Fire Alarm
How To Determine If Your Building Requires A Fire Alarm

Reading the National Building Code is not a fun experience; it’s lengthy, full of jargon and hard to dissect. But have no fear, this post breaks everything down so it’s easy to understand and can be used as your guide to navigating the process of getting a fire alarm system. 

Let’s get started!

Generally, a fire alarm is required in buildings that either have no sprinklers throughout or have automatic sprinklers. If there are fewer than 9 sprinklers and the building’s water supply can provide the required flow then a fire alarm is not required. It is also not required for storage garages.

If your building contains one or more of the following features, you are required to install a fire alarm system:                                                                                                  

  • A contained use area and/or an impeded egress zone
  • More than 3 stories including the stories below the first story
  • More than 300 occupants and/or has more than 150 above or below the first story
  • A school, college, or child care/daycare facility with more than 40 occupants
  • A licensed beverage establishment/restaurant with more than 150 occupants
  • A low- or medium-hazard industrial occupancy with more than 75 occupants above or below the first story
  • A high-hazard industrial occupancy with more than 25 occupants or more than 300 below an open-air seating area

Existing/Relocated Buildings

Code application to existing or relocated buildings requires careful consideration in terms of safety. Keep in mind newer requirements regarding fire alarms do not apply to existing buildings, portions of them, and relocated buildings that have been in use for years. Unless the Safety Codes Council has concerns regarding threat to occupant safety and calls for an elimination of unsafe conditions, new changes, or additions, you won't have to worry about installing a fire alarm system.

Multi-family Residential Buildings

Multi-family condominium buildings will normally have a complete fire alarm and fire protection system because they are required by the Condominium Property Act (CPA) to inspect all building operations, systems, and individual suites done by fire service companies. Another type of multi-family building is townhouses, which only have basic smoke alarms and are challenging to conduct inspections.

Read more on the Government of Alberta

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended to provide professional design advice. If professional expertise is required for a specific issue or circumstance, the services of a professional should be sought.


National Building Code of Canada, 2015. 14th ed., National Research Council Canada, 2015.

Maintenance Of Fire Protection Devices Within Residential Suites Of Multi-family Buildings. Alberta Government, Mar. 2020.

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