As you likely know by now, FMC provides fire alarm monitoring which meets CAN/ULC-S561 for fire alarm systems throughout Canada. This involves setting up a fire alarm monitoring panel, connecting to the contacts in the fire alarm system, providing monitoring over cellular, IP or other forms of communication and issuing a certificate to the site which states compliance with ULC-S561. However, there are many types of facilities which have a sprinkler installed in their building and do not have a fire alarm installed, but still require monitoring which meets the ULC-S561 standard.
When there is only a fire sprinkler system installed which needs fire monitoring, there are some key differences between monitoring these types of systems and fire alarm monitoring systems. Some of these differences include:
The Types of Alarms Received from the ULC Fire Sprinkler Monitoring System
As we’ve noted in previous blog posts, when a ULC fire alarm monitoring system is connected to a fire alarm system, we typically receive three types of alarms from the system:
- Fire Alarm Signal: An alarm which indicates a fire on the premise
- Fire Trouble Signal: An alarm which indicates a problem with the fire alarm panel
- Fire Supervisory System: An alarm which indicates a problem with a connected sprinkler system
For ULC fire alarm monitoring systems, these alarms are general-level alarms, and do not tell the monitoring station any specifics as to the cause of the alarm. When monitoring a sprinkler system directly without a fire alarm system present, we would receive the following types of alarms from the system:
- Waterflow Alarm: An alarm which indicates that water is flowing through the sprinkler system, and that a sprinkler head has been activated. This would be analogous to a ‘fire alarm’ and requires a fire department dispatch
- Low Pressure: An alarm which indicates that the water pressure on the system is low and needs to be rectified. Low pressure can mean that the system won’t operate properly in the event of an alarm. This would result in a call to the owner of the sprinkler system
- Gate Valve: An alarm indicating that the valves which are controlling the flow of the Water into the fire sprinkler system have been closed. This is a critical issue, as if these are closed the sprinkler may not operate correctly in the event of a fire, and a call to the owner would be required.
ULC fire sprinkler monitoring system may have other types of alarms associated with them, depending on the size of the system (ie: alarms from a fire pump), but these three are the main components that would be monitored on every fire sprinkler system. These alarm provide more specific information than a fire alarm system would provide, as we can drill down to the specific riser. Which brings us to our next difference:
The Number of Zones being Monitored
As we noted above, fire alarm systems typically have three zones being monitored on ULC fire alarm monitoring systems: Fire Alarm, Fire Trouble and Fire Supervisory. However, sprinkler systems can range in size from a single riser to multiple risers, and this can result in dozens on zones which have a requirement to be monitored. Soemtimes systems can look like this:
The benefit to this set up is that more specific information can be relayed to you in the event of an alarm than you may receive from a ULC fire alarm monitoring system (Ie: We may know that the “East” Riser in the Warehouse has a low pressure alarm). However, this means that the installation of the ULC fire sprinkler monitoring equipment may be more costly, as wire would need to be run to each individual zone on the system, and zone expanders may need to be installed to accommodate all of these different zones. Further, risers may be distributed throughout a building, making the installation fairly labour intensive. This is in comparison to a ULC fire alarm monitoring system, which may only require one wire for the three zones to be monitored.
More Inspections Are Required for ULC Fire Sprinkler Monitoring Systems
As we’ve discussed in the past, annual inspections of monitoring equipment have been proven to improve system life and reduce false alarms. ULC fire sprinkler monitoring goes one step further, and requires an annual inspection of the monitoring transmitter – much like ULC fire alarm monitoring – but also requires bi-monthly inspections of the connections between the ULC monitoring equipment and the flow and supervisory-type (low pressure, gate valve) switches. This means that a technician will be on site more often, and while these bi-monthly ULC fire sprinkler monitoring inspections are shorter than your annual inspection of the ULC fire alarm monitoring transmitter, there will be some additional cost compared to fire alarm monitoring.
As you can see, there are some pretty significant differences between ULC fire alarm monitoring and ULC fire sprinkler monitoring, which can impact how the system is monitored, and the overall costs to maintain the ULC fire sprinkler monitoring system. As it is a requirement under Building Codes and Fire Codes to maintain ULC fire sprinkler monitoring on any fire sprinkler system, it’s important to understand these differences and how they will impact your monitoring situation.
Please contact us if you have any questions about your ULC fire sprinkler monitoring set up, and we’d be happy to help!