Every building should have a working fire alarm system to comply with codes and regulations. To this end, you will find a fire alarm pull station in virtually every building you visit. Fire pull stations have not changed much over the years. However, they have become somewhat redundant and are often overlooked, as many buildings have installed automatic fire detectors.
Automatic fire alarm systems are convenient, but understanding how fire pull stations work could be the necessary manual step to alert building occupants of a fire.
What is a Fire Alarm Pull Station?
A fire alarm pull station is a manually activated component of a fire alarm system. Usually a red box mounted on a wall, these stations are clearly labeled with instructions on how to use them. Though meant to accomplish the same thing, there are two types of fire alarm pull stations.
Single-Action Pull Station
Single-action pull stations are simple in their design — they are fitted in a wall without any coverings or special activation mechanisms. These pull stations are activated by pulling the handle down.
Dual-Action Pull Station
Dual-action pull stations are activated through a two-step process, as the designation suggests. They are similar to single-action pull stations except they have safeguards in place, designed to discourage mischief or accidental activation.
A dual-action pull station is usually encased in a glass box requiring the person activating the alarm to break through the glass to get to the handle. These pull stations may also feature a two-step alarm activation sequence, such as lifting a cover over the handle before pulling it down to activate the alarm.
No matter the type of fire alarm pull station, the alarm has to be manually turned off after the area is determined to be safe. This requires access using a specific key.
Fire Alarm Pull Station Requirements
Fire alarm pull stations seem commonplace, however, they are a necessity for buildings in order to comply with fire codes and regulations, including in buildings with automatic fire detection and alarm systems. They are considered a failsafe if the automatic systems should malfunction – automatic systems rely on mechanisms that can be easily compromised, whereas pull stations require a manual activation.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code requires at least one manual fire pull station in each building. The code states that a building should not entrust life safety to only one safeguard, and directs that additional safeguards be implemented.
The NFPA also provides strict guidelines for how and where the fire pull station should be installed in each building. The number of pull stations required in each building depends on its size and occupancy rate. Additionally, the NFPA directs that the pull station should be no more than 200 feet from the nearest occupied room and within 60 inches from every exit. To this end, a building will have as many pull stations as there are exits.
To ensure proper function, fire alarm pull stations must be tested after installation and every periodically after that. Every 6 months a visual inspection should be performed, and a test should be performed annually. For many buildings, this test is part of the fire comprehensive fire alarm system test, which must also be performed annually.
Fire Alarm Pull Stations in Your Building
Outfitting a building with a complete fire alarm system - fire alarm pull stations included - is crucial for protecting lives and property. Understanding the importance of fire alarm pull stations in your building, and how they work, is the first step.