Repair, Replace, Build-Out, All New and a Little Leniency

Repair, Replace, Build-Out, All New and a Little Leniency

If you are in the construction business, you probably have experienced sticker shock related to the costs of obtaining permits.  Along with the cost of the permit comes the needed preparation work for submittal documents and contractor fees.  Plan on costly delays in receiving your final approval documents as typically these submittals are not passed on the first round.

It helps when submitting documents to prepare your fire alarm system design by fire alarm professionals experienced in the industry and goes a long way with speeding up the permit approval process.  There are, however, circumstances in which submittals may not be required.

Fire Alarm System Repairs:

Repairs in general do not require a permit when fixing or replacing fire alarm hardware, batteries, or replacing problem wires. This means replacing devices for like devices and quantities. This does not include adding any new hardware, upgrading, or relocating devices to other locations. For example, moving devices from wall to ceiling or ceiling to wall.

In the case of obsolescence where older products are no longer available, replacing devices, panels or a power supply should be brought to the attention of the fire official through verbal or electronic communication. We find that in most of these cases, the fire official allows the work without a formal permit submittal. This work generally could be performed quickly, without a formal permit submittal and without permit fees.

Emergency Panel Replacement Status:

There are times that a main panel may have been damaged due to outside forces such as water, lightening, electrical errors, physical damage, or other causes. When a fire panel is no longer operable, the life and property protection status is non-existent. When these types of damages occur, owner and contractor must move quickly to restore the system back to operational condition so that both property and people are properly protected. 

In this case, the fire department should be notified of the status as the building will require fire watch during this down time condition and while new repair work is being performed.  Replacing an existing fire panel with a similar panel can be performed under the condition ”Emergency Panel Replacement”, however the fire department should be notified and approval granted to proceed.   

 A request for equipment data sheets and updated battery calculations may be requested. This is a simple request and is easy to quickly provide. This work can often be performed with the fire inspector’s approval, with no permit or fee required. The fire inspector may request to be called and invited to participate in a functional witness test.

A Scheduled System Upgrade:

Any modification to an existing fire panel requires a permit. Submittals must be prepared and submitted for permit approval. Final testing with authorities must be performed when:

  • Changing the system from one brand to another
  • Changing the system from one technology to another
  • Modifying the system to meet newer codes
  • Modifying the system to interface to new 3rd party equipment, Suppression, Elevator Recall, Fire Doors, Ansul Systems, Door unlocking and other.

Tenant Build Out or Remodel Project:

Any expansion of the fire alarm system requires a submittal and permit. A general construction drawing with fire alarm devices shown does not meet the NFPA 72 standards for proper fire alarm shop drawings and submittals. Fire Alarms must always be separately permitted with proper design submittals. There will be review, permit and close out costs to test with Authorities.

It has become common that municipalities send out their plans to engineering companies for their engineering evaluation. Often correction or clarification comments are made and follow up drawings will be required. Weeks to months can go by to finally obtain a final approval to proceed. Proceeding without a permit could result in penalties and project stop workorders being issued, not to mention putting the inspector in a cautionary mode. It is best to not perform work until the permit is issued.      

All New Fire Alarm During New Construction or a Major Building Renovation: 

This is similar to Tenant Build conditions, a permit must be obtained and it will be expected that the  entire building meet the latest life safety codes.  In the case of a retrofit of an existing building, if the cost of renovation exceeds 50% of the market value of the building, the entire building life safety system must be treated as all new and must meet the current building code in its entirety. 

If the building is going through an occupancy change, the building will be viewed as all new and must meet the latest building codes in its entirety.   In this case, complete fire alarm submittals must be prepared and submitted for permitting. Weeks to months can go by before all reviewing parties are satisfied that the fire alarm design meets code requirements. 


It is always best to be on good terms with your local field inspector, building commissioner, Fire Marshal, or plan reviewer. Ultimately, everyone’s interest is to assure a high degree of confidence in safety for you, your building visitors, and the survivability of your building.

There will be times when a favor or special circumstance arises and an urgent or verbal approval will be needed. Perhaps there is a minor modification that is needed and the cost of drawings and submittals exceeds the cost of the needed work. A friendly conversation with the field inspector may be in order to obtain their approval to proceed and avoid expensive engineering work that can easily break a small remodel budget. It also helps to have the right fire alarm company present to show skill and experience in getting the job done right.

HRSS Assists with All Fire Alarm System Permits

We often find the inspector willing to listen and help building owners as much as possible when skilled fire alarm companies are involved.  It pays to have an experienced fire alarm system provider on your side. At HRSS, we strive to maintain positive relations with all parties involved in reviewing plans, issuers of permits and inspectors that provide final acceptance.

At times we may be requested to help expedite a review, obtain a permit, or request a special site visit.  When asked to intervene and request a favor, we are often pleasantly met with  understanding and help to meet the deadline challenge.  HRSS strives to maintain long-term, friendly relationships with all our clients and fire officials.

 Working with an experienced fire alarm company with established relationships can make all the difference when it comes to obtaining your permits as quickly as possible, saving time and money.

High Rise Security Systems has a full staff of system designers and CAD operators, experienced in code compliant fire alarm system design.  All staff at HRSS enjoys providing friendly service and building long-lasting relationship with our clients and fire officials.  Contact us with any questions and for assistance in obtaining any required fire alarm system permits.


Share It!