A fire alarm system component with discreet identification that can have its status individually identified or that is used to individually control other functions.

Alarm Verification Feature – A feature of automatic fire detection and alarm systems to reduce unwanted alarms wherein smoke detectors must report alarm conditions for a minimum period of time, or confirm alarm conditions within a given time period, after being reset to be accepted as a valid alarm initiation signal.

Annunciator – A unit containing two or more indicator lamps, alpha-numeric displays, or other equivalent means in which each indication provides status information about a circuit, condition, or location.

Authority Having Jurisdiction – The “authority having jurisdiction” for Amherst College is the Amherst Fire Department as it pertains to Fire Detection and Suppression Systems.

Certification of Completion – A document that acknowledges the features of installation, operation (performance), service, and equipment with representation by the property owner, system installer, system supplier, service organization, and the authority having jurisdiction.

Evacuation Signal – Distinctive signal intended to be recognized by the occupants as requiring evacuation of the building.

Fire Alarm Control Unit (Panel) – A system component that receives inputs from automatic and manual fire alarm devices and may supply power to detection devices and transponder(s) or off-premises transmitter(s). The control unit may also provide transfer of power to the notification appliances and transfer of condition to relays or devices connected to the control unit. The fire alarm control unit can be a local fire alarm control unit or master control unit.

Fire Command Station (Fire Command Center) – The principle location where the status of the detection, alarm, communications and control systems is displayed, and from which the system(s) has the capability for manual control.

Heat Detector – A device that detects abnormally high temperature or rate of temperature rise.

Household Fire Warning System – A household fire warning system consists of single or multiple station detectors or a listed control unit with automatic fire detectors or a listed control unit with automatic fire detectors and occupant notification appliances. The household fire warning system serves only one dwelling unit, patient room, hotel room or other single area depending on use group requirements in Massachusetts Building Code.

Initiating Device – A system component that originates transmission of a change of state condition, such as a smoke detector, manual fire alarm box, supervisory switch, etc.

Installation and Design – All systems shall be installed in accordance with the specifications and standard approved by the authority having jurisdiction.

Line-Type Detector – A device in which detection is continuous along a path. Typical examples are rate-of-rise pneumatic tubing detectors, projected beam smoke detectors, and heat-sensitive cable.

Municipal Fire Alarm System – A system of alarm initiating devices, receiving equipment, and connecting circuits (other than a public telephone network) used to transmit alarms from street locations to the public fire service communications center.

Presignal Feature – Where permitted by the authority having jurisdiction, systems shall be permitted to have a feature where initial fire alarm signals will sound only in departments offices, control rooms, fire brigade stations, or other constantly attended central locations and where human action is subsequently required to activate a general alarm, or a feature where the control equipment delays general alarm by more than one minute after the start of the alarm processing. The areas where there is a connection to a remote location, it shall activate upon initial alarm signal.

Primary Power Supply – The primary supply shall have a high degree of reliability, shall have adequate capacity for the intended service, and shall consist of one of the following:

Light and power service arranged in accordance with 1-5.2.8

Engine-driven generator or equivalent arranged in accordance with 1-5.2.10

Positive Alarm Sequence – An automatic series that results in an alarm signal, even if manually delayed for investigation, unless the system is reset.

Secondary Supply Capacity and Sources – The secondary supply shall automatically supply the energy to the system within 30 seconds and without loss of signals, whenever the primary supply is incapable of providing the minimum voltage required for proper operation. The secondary (standby) power supply shall supply energy to the system in the event of total failure of the primary (main) power supply or when the primary voltage drops to a level insufficient to maintain functionality of the control equipment and system components.

Under maximum normal load, the secondary supply shall have sufficient capacity to operate a local, central station or proprietary system for 24 hours, or an auxiliary or remote station system for 60 hours; and then, at the end of that period, operate all alarm notification appliances used for evacuation or to direct aid to the location of an emergency for 5 minutes. The secondary power supply for emergency voice/alarm communications service shall be capable of operating the system under maximum normal load for 24 hours and then be capable or operating the system during a fire or other emergency condition for a period of 2 hours. Fifteen minutes of evacuation alarm operation at maximum connected load shall be considered the equivalent of 2 hours of emergency operation.

The secondary supply shall consist of one of the following:

1. A storage battery arranged in accordance with 1-5.2.9 An automatic starting engine-driven generators arranged in accordance with 1-5.2.10 and storage batteries with 4 hours capacity arranged in accordance with 1-5.2.9

2. Multiple engine-driven generators, one of which is arranged for automatic starting, arranged in accordance with 1-5.2.10, capable of supplying the energy required herein with the largest generator out of service. It shall be permitted for the second generator to be pushbutton start. 

3. Operation on secondary power shall not affect the required performance of a fire alarm system. The system shall produce the same alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals and indications (excluding the ac power indicator) when operating from the standby power source as produced when the unit is operating from the primary power source.

Separate Sleeping Area – The area or areas of the family living unit in which the bedrooms (or sleeping rooms) are located. For the purpose of this guide, bedrooms (or sleeping rooms) separated by other use area, such as kitchens or livings rooms (but not bathrooms), shall be considered as separate sleeping areas.

  • Shapes of Ceilings – Those shapes of ceilings are classified as follows:
  • Sloping Ceilings – Those having a slope of more than 1 ½ in. per ft. (41.7mm per m).
  • Sloping ceilings are further classified as follows:
  • Sloping-Peaked Type – Those in which the ceiling slopes in two directions from the highest point. Curved or domed ceilings may be considered peaked with the slope figured as the slope of the cord from highest to lowest point.
  • Sloping-Shed Type – Those in which the high point is at one side with the slope extending toward the opposite side.
  • Smooth Ceiling – A surface uninterrupted by continuous projections, such as solid joists, beams, or ducts, extending more then 4 in. (100 mm) below the ceiling surface.
  • Single Station Alarm Device – An assembly incorporating the detector, control equipment, and the alarm-sounding device in one unit operated from a power supply either in the unit or obtained at the point of installation
  • Smoke Detectors – A device that detects visible or invisible particles of combustion.
  • Zone – A defined area within the protected premises. A zone may define an area from which a signal can be received, an area to which a signal can be sent, or an area in which a form of control can be executed.


The Fire Alarm System – Including but not limited to the fire control panel, annunciators, and initiating and supervisory devices shall be of an approved typed and shall be installed in accordance with the provisions of the Massachusetts State Building Code and NFPA 72.

Fire Protection Construction Documents – When the Massachusetts State Building Code requires a fire alarm system; Fire Protection Construction Documents shall show the location and number of all alarm initiating devices, alarm notification appliances, proposed zoning, and a complete sequence of operation for the system. The system must be installed in accordance with article 9 of the Building Code and NFPA 72

  • Approval – All devices, combinations of devices, appliances and equipment shall be approved for the fire protective signaling purpose for which such equipment was used.
  • Where Required – A fire protective signaling system shall be installed and maintained in full operating condition in the locations described in Massachusetts Building Code
  • Assembly Use Group – A fire protective signaling system shall be installed and maintained in all occupancies in Assembly Use Group.
  • Business Use Group – A fire protective signaling system shall be installed and maintained in all occupancies in Business Use Group where such buildings have occupied floors which are two or more stories above the lowestlevel of exit discharge or which have floors two or more stories below the highest level of exit discharge.
  • Residential Use Group (R-1)– A fire protective signaling system shall be installed and maintained in all occupancies in Use Group R-1
  • Residential Use Group (R-2)– A fire protective signaling system shall be installed and maintained in all occupancies in Use Group R-2 containing 13 or more dwelling units or where any dwelling unit is located more than three stories above the lowest of exit discharge or more than one story below the highest level of exit discharge of exits serving the dwelling unit.
  • Location– Manual fire alarm boxes (pull station) shall be located not more than five feet (1524 mm) from the entrance to each exit. Manual fire alarm boxes shall be located in each story including basements. In buildings of Assembly Use Group where a stage is provided, a manual fire alarm box shall be located next to the lighting control panel.
  • In buildings of Assembly Use Group and where approved by the local fire department, manual fire alarm boxes may be omitted at exits and any other required locations, but shall be provided at constantly attended locations such as ticket booths, refreshment facilities, bars, etc.
  • Manual fire alarm boxes are not required in an occupancy in Business Use Group where height of the building is 70 feet or less above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access and the building is equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler, and /or an automatic fire detection system or combination thereof in.


  • Manual Fire Alarm Boxes (Pull Stations) – The height of the manual fire alarm boxes shall be a minimum of 42 inches (1067 mm) and a maximum of 54 inches (1372 mm) measured vertically, from the floor level to the activating handle or lever of the box. Manual fire alarm boxes shall be red in color.
  • Presignal or Positive Alarm Sequence System – Presignal or positive alarm sequence systems shall not be installed unless approved by the code official and by the local fire department. Where a presignal or positive alarm sequence system is installed, 24
  • hour supervision by trained personnel shall be provided at a location approved by the local fire department, in order that the alarm signal can be actuated in the event of fire or other emergency.
  • Zones – Each floor shall be zoned separately and a zone shall not exceed 20,000 square feet (1860m²). The length of any zone shall not exceed 300 feet (91440 mm) in any direction.
  • Where individually addressable alarm initiating devices are logically combined into groups for annuciation purposes, the above zone size limitations shall apply to the group. The local fire department shall approve all zone and point description.

A separate zone by floor shall be provided for the following typed of alarm-initiating devices where provided:

  • Smoke detectors
  • Sprinkler water-flow devices;
  • Manual fire alarm boxes
  • Exception:
  • Automatic sprinkler zones shall not exceed the area permitted by NFPA 13

Duct type smoke detectors shall be separately identified with a remote test/ indicator station. The location of the remote test/indicator shall be approved by the local fire department.

Audible Alarms – Audible alarm notification appliances shall be provided and shall sound a distinctive sound which shall not be used for any purpose other than that of a fire alarm. The audible alarm notification appliances shall provide a sound pressure level of 15dBA above the average ambient or 5dBA above the maximum sound level having a duration of at least 60 seconds (whichever is greater) sound level in every occupied space within the building. The minimum sound pressure levels shall be: 70dBA in occupancies in R Use Groups; 90dBA in mechanical equipment rooms; and 60dBA in all other use groups. The maximum sound pressure level for audible alarm notification appliances shall be 120dBA at the minimum hearing distance for the audible appliance.

All audible evacuation signals shall have a synchronized three – pulse temporal pattern in accordance with NFPA 72.

Visible Alarms– Visible alarm notification appliances shall be provided in accordance with NFPA 72 and Massachusetts Access Codes in public and common areas of al buildings and areas of buildings housings and areas of buildings housing the hearing impaired and where required by Massachusetts Access Codes. In occupancies in R-1 Use Groups , all required accessible sleeping rooms and suites plus an additional number of sleeping rooms or suites shall be provided with a visible alarm notification appliance, activated by both the in-room smoke detector and the building fire protective signaling system.

1. Fire Alarm Detection Guide – Visible alarms shall be mounted. Until 177 cd intensity strobes are available through our fire alarm manufacturer, Amherst College shall install 110 cd "synchronized" visible strobes in all bedrooms at least 24" below ceiling level, unless otherwise approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction, the Amherst Fire Department.

2. Voice/Alarm Signaling System – A voice/alarm signaling system shall be provided where required by other sections of Massachusetts Building Code. When activated in accordance with Massachusetts Building Codes, the voice/alarm signaling system shall automatically sound an alert signal to all occupants within the building on a general or selective basis to the following terminal areas: elevators, elevator lobbies, corridors, exit stairways, rooms and tenant spaces exceeding 1,000 square feet (93m²) in area; dwelling units in occupancies in R-1 Use Groups. The fire command station shall contain controls to transmit manually an evacuation signal and voice instructions on a selective and all-call basis to the terminal areas indicated herein. The voice/alarm system shall be designed and installed in accordance with the provisions of Massachusetts Building Codes, Massachusetts Fire Prevention Regulations, and NFPA72


The sequence of operation of the voice alarm signaling system shall be as follows:

Sound an alert (pre-signal) tone (the alert tone shall be a 900 hertz tone pulsed to produce one round of code 4 at approximately one second intervals.

Activate the recorded message regarding the evacuation procedure. The alarm and communication system shall provide a pre-recorded message

to all required areas. The message shall contain the following information. “Attention please. The signal tone you have just heard indicated a report or an emergency in this building. If your floor evacuation signal sounds after this message, walk to your nearest stairway and leave the floor. While the report is being verified, occupants on other floors should await further instructions.” This message shall be transmitted three times.  A female voice shall be used for this message.


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