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4 Things You Need To Know About the NFPA 720 Code for Sleeping Rooms

Posted on 3/24/2015 8:48 AM by Ted Milburn

What does it take to reliably wake someone from a sound sleep when there is the threat of a fire or detection of carbon monoxide in the building?  

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has generated new requirements in the NFPA 720 Standard for Installation Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment, all aimed at maximizing those precious seconds between the initial sound of an alarm and when individuals are able to get to safety.  

Studies conducted by the Fire Protection and Research Foundation (FPRF) on high risk groups, including children, hearing-impaired individuals, and those under the influence, have driven the changes in the new codes.  The research revealed that a square wave sound with a lower-range frequency is the most effective signal to awaken people versus the current high-pitched fire alarm signal.

In 2009, the NFPA 720 code expanded to mandate Carbon Monoxide (CO) detection with a low frequency alarm (listed as a T4 signal) in areas with sleeping occupants. Shortly thereafter, the 2010 edition of the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code required sleeping rooms to be fitted with T3 pattern low frequency alarms for fire detection. These updated codes took effect on January 1, 2015.

For building owners and facility managers, understanding the new code and how it applies to a particular structure is critical.  

What does the code state?

The new NFPA 720 code mandates that audible alarms in sleeping rooms need to be able to produce a low frequency T4 pattern along with a T3 pattern to effectively wake individuals if CO or fire is detected. NFPA 720 and NFPA 72, which went into effect last January, include similar low frequency requirements for sleeping areas.  However, the T4 (NFPA 720) and T3 (NFPA 72) signals are two completely different sound patterns based upon the detected condition so those occupying the building can distinguish the type of emergency.

What types of facilities are required to comply with the updated code requirements?

The updated code is aimed primarily at commercial locations where people sleep, including:

  • Hotel/motel guest rooms
  • College/university dorm rooms
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Apartment buildings
  • Any areas that might be used for sleeping, i.e. living room of an apartment or condominium as it may have sleeping occupants 

What frequency of tone must be used to be compliant?

Section, in both the 2009 and 2012 NFPA 720 editions, mandates that the alarm signal must be a square wave with a frequency of 520 Hz + 10%.

How effective are these alarms?

Three NFPA-petitioned research projects in 2006 led to the new requirements for tones used to wake people. The findings from these studies showed that a low frequency 520 Hz square wave signal was more effective at waking people who were impaired by alcohol or had hearing loss. In fact, the low frequency 520 woke 92 percent of the participants in the study that had hearing difficulties.

The new requirements mean building owners and facility managers need to be even more vigilant about the current alarm systems in their buildings.  Reviewing those systems, conducting an audit of the options in the marketplace to update those systems and then making the necessary updates will ensure compliance with the law.  It will also go a long way toward keeping occupants safer, especially when an emergency situation arises.

Ted Milburn is vice president of marketing for Eaton's notification business, reach him at tedmilburn@eaton.com.

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Window Film – Separating Fact from Fiction

Posted on 3/20/2015 10:54 AM by Jeffrey Plummer

Installing window film on new buildings or as part of a facility retrofit can be a smart way to achieve energy savings, reduce solar glare, increase occupant comfort, improve safety and security, and even enhance aesthetics.

But when searching for the right window film to meet their needs, building owners and facility managers have a lot of information – and even some misconceptions – to sort through.

Determining what exactly window film can do – and what it can’t do – is an important part of the decision making process and it can sometimes be difficult to separate the myth from reality. First, we need some background.

What is window film?

Window film is a polyester product typically made of Polyethylene Teraphthalate (PET). Most films are applied to the interior surface of a glass window in a home, commercial building, or car, they also have a scratch resistant coating on the outer surface to protect the film.

There are many types of window films, including some that are clear and others that have multiple layers of PET to protect against shattering glass; others are tinted with pigments, metals, or dyes to reduce the amount of visible light transmitted through the glass and block heat.  Decorative window films can replicate the look of frosted glass or etched patterns.

The decades-old perception of window film as a purple, peeling bubbly material seen on many cars in the 1970s is now a thing of the past. Today’s window films are high-performing, durable, and the result of continuing research and development.

Below are five popular perceptions of window film, and whether they are fact or fiction.

Perception #1  - Window film doesn’t last very long: Fiction

Many window film providers offer a warranty of up to 15 years for commercial installations. Depending on the film type, glass type, window construction and the location of the building, some professionally installed window films can last well past their warranties. Most factory warranties will cover issues such as peeling, bubbling, rippling, cracking, adhesive failure, among others.

Perception #2 - Window film can achieve significant energy savings for a commercial or public building: FACT

When the weather is warm, window film can reduce air conditioning costs and save on lighting costs by reducing solar heat gain while letting in natural light. When it’s cold, window film can retain interior heat, saving heating costs. In existing commercial structures, the energy savings achieved by window film can offer a payback of less than two years, or up to a 70% ROI (depending on factors such as construction, location, and type of film used).

Perception #3: Window film can be a panacea for storm protection: FICTION

When properly installed, here’s what window film can do during a storm:

  • It can help hold glass in windows together, thus helping to prevent shattering
  • It can help prevent potential physical harm
  • It can help prevent high winds from entering a structure
  • It can serve as a passive protection in the event hurricane approved shutters or others systems can’t be installed prior to a storm.

Here’s what it can’t do:

  • By itself, window film is not a panacea for storm protection
  • Window film alone can’t keep the glass from breaking or the window unit including the frame intact
  • It’s not a replacement for other storm protection measures (like shutters)
  • Insurance companies won’t give homeowners or businesses a “hurricane mitigation discount” for using window film

Perception #4 – Window film can reduce fading in furnishings: FACT

While it’s practically impossible to eliminate all risk of fading, window film can block greater than 99 percent of dangerous ultraviolet radiation, which is among the factors that can contribute to fading. Other factors in fading are visible light, heat and chemicals given off by carpeting and other components of a space.

Perception #5 – Window film can help delay and deter the efforts of an intruder: FACT

This is another perception that frequently is misunderstood. Using safety window films alone likely will not prevent an intruder from entering a building through glass. Instead, glass that has safety film installed on it is designed to hold together, not shatter into fragments. This can potentially delay an intruder from entering quickly and, in some cases, cause them to reconsider and move on. It’s also important to understand that even if the filmed glass can remain intact as an intruder is attempting to enter, the window’s framing system may not be able to hold together (which means there would be less of an intrusion-delay benefit).

For facilities that are considering upgrading their windows or renovating their facility entirely, window film can achieve long-lasting improvements for your occupants and your bottom line. Understanding exactly what window film can or can’t do for your commercial facility or public building is an important first step in making the right decision. 

Jeffery Plummer is the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Madico Window Films. He can be reached at jplummer@madico.com

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