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Designing Your Fire Emergency Plan — Reviewing the Plan 101

Learn how to prevent your plan from being a bottleneck in your project.

By Merton Bunker

January 06, 2014

So you won the bid, the permit is pulled, but you’ve suffered a series of setbacks with plans review.  No matter what you do, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) keeps kicking the shop drawings back.  The project may be delayed because the AHJ won’t approve your plans.  Fire protection plans review can be one of the most challenging aspects of a project. 
But it doesn’t have to be that way.  With a little time and patience, plans review can not only be far easier, but can be used as a tool to ensure the project goes well.

So, why does the AHJ require a plans review?  Plans review helps ensure the design meets applicable codes and standards, ensures that the design is appropriate for the expected conditions, and the equipment is properly selected.  Plans review also has the added benefit of detecting problems before the system or equipment is installed.  Detecting problems early can save time and/or money.

Obtaining AHJ approvals and passing a fire alarm inspection or acceptance test the first time is not an easy task for many fire alarm designers and installers.  Poor design practices, failure to understand code requirements and a general lack of planning can prevent acceptance of design/shop drawings by the AHJ.  Poor programming, detector placement, misapplication of products, and other poor installation practices can, and usually do, prevent installers from passing inspections and acceptance tests the first time out.

It is very important to design and install fire alarm systems properly from the beginning. It is also imperative that the installer be ready for the tests when the AHJ comes to witness them. Good planning and execution will save time and money. More importantly, it will result in a better life safety system.

So, you might ask “What’s in it for me?”  Getting it right the first time results in higher profits, better relations with authorities having jurisdiction, fewer punch list items, fewer legal problems, and increased pride in workmanship. 

Most AHJs require a number of sets to be turned in for plans review.  This is to ensure that other trades have access and so they can make sure systems such as elevators, suppression systems, HVAC, and security systems are properly interfaced. 

A good plans review starts with a complete drawing.  Be sure the title block contains all the



About the author
Merton Bunker

Merton Bunker, PE has more than 23 years of engineering experience including 7 years at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), where Merton served as both Signaling Engineer and Chief Electrical Engineer. Merton has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE), a Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM), and is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.


Article topics
News · Codes & Standards · NFPA · Mass Notification · Emergency Communications · Life Safety · Merton Bunker · View all topics
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