Last year we purchased a brand new industrial/office building in Orange
County, CA. The building came with fire sprinklers installed and there
is also a phone line dedicated to call 911 should a fire occur. We are
paying for this phone line apart from the regular phone lines that we
are paying for our normal office use.
I am wondering if there is any mandatory code requirement to have this
fire service phone line standby at all times? Or is it OK to disconnect
this phone line service, but of course, keeping the sprinklers.
Any tips are welcome.
And your insurance company. At least with residential alarms, you get
a cut in premiums if the alarms are monitored. I would assume that the
same might apply in commercial areas, too. If the only marginal expense
is the phone line, you might end up being penny wise and pound foolish.
Alarm monitoring usually does not require a dedicated phone line. I
think what he means is that he would switch from a dedicated line to
using one of the business lines. But I agree, he should be checking
with the local fire code officials and his insurance company, because
only they can answer his question.
Now I'm really confused. Why would you have to have a second line if
it's not dedicated to the alarm? If it's not dedicated, then what
makes the second one different from the first phone line, or any other
I may not have to be dedicated, but it should definitely be one that
is not in general use - it's kinda hard for the alarm to dial out if
the line is already in use receiving a fax or some other such use.
But again - what's the point. Even at business line rates, the cost
of a single line that isn't making any calls isn't very much, and for
a business of any size at all, it's down in the noise level. If you
are looking to economize, I'm sure there are other things that make a
lot more sense than messing with your safety systems.
I don't know about CA but here (NoVA/DC) you are required to have a
dedicated phone line for your fire alarm system's dialer, and also to
maintain a monitoring service (assuming that the building is not
occupied 24/7 and that the FACP does not report to a continuously
occupied station such as a PBX room or similar) It might even be a
requirement in NFPA 72 but I am too lazy to look it up right now. In
any case be vewwy, vewwy caweful about discontinuing services that you
may be required to maintain.
If nothing else, wouldn't you want the FD to respond to a fire
condition at your building?
Probably yes. Call the fire chief. Most sprinkler alarms require some sort
of monitoring. Larger buildings require a call box direct to the fire
department. Only your local officials can tell you exactly what is needed.
Oh, usually, systems must be checked regularly by an authorized party.
Alarm checks once month, flow tests once a year.
Although no one mentioned it so far, I think your first step might be to
contact an alarm company (either the one that installed and/or monitors your
present system, or another alarm company, or an alarm supply company). I'm
sure the answer is a no-brainer for them.
In our area, the fire alarm system for a residential property only needs to
be set up so it "seizes" the existing phone line to make the outgoing alarm
call. It has to be set up so it accesses the phone line at the "D-Mark" I
think -- where the phone line comes in. I wouldn't be surprised if the same
is true of a commercial fire alarm system. Also in our area, all fire alarm
systems have to be set up so they are armed all of the time and cannot be
disarmed like burglar alarms can.
Fire sprinklers have what is called a "flow switch". This switch trips if
one sprinkler head pops. A sprinkler head can pop because of a fire or
sometimes for a non fire event.
If it is a non fire (nearby high heat furnace or whatever) which causes the
sprinkler head to pop and this happens on a Friday night, there could be a
lot of water damage by Monday! So it is a good idea to have the sprinkler
flow switch monitored by an alarm company.
As to monitoring of the flow switch, fire departments will sometimes require
a "dedicated direct" line. This line does not dial any number, but instantly
sends a signal to a monitoring company or directly to the fire department.
In the past there have been commercial building fires where many people
died. Fire departments have their requirements to prevent these things from
happening again. So for some situations like potential loss of many lives
(like high-rise buildings), a direct dedicated line will be required.
Dial-up lines will not cut it. Sometimes "all circuits" can be busy and the
signal will not get through. Also can depend on if hazardous materials are
stored or manufactured at the building. Something where the fire department
needs to know as soon as possible when there is a fire. Seconds could save
lives in these cases.
And then insurance companies want to minimize losses in the case of a fire
or a head which pops in a non fire situation. Sometimes you are required to
have a "U.L. Grade [something] rated fire system. This can include a
dedicated direct line. Usually these go to an alarm company and the alarm
company will have a direct line to the fire department. (Very fast reporting
So if you have an alarm company, check with them. Also check with the local
fire department and your insurance company. If you want to save money, ask
your insurance company what you can install (alarms, fire extinguishers,
etc.) which will give you lower rates. Then weigh the cost of the additional
protection against the savings in insurance rates.
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