Question regarding mall fire alarm systems

I’ve always wondered why my local mall has so many different types of devices. The main signals are white, ceiling-mount Gentex GX-90S’s. But then, the individual shops have a bunch of different stuff from a bunch of different companies. Some stores have old Simplex horn/strobes, the candy store has a pre-ADA MASS, another store has SpectrAlerts, and one even has a 7002 on the ceiling.



So, is this the result of store-specific renovations? Or could these actually be separate systems?

Most of the time, big chains or bigger shop sections have their own systems that are tied into the main mall system, and the smaller ones have nothing more than one or two signals and maybe a pullstation in addition to smoke/heat detectors. I know at a local mall, the main system is an MXL with U-MMT minihorns, but the grocery store that’s there has a Mircom system of sorts with Edwards bells.



If they’re smaller shops, chances are it’s just renovation left-overs.

I’ve done it a few ways:

one where the entire place was one system. this was driven by the AHJ.



one where there was a building system and each tenant had their own system, with the building monitoring each tenant. this was because the building owner didn’t want anything to do with the construction or coordination or anything, they just wanted to rent out the core space and walk away, everything was the responsibility of the tenant. they had to get it tied into the building system but that’s it. with this arrangement, each tenant also had to have their own dialer and monitoring contract.



two where there was a building system that also controlled each tenants system but each tenant had their own A/V’s that would only go off in that store when something in that store was activated. so each tenant had a dedicated NAC panel. one of these malls was an indoor mall and also had a strobe outside each tenant that would only go off if that was the tenant in alarm, making it easy for the fire department to find the right store.



it really depends on how involved the mall wants to be with their tenants construction. some give a shell space and walk away, others want to do it all. the AHJ also has their own opinion on how they want it done so they can easily find the fire. anchor stores are usually free to do whatever they want.

That is quite an interesting system. Generally, the malls here in California tend to have huge main systems and anchor stores are separated from the actually mall. I have been to some malls that separate sections of the mall into separate systems, which is also interesting.

The couple of large malls in my area don’t follow any sort of standard. Mall #1 has one panel that monitors every device in every store. That panel is a mess and always has been. Every time someone renovates (which is constant) they ad troubles to the panel. This week when we were out there, it had 85 troubles. Of course all the troubles are in stores and the mall washes their hands of it so they never get fixed. Fun.



Mall #2 has one panel for all the common areas and each store has their own FACP that will report to the mall panel as a supervisory. The store panels have no NACs connected, the horns within the store are tripped via a control module provided by the mall, but the horns are the stores responsibility.



It is possible the mix of devices in your mall may just be orphaned. I’ve seen contractors cut around or reinstall devices that haven’t been hooked up in years. They don’t know and just reinstall them because they are there.

My neighbourhood mall (and the biggest mall in our city) has a huge custom EST system in it. I don’t know what the main system even is, but around the mall exits, there are graphic annunciator panels. Most of the signals are the same (a huge majority of 10" & 4" 439Ds), but I’ve seen a few different other bells in there, such as Mircom bells, Older Edwards adaptabels (only found in the Bay), and even EST Genesis in the Gap.

A local mall has that kind of setup, and I’ve always wondered how the system would work when an alarm is initiated. The mall itself, excluding the anchor stores, has three different systems. The central part of this shopping centre opened in 1978 and has a large Edwards Custom 6500 system. An addition was built at the eastern end of the mall in the late '90s, and instead of expanding the original Edwards system, a Simplex 4100 was installed to protect that part. A few years later, the mall was expanded at its western end, and an EST2 was added for this new section. It seems quite strange to have three different systems for the main part of the shopping centre since the three sections have no clear separation (unlike an anchor store, for instance).

I would imagine all three systems in the mall all trip each-other. So if the Edwards 6500 went into alarm, a set of relays in the panel activates the Simplex and EST2 systems. A headache for the poor sap who has to go around and reset all three panels. You may even have to coordinate three security guards to hit the reset button on each panel at the same time to fully reset everything! But what I’ve seen on panels setup like this is someone puts in a toggle switch to disconnect the interconnection to make testing, servicing, and resetting everything much easier.



On another note, there is a mall up this way where when they originally built the place, they had put in a large Notifier system with 6 nodes. The mall was designed for large to medium sized anchor stores, not a typical strip or shopping mall. Each node was supposed to service a section of the building. The first 4 nodes serviced the original building, with nodes 5 & 6 for future expansion to the east & west. When they expanded to the west, one store tied into node 6 but the other three stores decided to put in their own fire alarm systems. When they expanded to the east, nobody tied into node 5 (so node 5 only has three devices on it - all within the room the node panel occupies), and all those stores put in their own panels. And to confuse you even further, the one store built new but also took over some existing space, so there are a mix of Notifier and EST devices in the one section without any rhyme or reason! I believe there is a total of 8 fire alarm panels plus the mall panel in this one building. And nothing is interconnected (which is a blessing) - except every panel monitors one of the two fire pumps. So when you have to run the fire pump, you end up running around, calling out all these individual systems, and disabling points. A normally “1 hour” pump churn test job is easily a half day here just because of the setup! When we took over the site nothing was documented - so it wasn’t really know what tripped what or covered what. That issue has been since resolved.