Components of Commercial Fire Protection Services

Commercial fires are every business holder’s nightmare. Fires can pose a serious threat to human life, property as well as assets in commercial spaces. According to the statistics gathered by the US Fire Administration, there are over 100,000 non-residential fires in the country every year with 103,600 fires reported in 2018 .

Cooking equipment, electrical systems, smoking material, and heating systems have proven to be the primary causes of commercial fires in the US. Especially, the restaurant’s kitchens are the leading cause of the fire because of flammable oils, high cooking temperature, and congested space.

Considering the facts, maintaining fire safety in commercial buildings is the utmost responsibility of every business owner. In this regard, functional fire protection systems are essential to provide a sufficient degree of protection against fire.

A fire safety system is integral for business holders to minimize the damage to buildings, documents, equipment, and workers. An efficient fire protection system for commercial buildings consists of the following crucial components:

  • Commercial Fire Alarm System
  • Commercial Fire Sprinkler System
  • Commercial Portable Fire Extinguishers

However, for efficient working, components of commercial fire safety services must comply with the rules of OSHA and NFPA codes. OSHA formulated a comprehensive set of regulations for the proper functioning of fire protection systems. Negligence or failure to fulfill required laws may put the property and employees at risk.


Fire Risk Assessment Tool for High Rise Buildings Having Combustible Facade System

Fires have become a common phenomenon in high rise buildings due to the use of combustible facade systems. Most high-rise buildings employ three main categories of facade systems -Curtain wall facade systems, Built-up wall facade system and built up wall facade systems without cavities. However, the problem with facade systems is the presence of combustible materials such as low-density polyethylene or foam insulators.

Though such materials are used to enhance energy performance and reduce water and air infiltration, the incorporation of combustible materials causes facade systems to catch fire. The fire spreads to multiple stories, and fire sprinkler systems are unable to control horrible fire. So, there was a need to design a fire assessment tool to reduce the chance of high-rise fires igniting in multiple stories. The figure shows the fires incidents in high rise buildings having combustible facade materials in different countries.

Country City Fire incidents involving the façade assembly on the exterior of a building








Abu Dhabi


2017 2016












2012 2012 2008 2007
Qatar Doha 2010
Russia Grozny 2013
Australia Melbourne




China Shenyang










Azerbaijan Baku 2015
Turkey Istanbul 2012
Thailand Bangkok 2012
Bangladesh Dhaka 2016 2012
USA Atlantic City






Hungary Miskolc 2009
France Dijon

Epinay-sur seine







Belgium Neder-over-Heembeck 2016
Germany Berlin




Spain Ovideo 1996
Canada Winnipeg 2016
S. Korea Busa 1990
UK Liverpool












Japan Hiroshima 1996
Indonesia Jakarta 2015

Figure 3 List of fire incidents involving exterior façade systems globally

·       Commercial fire alarm system

A commercial fire alarm system is a network of alarms, crucial to provide safety against horrible fires. In case of fire emergency, the system acts as the first line of defense and helps in the immediate evacuation. When the fire provokes, the fire alarm act as a detector by providing an early signal that something tragic has happened.

According to an estimate, more than 50% of commercial fires erupt in buildings having no fire alarms. So, the installation, proper functioning, and maintenance of the Fire alarm system are essentials to reduce the chances of fire damage. According to OSHA, a fire alarm :

  • Must be loud enough to be heard even in noise
  • Must prompt an emergency response in case of fire
  • Must comply with the procedures required for sounding alarm system
  • Must be distinctive enough to be recognized as an emergence signal
1.     Conventional Fire alarms

Conventional fire alarms are basic systems, identifying the activated detector by a zone LED. The system allows installing separate alarms in different parts of the building and also helps to detect a broken alarm.

Conventional fire alarm systems comprise smoke alarms, alarm points, and control panel to locate the fire point. Due to each alarm point's connection with the control box, conventional systems can detect smoke individually.

Conventional fire alarm systems are preferred by small commercial buildings such as offices and retail shops. However, for the larger structures, such basic systems are relatively less effective and complicated.

2.     Addressable Fire alarms

An addressable fire alarm system consists of a series of fire detectors and devices, connected to a central control panel. Instead of using electrical current as in case of conventional system, an addressable alarm system operates on digital technology.

Information is transmitted from all devices to a central control panel in the form of binary codes. The code is then converted into an analog signal, and data is fed to a minicomputer.

An addressable fire alarm system is more accurate in detecting the exact location of a fire. As the precise location of each connected device is programmed in the system, firefighters can quickly respond to fire promptly. Due to digital technology, the system is preferred for large scale commercial premises instead of small buildings.

3.     Hybrid Fire alarms

Hybrid Fire alarm systems work by combining addressable alarm systems' addressability with the hardwired detection of conventional alarm systems. The hybrid, wireless technology is effective to use for commercial buildings, requiring the features from both systems.

A hybrid fire alarm system is easy to remove and deployed when needed. Due to the minimum wiring requirement and flexibility, the system is best for modular buildings (built-off and transported).

Building requirements for commercial fire alarm systems

Installation of fire alarm systems in commercial buildings such as new mercantile and business occupancies require :

  • At least three stories
  • Over 50 occupants above or below the discharge level
  • 300 or more total occupants.

Commercial fire alarm system requirements for existing mercantile and businesses occupancies are following:

  • Three or more story buildings
  • 100 or more occupants over the discharge level
  • 1,000 or more occupants.

Inspection and maintenance

Apart from proper installation, commercial fire alarm systems require inspection and maintenance for proper working. Mostly a system, less than 5 years old does not require much maintenance, but older systems may report problems due to environmental conditions. The proper maintenance of such systems require:

  • Regular system checking to fix failures.
  • Weakly testing of detector call point, smoke and flame detectors to ensure no obstructions
  • Proper analysis of batteries and connections to replace them if needed.
  • Weekly examination of fire doors for emergency exit
  • Annual inspection of cable fittings and equipment

Commercial Fire Sprinkler System

Fire Sprinkler systems often regarded as “a reasonable level of care” are an essential protection against fire in commercial structures. The system gets activated automatically by detecting fire in initial stages, thus discharge water, allowing buildings to be evacuated immediately. Sprinkler systems are required in:

  • Offices
  • Workshops
  • Retail stores

·       Types

Commercial fire sprinklers are available in various types, providing fire safety depending upon building requirements. Here are three main types:

1.     Wet Pipe commercial sprinkler system

Wet Pipe sprinkler systems are commonly used in commercial buildings because of their simplicity, reliability, and low cost. The system includes overhead piping, containing oxygenated water to exert pressure, thus activating the system in case of fire. However, a wet pipe system is not suitable to be used under 40F as it cracks, resulting in leakage.

2.     Dry Pipe commercial sprinkler system

Dry pipe sprinkler systems are designed to be installed in buildings reaching temperatures below zero degrees. Instead of employing water, the sprinkler uses air or nitrogen contained within non-heated piping. Water is just contained within a valve. Upon activation, gas pressure decreases in the piping, and water is discharged to extinguish the fire.

3.     Foam Water commercial sprinkler system

A foam water fire sprinkler does not just need water to operate; instead, a mixture of water and foam concentrate is used. Foam is effective for smothering fires, ignited by combustible solvents and gases. A foam water fire sprinkler system has two types:

·         Aqueous Film-Forming Foam

AFFF suffocates and prevents re-ignition of fire, initiated from combustible liquids by forming an aqueous layer

·         Film-Forming FluoroProtein

FFFP uses a mixture of fluorochemical surfactants to extinguish and prevent the fire from igniting again.

  • Buildings Requirements

NFPA13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems covers all the information regarding the Sprinkler system installation and design. According to the standard, an automatic sprinkler system is required in:

  • All newly built commercial buildings with a fire area exceeding 5000 square feet.
  • Educational buildings, surpassing 20,0000 square feet area.
  • Mercantile occupancies exceeding 12,000 square feet area
  • Buildings having more than55 ft height

·       Inspection and maintenance

Besides installation, fire sprinkler proper functioning is vital to ensure maximum protection against fire. In this regard, NFPA 25 provides all instructions for testing, inspection, and maintenance of system by a trained personnel . The standard requires:

  • Weakly inspection of dry, control valves, and deluge systems gauges.
  • Monthly inspection of wet pipe gauges and valves.
  • An annual inspection of the system’s hanger, fittings, deluge valves, dry pipe valves, and other assemblies.
  • Five-year inspection to check valves, piping, and obstructions.

Commercial Portable Fire Extinguishers


Commercial buildings are required to have correctly installed fire extinguishers at every 200 square meters. Fire extinguishers are helpful to overcome small and localized fires before the situation becomes uncontrollable. According to an estimate, out of 80% of commercial fires, controlled in initial stages, nearly,90% are extinguished by using fire extinguishers.


According to OSHA, an effective commercial fire extinguisher must comply with these requirements :


  • Authorized by FM Global and Underwriter's Laboratories to be used in the United States.
  • Proper type according to UL and NFPA 10 guidelines.
  • Must be installed at accessible places to provide immediate protection
  • Operated by trained, authorized personnel


·       Types


Fire extinguishers are available in various types to provide safety against different fire types in commercial spaces.


1.     Water and Foam extinguisher


Water and Foam fire extinguishers are used to control fire, caused by liquids, by sealing liquid surface. In this way, combustible vapors are prevented from reaching the air, thus depriving them of flaring up.


  1. Dry chemical extinguisher


A Dry chemical fire extinguisher combats the fire by forming a blanket of powdered sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, or monoammonium phosphate over the fire.


3.      Wet chemical extinguisher


Wet Chemical extinguishers use potassium solution to trigger a chemical reaction with the fire. A soap-like solution is formed during the reaction, sealing the surface and preventing the fire.


4.      Carbon dioxide extinguisher


Carbon dioxide extinguishers are useful in smothering fire by cutting off the air supply without leaving any residue.


5.     Cartridge operated dry chemical extinguisher


Cartridge operated dry chemical extinguisher works by intercepting the fire’s chemical reaction. The extinguisher cuts off the fire's oxygen supply, resulting in fire mitigation within a short time.



6.     Water mist extinguisher


Water Mist fire extinguisher forms a fine mist surface of deionized water to extinguish the fire. The system is efficient in suffocating the intense fire without soaking the area.


7.     Dry powder extinguisher


Dry Chemical extinguisher combats the fire by disconnecting the air supply to the fire. The all-purpose extinguisher containing monoammonium phosphate stops the fire by interrupting the chemical reaction.

8.     Clean agent extinguisher


Clean Agent extinguisher, also known as halogenated extinguishers, contains less ozone-depleting halogens to disrupt the fire's chemical reaction.


·       Evaluating hazard level to install fire extinguisher


The installation of commercial fire extinguisher requires proper assessment of hazard level in a building. Depending upon hazard level, proper fire extinguisher type is installed at an accurate distance to ensure maximum safety.


  • In the case of Class, A hazard, schools, offices, churches, and hotels require 2A extinguishers, at a distance not exceeding 75ft. For Class B hazard,10B extinguishers need to be placed at or less than 50ft.


  • Parking garages, post offices, fabric stores, and dry cleaners require 2A extinguishers, mounted every 75 ft apart. In the case of Class B hazard,20B extinguishers need to be installed at a distance of 50 ft or less.


  • For furniture shops, plastic processing factories, and assembly plants,4A extinguisher at a max. distance of 75ft are required . In the case of Class B hazard,80B extinguishers at less than 50 ft or 40B extinguishers at less than 30 ft are vital.


·        Inspection and maintenance


Proper inspection and maintenance, are crucial to ensure efficient working of commercial fire extinguishers. An internal examination every 6 years and a hydrostatic test every 12 years is vital in all commercial spaces to avoid any danger. However, a thorough inspection every month is essential to ensure extinguisher:


  • Accessibility and designated locations
  • Instruction labels and seals are readable.
  • No damage, leakage, blocking, or corrosion



Water and Foam
Wood, paper, plastic
Dry chemical
            A, B, C
Flammable liquid, oils, paper, plastic, gases
Wet chemical
Fats, grease, oils
Carbon dioxide
             B, C
Flammable gases and liquids
Cartridge operated dry chemical
           A, B, C
Flammable oils, petrol, gases, plastic
Water mist
            A, C
Wood, paper, combustible gases
Dry powder
Metals; aluminum, magnesium
Clean agent
            B, C
Flammable liquids and gases; butane, petrol






Increased fire cases in America put all sorts of businesses at risk. From office buildings to shops, restaurants, to manufacturing plants, fire is common in every business space. In order to respond to fire hazard at the most appropriate time, fire alarms, extinguishers and sprinkler systems are vital in all commercial buildings.