To comply with codes and regulations, all buildings should have a working fire alarm system. Whether it be in schools, hospitals, office blocks, or homes – a fire alarm system can prove critical in protecting you and the building if the worst should happen.
While most systems are automatic, manual options like a fire alarm pull system remain popular across the US. So, what is a fire alarm pull system and how do they work? Discover everything you need to know below…
What is a fire alarm pull system?
Fire alarm pull systems can be found in practically any building you enter. They typically consist of a red box mounted onto the wall with a T shaped handle. If a fire breaks out, the handle can be pulled to trigger the alarm manually.
There are three main types of fire alarm pull systems including:
Single action fire alarm pull stations –These pull stations are the most basic ones you can install. You simply need to pull down the handle to activate the alarm instantly. They don’t have a special activation mechanism, or coverings.
Dual action fire alarm pull systems – With dual action pull stations, you’ll need to carry out two actions to activate them. They are usually enclosed in a glass or plastic box which will need to be broken before the alarm can be triggered.
Addressable fire alarm pull systems – An addressable pull system is the most advanced option. Each alarm has a unique address, letting you know exactly where in the building the fire is.
Single action pull systems are the easiest to use, but they can be triggered accidentally. If being installed in schools for example, students could easily set them off as a prank. For this reason, dual action pull systems tend to be the more popular option. They are still easy to trigger, but they are harder to activate accidentally.
If you are installing a fire alarm pull system in a large building, or on a college campus, an addressable fire alarm pull system would be the better option. As it shows exactly where the fire is, the authorities will be able to get to the source of the fire quickly.
Whichever type of fire alarm pull system you choose to install, they will need to be manually turned off once the fire has been extinguished.
How does a fire alarm pull system work?
All types of fire alarm pull systems are connected to an alarm system. As soon as the handle is pulled, the alarm will start to go off. In some cases, the system may be hooked up to lights around the building, causing them to flash when the alarm sounds. This ensures those with hearing difficulties are also alerted to the danger.
When the handle is pulled, a signal is sent to the fire alarm control panel. If the system is monitored, a message will be sent to the company in charge. They in turn will alert the authorities. If it is a local alarm only, the authorities won’t be automatically alerted so you’ll need to do this manually.
You won’t need any specialist training to operate most systems, and they require annual, or six monthly maintenance to keep them in full working order.
When are fire alarm pull stations needed?
A fire alarm pull station is needed in practically any building, regardless of its occupancy classification. This is in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association, 101 Life Safety Code. It states that “additional safety guards shall be provided for life safety in case any single safeguard is rendered ineffective”.
Put simply, this means you should never rely upon a single system for safety. Even if you have an automatic system, a manual one should still be installed as a backup. How many fire alarm pull systems you’ll need will ultimately depend upon the size of the building.
What height should a fire alarm pull station be installed?
All fire alarm pull stations need to be installed anywhere from 42 to 48 inches from the floor. This is in accordance with the local fire alarm code, and NFPA 72 standards. It needs to be fully accessible to those in a wheelchair, as well as installed in an area without any obstacles.
Pull stations also need to be installed within 60 inches of each exit. If there are groups of doors that are situated more than 40 feet apart from one another, a pull station must be installed on each side of the grouping.
What is the difference between a fire alarm pull system and a manual call point?
Fire alarm pull systems are only found in the US and Canada. In Europe, and many other parts of the world, they are referred to as manual call points. While they both need to be manually triggered, the way in which they work is slightly different.
Manual call points are situated behind an enclosure, and they don’t come with a handle. Instead, a plate drops down whenever it is pushed.
When should fire alarm pull systems be inspected and tested?
Visual inspections of fire alarm pull systems should take place right after they have been installed, and every six months moving forward. These can be carried out by the building owner, or a trained professional. However, any servicing required should always be carried out by a professional.
As well as being inspected, fire alarm systems should also be tested once a year. Before they are tested, a technician will need to deactivate the strobes and alarms. This ensures the occupants of the building aren’t disturbed.
Fire alarm pull systems are an essential investment in any type of building. If you aren’t sure which type of alarm system you need, or whether you are installing them in line with building codes and regulations, get in touch with fire safety professionals. Certified inspectors will help you to ensure your systems are placed correctly in accordance with the latest codes and regulations.