Are horn/strobes banned in all new construction of buildings other than houses and garages now? (In the U.S.)

I have been wondering, because I saw a post where that’s the case in schools.

In my area, that’s the case in a lot of buildings, including schools. Despite this, they are still using horn strobes in all of the small buildings in my area that do not require voice evac because of the high cost of voice evac.

Looks like new school construction requires speaker/strobes on a national-level, but still don’t know 100 percent.

Now, I wonder what the minimum amount of floors would be where a voice-evacuation system is required. I know now that very-mixed-use buildings with multiple floors require them. Especially a lot of floors.

As far as I know they’re recommending (but not prohibiting) voice evacuation systems to be installed in new schools and in upgrades. When I checked my county codes it’s only specific that it has to be an addressable system and cannot be conventional.

From what I remember anything over a few hundred people in a building at the same time does need a voice evacuation system so it’s possible speaker strobes are required (or perhaps they can use the announcement system for that as well) but for example on the outside it would be a good idea to still have horn strobes.

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I made this thread, because it looks like there was a sudden code change in the 2020s. Possibly as recent as 2022.

The NFPA 72 documentation from 2022 is the latest edition currently although it was listed over 2 decades ago that voice evacuation should be a requirement.

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What buildings did they want it to be a requirement for?

It was originally mainly high rise buildings and ones that would have at least a few hundred people in it. Although with the expansion and more development of the voice evacuation systems has it expanded to education institutions as well although probably not 100% required.

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In my area, all schools, no matter the size must now have voice evac. For example, 3 new elementary schools that have a capacities of around 300 students were just built in my area. They all have voice evac. No elementary schools in my area previously had voice evac.

According to this QRFS post, the 300 occupant rule for voice evacuation systems only applies to “assembly occupancies,” not all buildings. Educational occupancies are required to have voice evacuation systems if they have over 100 occupants, while other occupancy types such as business occupancies have no such requirement.

Although this QRFS post is a few years old, horn strobes continue to be installed in many commercial buildings, so it is very unlikely that they were banned since then.

This post is only a few hours old lol.

No… NFPA 72 will specify how to put a voice evacuation/MNS system if a code requires it. You’d need to reference NFPA 101 or IBC/IFC to specify whether a particular occupancy requires it.

IDK. It may depend per jurisdiction. For example, in Nebraska from what i heard from my SD’s fire alarm tech, he said that Nebraska just adopted code from the mid 2010s.

My area is weird like that too. For example, we don’t require systems to use temporal 3 coding and still allow audible silence but we do still require voice evac in many buildings (including schools).

For example, I think audible silence is still allowed here.

in Canada, schools here are still using Horn/Strobes. Only schools I’ve seen with speaker strobes is in the GTA, as their schools are far larger. But all the ones in my area have normal systems, they have to be single stage according to code.

Do voice evacuation systems there would have to be approved by government before they can be installed in the buildings?

The International Building Code (IBC) or State Building Code (if your state has adopted its own) dictates the requirements of fire alarms and devices. These requirements are differentiated by occupancy groups (sometimes called “use groups”) and occupancy load. This should be in section 300 of the building codes. My state, Michigan, has its own building code (MBC) which is mostly a copy of the IBC. In 2015, the MBC’s requirement for educational use groups, ‘E’, changed to include voice evacuation. However, the state did not adopt this codebook until years later. I’m quite sure the IBC also had this code change in around 2015 as well and that’s where it’s coming from. However, just because the codebook exists doesn’t mean the state has adopted that edition.

The NFPA 101 Life Safety code may or may not be adopted as code which also has fire alarm requirements. In Michigan, it’s only enforced if the building is under jurisdiction of the Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) who have jurisdiction in ‘E’ and ‘I’ use groups in general (couple exceptions to this but this is 95%). If the Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC) has jurisdiction they ignore this codebook because they have not adopted it. BCC has jurisdiction in pretty much everything but ‘E’ and ‘I’.

As a side note, you may think occupancy groups are self explanatory/trivial but what do you think a university lecture hall is classified as? Educational? It’s not because it’s actually a business, ‘B’, because there are adults that pay occupying the facility. ‘E’ are K-12 because there are minors.

You will find voice (speakers) required in ‘A’ (assembly occupancies) above 1000 persons, ‘E’ use groups with occupancy above 100 or so if I recall correctly and highrise buildings which is not an occupancy group in of itself but is also in section 300 and applies to all occupancy groups. In Michigan, a highrise is a building that has an occupied floor 55+’ from the lowest floor accessible by the fire department and in the IBC it’s 75+’ I believe - this is defined in the building code. This is one of the big differences between IBC and MBC.

In ‘E’ occupancies between 40-100, a horn/strobe system is allowed, and <40 people, a fire alarm system isn’t even required in MBC! I’m not 100% sure on the exact numbers but I know the 3 tiers exist, check the building code for the exact numbers.

NFPA 72 is not adopted code. It is actually adopted by reference because the IFC/IBC reference it and that means not all of the NFPA 72 can be enforced (although most of it is through adoption by reference). The NFPA 72 only tells you WHERE devices are to be installed and dictates how some devices shall function, it NEVER tells you if the devices are required. Again, that’s going to be in the building code and NFPA 101 if it’s been adopted.

All fire alarm plans have to be submitted to the city or state (that’s a semi complicated issue I’m not getting into here at least in Michigan) for approval. You can pull an electrical permit without a set of plans but you can’t get an inspection without one because I’m sure all jurisdictions have some kind of plan review to ensure you are installing a code compliant system. In general it’s unwise to install without plans being approved because if there are serious issues with the plans (extremely rare in my experience) you may have to tear down/modify the system to fit it according to the plan review. I’m not talking about a missed device in a room, most plans are produced with buffers that make that ok to fix in the field. An example would be if a horn/strobe system (2-wire system) was proposed in a voice required system (4-wire system). I don’t think contractors would like pulling the full 2-wire system and then have to go back and pull 4-wire.

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In my area you still find horn/strobes in supermarkets and other stores not large enough as to require voice evac. Schools require voice evac nowadays, though plenty of schools in my area are grandfathered with horn/strobes. Once the school gets a system replacement, they put it voice evac.