Fire Alarms and Sprinklers

Fire Alarm Systems

When a fire alarm system activates, everyone is required by law to leave the building immediately.

  • Do NOT carry your bike or any other large object down the stairs, as this will impede the timely egress of others.
  • Close your door as you leave. This will protect your room/office from smoke and fire as well as provide protection from theft.

Tampering with a fire alarm system or rendering it ineffective is a crime. Do not cover or remove a smoke or heat detector.

Virtually all buildings on the UC Berkeley Campus have a fire alarm system.

  • Some include complete coverage using smoke or heat detectors while other buildings are only partially protected with smoke or heat detectors.
    • If the building is protected with a fire sprinkler system, it is connected to the fire alarm system.

A fire alarm system will activate when the Fire Alarm Control Unit receives an electrical signal from:

  • a smoke or heat detector, or
  • a manual fire alarm pull station,
  • a special extinguishing system, such as those used to protect a kitchen cooking appliance, or
  • the fire sprinkler system when the flow of water in the sprinkler pipe is detected.

The sound produced by the fire alarm system varies with the building and the age of the fire alarm system.

  • New buildings will produce a temporal 3 pattern of sound (“Beep” x3, Pause, “Beep” x3)
  • Older fire alarm systems may produce a continuous alarm sound.

In either case, the sound will be loud. In addition, strobe lights will flash signaling a fire alarm condition.

Dormitories may be protected with smoke alarms in the individual sleeping rooms as well as smoke detectors in areas outside of the sleeping rooms. The smoke alarm in the sleeping room, when activated, will sound an alarm only in the room where it is located. It will send a signal to the fire alarm control unit which will result in a response by a campus fire alarm technician and by housing staff. It will not activate the fire alarm system horns and strobes. Some dorms have smoke detectors with an integral heat detector. Should the heat detector activate (probably due to the heat from a fire), the building fire alarm system will activate requiring everyone to evacuate the building.

  • When the fire alarm system activates, Berkeley Fire Department will respond and evacuation is mandatory.
    • It is recognized that there are false alarms and unwanted alarms that are not due to an actual fire. No one should assume that it is a false alarm.
  • Berkeley Fire Department will check the building to ensure it is safe. Once the building is safe, Berkeley Fire Department will allow the building to be re-occupied.
  • If you approach a building and see the fire alarm strobe lights flashing and/or hear the fire alarm horns sounding, DO NOT ENTER.
  • Wait for Berkeley Fire Department to determine that the building is safe before reentering.

Fire Sprinkler Systems

Fire sprinkler systems represent the best type of fire protection for a building and its occupants.

  • Systems on campus are not designed to activate all sprinklers when one sprinkler activates or when a smoke detector activates.
  • There are fire sprinkler systems that use a preaction valve which maintains the system piping in a dry state. The preaction valve will open when a smoke detector or heat detector activates, but water will not discharge unless a sprinkler also activates.

Sprinklers are heat actuated devices that will discharge water to either extinguish a fire or control it so that the fire department can affect final extinguishment.

When a sprinkler activates, the system will send a signal to the fire alarm system resulting in the activation of the fire alarm system (fire alarm horns and strobes will be activated).

  • At this point, evacuation is mandatory.
  • The fire alarm system will also send a signal to UCPD, who in turn immediately notifies the fire department.

Fire sprinklers are mechanical devices and as such are subject to mechanical damage.

  • Be careful when working around sprinklers or when moving objects near the ceiling. If you break a sprinkler you will get wet – very wet.

Fire sprinklers are not hangers and are not designed to support anything (including Christmas decorations).

  • Hanging or attaching objects to a fire sprinkler is prohibited
    • It will interfere with distribution of water and limit the effectiveness of the sprinkler. This results in greater fire and water damage.

Treat all fire alarm systems and fire sprinkler systems with care and respect as they are intended to save lives and property.