Fire Alarm Systems

These guidelines have been developed in a cooperative effort by the Fire Protection Equipment Committee, Fire Prevention Officers Section of the California Fire Chiefs Association, and the State Fire Marshal's Fire Alarm Advisory Committee. They were established under various editions of the Uniform Fire Code, the California Fire Code, and National Fire Protection Standard 72.


Please submit four (4) sets of plans and all applicable fees to the Fire Prevention Division.


Listed Equipment Applications

Information should be provided which clearly identifies the purpose for which the equipment or devices are listed. This information may be provided by State Fire Marshal listing sheets and supplemented by manufacturers specification sheet.


Installation Codes and Standards

This item refers to the codes and standards applicable to the specific installation and design requirements. These typically will include references to specific sections of Title 24, Part 2, California Building Code, Part 3, California Electrical Code, Part 4, California Mechanical Code, and Part 9, California Fire Code. References should also be made to legally adopted editions of applicable nationally recognized standards, such as NFPA 72 and local ordinances.


Type of NFPA System Provided

NFPA 72 standard defines fire alarm systems as Local, Auxiliary, Remote Station, Proprietary or Central Station. All life safety evacuation systems are classified as local. Each has unique characteristics and specific design and installation requirements. The type of system shall be identified to enable the plan checker to verify that it is appropriate for the installation.


Voice Message Content and Languages

When voice message evacuation systems are required, as for High-rise and Assembly occupancies, the content of these messages shall be submitted for approval. Voice messages in languages other than English shall also be identified when acceptable to the AHJ. Any alert tones preceding or following the voice message shall also be described along with the number of times the message will repeat.


Sequence of Operation

A written description or matrix chart shall be provided to define the events, which occur when, various initiating devices are activated. The description should include details relating to annunciation, evacuation warning, remote signaling and activation of fire safety control functions, as applicable.


For example, the activation of a lobby smoke detector might recall elevators, shut down air handling systems, close fire doors, sound a general evacuation alarm, transmit an alarm signal to a central station and announce the location at the fire alarm control panel. A smoke detector in another location may cause a different sequence of events to occur and this must be clearly identified.


Combination Systems

Stockton Fire Department does not permit combinations (burglar and fire for example).


Identification of Air Handling Systems Exceeding 2000 CFM

This information shall be provided to determine whether the provisions of the California Mechanical Code are applicable.


Description of Special System Features and Operations

Detailed information should be provided relating to special features such as pre-signal alarm or positive alarm sequence for evacuation warning delay, cross zoning of detectors, alarm verification feature for smoke detectors, and activation of special extinguishing systems.


Request for UL Certificate

NFPA 72 specifies that a fire alarm system classified as Central Station Service must have a UL certificate issued as evidence that the installation is fully in compliance with applicable NFPA standards and that a maintenance contract is in effect. However, by local ordinance ALL required fire alarm systems must be UL Certified.


Symbol Legend

The symbols used on plans and drawings to indicate various fire alarm components and devices shall be clearly identified in a legend, which indicates quantities of devices along with manufacturer's names and model numbers. The symbols should be distinctive and clearly understood by the plan reviewer. NFPA, NEMA and others have developed recommended sets of standard fire alarm symbols, which are commonly used.


Identification of Off-Premises Signaling Methods and On-Premises Circuit Styles

Information pertaining to the number and types of circuits to be used for transmission of signals to a remote monitoring facility should be provided, along with the type of transmission used.


  • Two digital communicator (dial-up) telephone lines.
  • One digital communicator telephone line with one-way RF backup.
  • A dedicated leased telephone line with two-way multiplex signal communication.
  • Two-way RF System
  • Style designations as identified in NFPA 72 should also be provided for on-premises initiating, signaling line and notification appliance circuits.


Attic, Ceiling, and Building Cross-Section Details for Areas with Automatic Detection

Cross section diagrams or elevation drawings are necessary for areas in which heat, smoke or flame detectors are provided in order to verify that mounting locations and spacing of detectors as related to the type of ceiling or roof construction and height are in accordance with NFPA 72 standards.


Specifications and Details on Through-Penetration Fire Stopping

Details shall be provided describing locations of all penetrations of fire-rated walls, ceilings or assemblies and the type of construction.

  • Provide sizes, description and number of cables, conduits or raceways penetrating fire-rated assemblies.
  • Provide details on the fire stopping systems used, including the F and T fire-resistive ratings.


Secondary Power Calculations

Calculations shall be provided to verify that standby batteries or other approved secondary power source is adequate for the specified standby requirements of the system in the event of loss of primary power, as specified by NFPA standards.

Calculations shall be based upon the summation of two calculations: One for supervisory non-alarm condition and one for the alarm load condition.

The alarm load is generally based upon the assumption that 10% of the alarm inputs and 100% of the alarm outputs are in alarm condition.

When a combination (fire and burglary) system is involved, any non-fire alarm devices, such as burglar alarm motion detectors, which derive their power from the control panel, must be included in the supervisory and alarm load calculations.

Current requirements for individual components in both supervisory and alarm conditions shall be verified with the manufacturers specification sheets.

A summary of standby (supervisory) and alarm times as specified by NFPA standards, to be included in the calculations, are listed below. The calculations will determine the minimum ampere-hour capacity of the standby battery or minimum requirements for an equivalent secondary source.


System Type Normal Stand-by Operation Alarm Operation

  • Local 24 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Auxiliary 60 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Remote Station 60 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Proprietary 24 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Central Station 24 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Emergency Voice Alarm 24 Hours 1 5 Minutes at full load


Voltage Drop Calculations

Calculations shall be provided to verify that voltage drop in alarm notification appliance circuits is not excessive. These calculations shall be based upon the length and size (wire gauge) of the circuit conductors and the maximum alarm current required.

Generally, when the same size conductors are used for multiple notification appliance circuits, such calculation should only be necessary for the longest or worst case circuit.

The Ohm's law point to point formula is recommended for these calculations, to determine the voltage drop in each segment of the circuit based upon the current required, times the wire resistance.

The summation of the drop in all segments will then determine the total voltage drop.

As an alternate simpler method, voltage drop calculations can be based upon the total circuit resistance times the total circuit load.

The calculated drop in this instance will always be substantially higher than the actual voltage drop.

In either case, it is recommended that the maximum permissible voltage drop not exceed 10% of the system supply voltage unless local codes specify otherwise.

Voltage (pressure) drop in a circuit is the result of wire resistance, which is determined by both the size (diameter) and length. It can be compared with the drop in water pressure in a hose line resulting from friction loss, with identical factors involved: the size and length of the hose.

Excessive pressure drop in a hose line can reduce the flow in GPM to an unacceptable level. Similarly, excessive voltage drop in a circuit can reduce current flow (amperes) to the extent that it may be inadequate to properly operate power-consuming electrical devices.


Single Line Wiring Diagram

The single line or 'riser" diagram indicates system components connected to individual circuits in the system. Components connected to a common circuit are shown as being connected by a single line, regardless of the number of conductors actually used for the circuit. The number of conductors in each wiring segment will be indicated by right angle marks across the single line at that point or by other appropriate means.

The term "riser diagram" frequently used to describe this drawing does not refer to a sprinkler riser.


Conduit Fill Percentages

Part 3 of Title 24 CCR, the California Electrical Code (CEC) limits the amount of conduit fill to a maximum of 40%. Chapter 9 of Part 3 provides tables indicating the maximum number of conductors of various sizes, which can be used in various sizes of conduit in order to comply with the 40% limitations.


Fire Alarm System Submittal Checklist

This list may help you get through the process. Please review it before sending in your plans and documentation.


Administrative Items

  • Permit application.
  • Payment for plan review and inspection fees.
  • Installing contractors name, address, phone number.
  • Contractors license & local business license numbers.
  • Copy of workers compensation insurance certificate.
  • Site address.
  • Basis for system installation Building Code occupancy classification.
  • Building owner and/or tenant.


Fire Alarm Equipment

  • Manufacturer's specification sheets.
  • Equipment application per SFM listing and UL/FM approvals.
  • CSFM building materials SFM listing numbers.


General Information

  • Appropriate codes & standards, including edition.
  • Type of system or service involved.
  • Voice evacuation message and language(s).
  • Written sequence of operation or matrix table.
  • Combination systems specific additional uses.
  • HVAC system locations greater than 2000 CFM. Please be aware that the California Mechanical Code is not referring to individual units that are over 2000 CFM. if you have a room or area served by 3 units each 700 CFM, then you must comply with codes that require duct detectors.
  • Special system features operating instructions.
  • Required certifications and placarding.


Plans and Drawings

  • Scaled floor plan, including north reference.
  • Completed tide block with site address.
  • Include contractor's business address, telephone, and fax.
  • Identification of each room's use.
  • Location of all components, including end-of-line devices, if applicable.
  • Symbol legend, including quantities, manufacturer's name, model.
  • Identification of circuit styles, designations and methods.
  • Description of zone assignments & device addresses.
  • Complete budding cross section, include attic, soffit, or ceiling.
  • Location of sprinkler system test valve.
  • Specifications and details of through-penetration fire stopping. UL Fire Resistance Directories
  • Device mounting heights for manual boxes.
  • Device mounting heights for audible devices.
  • Device mounting heights for visible notification appliances.
  • Primary power supply details.
  • Secondary power supply calculations.
  • Voltage drop calculations.


Single Line Riser Diagram

  • Conductor information, including size, stranding, insulation.
  • Conduit fill calculations or NEC reference.
  • Location of end-of-line devices.


If you have questions regarding any of these requirements or if you are ready for an inspection, please contact the Fire Prevention Division.


External Links

Office of the State Fire Marshal - California 

Stockton Municipal Code

California Fire Code

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This City of Stockton webpage last reviewed on --- 3/21/2011