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Frequently asked questions

What is a fire protection system?


A fire protection system is designed to save lives and property by suppressing and preventing fires.  For purposes of design and construction, a fire protection system is the active automatic fire suppression system installed in a structure.  The system consists of a fire suppression supply source such as water or chemicals that are piped into a structure, and ends at a heat sensitive sprinkler head that will eject the water or fire suppression chemical under pressure to put out the fire.  The type of fire protection system is determined by the use of the structure and its contents.  More generally, a fire protection system would also address passive fire protection such as firewalls, fire-resistant chambers and doors, fire extinguishers, alarms, smoke detectors, and safety plans.


Concerned about the cost of a fire protection system?


Think again.  Economists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) ran the numbers and found that for new home construction a fire sprinkler system makes good economic sense.  Read about it at:






Who can install a fire protection system?


In California, only a licensed C-16 Fire Protection Contractor can design and install a fire protection system.  The Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) requires the C-16 contractor to pass a rigorous examination to demonstrate proficiency in engineering and hydraulic calculations, methods, and ethical business practice.  The license candidate can only sit for the exam after several years work experience, and must have written professional recommendations.

Do I need a fire protection system?


Local building code authorities govern the safety of individuals and communities through code enforcement.  Effective January 1, 2011 California Building Code includes fire sprinkler requirements in all new one- and two-family homes and townhomes.  Improvements to a structure also typically require that an existing fire protection system be updated, or a new system installed.  The local fire marshal will need to approve fire protection plans and inspect installed systems to verify that it is to code.  The fire marshal has the final say on whether or not a system is required.


When do I contact a fire protection contractor?

The earlier the better.  Large or complex projects benefit from early consultation with a fire protection contractor who can assist the architect with design for both safety and aesthetics.  The C-16 consultant who works closely with the architect can design the system and develop specifications that can be used for installation.  For the complex job, the C-16 consultant can be a valuable aid to creating an efficient, aesthetically pleasing and cost effective system.  The general contractor should put the fire protection system job out to bid as soon as plans are developed.  The specialized work of the fire protection systems designer/engineer requires time, and time is required for the plans to be reviewed by the fire marshal and perhaps changes made and reviewed.  Underground systems, pumps, and water tanks in rural areas may also need to be ordered and installed.  Piping is typically installed after the roof is up.  The rough-in inspection by the fire marshal takes place before insulation and drywall go up.


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