What is a Manual Pull Station?

Simply put, manual pull stations are the emergency fire alarms found in public buildings across the United States and Canada. Everyone has seen them and have possibly even pulled one before, whether for a real emergency or a prank (which is punishable by law in most states). A manual pull station, technically referred to as a manually actuated alarm-initiated device, serves a vital role in public safety and will remain as a key piece in the future of fire protection.

How Do They Work?

Manual pull stations are a failsafe feature required by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) to protect citizens in the case that a person discovers a fire before an automatic fire alarm such as a smoke detector or heat sensor can. There are two different types of manual pull stations used today—a single-action and a dual-action.

Single-action pull stations are activated by pulling down the lever on the alarm while dual-action pull stations require an additional action such as lifting or breaking a glass panel over the alarm. The premise behind both types is the same as pulling down the handle will complete the circuit and trigger the alarm. Once a manual pull station is triggered, a special tool is required to deactivate and silence the device—hence why pulling one is never considered a very funny joke.

Do I Need One?

The answer to that question lies in the type of building. Manual pull stations are required in all commercial buildings and any multi-family residence buildings such as apartment or condominium complexes. They are not required for single-family homes. The NFPA states that fire safety should not depend only on a single alerting method; therefore, manual pull stations are required in addition to any automatic alerting systems. More specifically, NFPA mandates one manual pull station per automatic alarm per building.

So how many do you need? That answer is dictated by the size of the building. NFPA’s fire code states that the travel distance to the nearest manual pull station from any point in the building can be no more than 200 feet on any given floor, and they must be within five feet of each individual exit. For example, any groups of doors that exceed 40 feet in width must have a manual pull station on each side of the grouping. The pull stations must be easily seen, unobstructed and accessible to everyone the building serves.

Inspection and Testing Requirements

When a manual pull station is first installed, the building owner or a designated representative must perform a visual inspection. These inspections must also be performed every six months following installation. When it comes to functionality, manual pull stations must be tested annually. These tests and any associated service performed on the pull stations must be performed by trained professionals and these tests are typically rolled into more comprehensive annual testing that is performed across the entire fire safety system.

We offer full-service installs and inspections for all alarm system brands. If you have questions regarding the need for manual pull stations or the functionality of your current pull stations, FSS Technologies is ready to guide you through the process.

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