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Published on November 5, 2014.


More on the Testing of Manual Fire Alarms
An online comment to “All About the Pull” [“In Compliance,” September/October], Wayne Moore’s NFPA 72 piece on the testing of manual fire alarm boxes:
The company I work for not only states that the pull arm, or “T” handle, of a manual fire alarm is to be activated, but that the break rod must be broken and then replaced with a new rod. This results in a lively discussion among the technicians and management: Who is to pay for the new break rod? Is it proper to open the station and remove the rod, reset the fire alarm control panel, and then activate the “T” handle, replacing the rod at that time? The result is no standard policy and a variety of techniques practiced in the field. I believe that the handle should be activated so that the rod is broken, and that the rod be replaced with a new one. This strikes me as the one proper way to test the device.

S. Schneidler
September 18 at 4:55pm

When Politics and National Consensus Codes Meet
Online comments to “Cautionary Tale” [“In Compliance,” September/October], Jeffrey Sargent’s National Electrical Code piece on the potential dangers associated with jurisdictional changes to national safety codes like the NEC:
When faced with opposition to code adoption or when challenged to adopt with amendments, all one needs to do is contact NFPA, the International association of Electrical Inspectors, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and other industry representatives for support. These entities can
provide research, facts, and anecdotes such as this one.

This information goes a long way to convince government officials, as well as members of the anti-code-adoption community and their supporters,
that safety (and liability) should be at the top of their concerns.

Montgomery, Alabama
October 1 at 6:26 a.m.


Article was Short on Fire Escape Solutions
Carl Baldassarra’s article on fire escapes [“
Safety Feature/Safety Hazard,” September/October] aptly outlined the challenges associated with the maintenance and inspection of these types of means of egress as they age, but it was short on solutions.

In my experience, there is a strong correlation between older structures with exterior fire escapes and those same buildings lacking automatic sprinkler protection. A life safety risk analysis resulting in the provision of automatic sprinkler protection with quick response sprinklers monitored by a central station
service throughout such buildings, combined with a modern smoke detection and fire alarm system, obviates the need for the fire escapes—just remove them.

Purists would argue that the means of egress is still deficient, but buildings so equipped and maintained pose virtually no life safety risk to their occupants.

Thomas G. Daly, MSc., CSP
Principal & managing member,
The Hospital Security
Consulting Group, LLC
Reno, Nevada

The author responds:
Mr. Daly’s observation is largely correct—the article was centered on the challenges associated with the maintenance and continued use of existing fire escape stairs. The article concluded with a statement about design professionals using renovations of such structures as opportunities to improve the safety of those buildings, intending that all available strategies be considered. In existing high-rise buildings that are eventually retrofitted with automatic sprinkler systems, or additional enclosed interior or exterior exit stairs, or both, the need for those existing fire escape stairs will soon pass the way of the typewriter.

Until, or if, that happens, building owners and code officials will have to rely on the few provisions we have in the codes that address existing fire escape stairs. NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, has addressed sprinkler retrofit in all types of highrise buildings since the 1960s, yet we still have jurisdictions in the U.S. that have been slow to consider or adopt those types of retrofit rules.

I agree with Mr. Daly that the stairs can be removed when the appropriate safety features are provided— what’s appropriate, however, is a topic of discussion for the local authorities and the design professionals. Until then, fire escape stairs can help solve the predicament of inadequate egress from the upper levels of a building.

Carl Baldassarra, principal
Wiss, Janney, Elstner
Associates, Inc.
Northbrook, Illinois