Why Do Fire Alarm Bids Vary So Much?

By Traci L. Velez  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: What Are the Code Requirements for a Fire Alarm System In My Building?Pt. 2: What Should I Look for in a Fire Alarm Contractor?Pt. 3: This PagePt. 4: What Do I Do With an Old Fire Alarm System?Pt. 5: Repair or Replace The Fire Alarm Sytem?Pt. 6: Can My Fire Alarm Be Upgraded?Pt. 7: Showcase: Fire Safety

Why does one fire alarm contractor tell me I have to do one thing while another tells me I have to do something different? Why are the bid prices so different from each other? Fire alarm contractors have varying degrees of experience or involvement with local authorities. Some contractors devote many hours to working directly with local authorities; others get involved only during the permit process. Usually, fire alarm contractors who devote the most time to working with the local authorities will provide the most accurate information.

Another thing to consider is that there is more than one way to correctly install a fire alarm system. Minimum requirements may not always meet the intent of code. One fire alarm contractor may offer a proposal that meets minimum requirements set forth by the request for proposal, which may not be complete or may not fully comply with local codes, while the other is offering a proposal that will enable the system to operate as was intended by code.

Further, one contractor may provide a system that satisfies the minimum requirements and intent of code while another may provide features that are well beyond minimum requirements to meet the needs of the owner. A system meeting only minimum requirements may well cost less than a system providing additional features required by local codes or desired by the owner. An independent consultant can review proposals with you and provide recommendations.

A word of caution: Many fire departments, fire prevention bureaus, fire marshals, etc., do not mandate that the fire alarm system meet local accessibility codes. As a result, a fire alarm contractor may propose a system that meets local building and fire prevention code but does not meet the federal and state accessibility requirements because the bid documents did not specifically mention accessibility codes. There is a significant cost difference between replacing a fire alarm system that meets the existing code from when it was originally installed, which probably would not have required visible notification appliances, and installing a new fire alarm system that meets current accessibility requirements. All new or significantly modified existing fire alarm systems must now meet accessibility requirements, but these requirements may not be enforced by the local fire department. While you may still get approval of the fire department for the new fire alarm system, you may face lawsuits for not meeting accessibility requirements.

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  posted on 1/1/2009   Article Use Policy

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