Mon - Fri: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm  |   990 Criss Circle, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need in My Commercial Property?

How many smoke detectors do you need for your commercial building? Read this post to find out an answer and protect your business, staff, and clients!

How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need in My Commercial Property?

When a fire ravages through a building, time is of the essence. Every second that ticks by can become more and more destructive. So, how many smoke detectors do you need for your commercial building? The answer is simple: the more, the better. During commercial fire alarm system installation, smoke detectors installed on the ceilings must be spread out to cover the entirety of the commercial building. The bigger the building, the more smoke alarms you may require.

Occupancy Types for Commercial Buildings

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) classifies commercial buildings into occupancy types based on the purpose for which the building was constructed. This may be slightly different from what is obtainable in the building’s hazard classification.

Where safety and fire alarm system requirements are concerned, occupancy is all about the availability and quality of exit points. According to the NFPA, the nature of the egress points determines the occupancy load of a commercial building.

The various occupancy types for commercial buildings are:

  • Group A: Assembly points such as restaurants, stadiums, and theaters with 50 or more possible occupants.
  • Group B: Service-providing buildings such as banks, government buildings, police stations, and insurance agencies.
  • Group E: Educational centers up to the 12th grade.
  • Group F: Factories and other places where items are manufactured or repaired. The only exemption from this group is high-hazard sites that belong to a group of their own.
  • Group H: Places where highly flammable or toxic materials such as explosives and hydrogen peroxide are stored.
  • Group I: Institutional buildings where occupants are unable to leave without physical assistance, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons.
  • Group M: Mercantile buildings where goods are displayed and sold, such as grocery stores and gas stations.
  • Group R: Buildings providing accommodations with options for overnight stay. Examples are apartment buildings and hotels.
  • Group S: Storage facilities where non-high hazard items are stored.
  • Group U: Utility and miscellaneous buildings such as towers and water towers.

Note that a building may have sections with different occupancy types. Therefore, each section will need to meet the prescribed fire safety requirements.

Do Commercial Buildings Need Smoke Detectors?

Smoke Detector in Commercial Property

Very much so, yes. Smoke detectors play an important role in saving lives in the tragic event of a fire. Besides, commercial buildings are required by law to have modalities in place to detect and alert occupants should there be a fire occurrence. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to installing a fire alarm system in your building as it not only ensures safety but can also get you sued if you do otherwise.

The fire alarm system requirements for any commercial building would depend on factors like the type of commercial property and the nature of the activities taking place in the building. These are determined in accordance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005.

An efficient fire alarm system will consist of critical components like smoke detectors and smoke alarms that will ensure that all staff and goods remain as safe as they can be. Commercial buildings must strategically place their smoke detectors to ensure that all staff and occupants are alerted in time to either evacuate the building or put out the fire. This will also protect staff and customers from smoke inhalation, exposure to toxic gasses, stampedes, and other fire-related injuries.

How Many Smoke Detectors Should I Install?

As we have already outlined, how many smoke detectors you will incorporate into your fire alarm system would depend on how large your commercial property is. However, the Fire Regulatory Reform or Fire Safety Order may require you to have detection devices installed in every room or in every store.

The best way to determine how many smoke detectors are ideal for your building is to employ a professional fire alarm installation service. The company will carry out a risk assessment on the property, if that has not already been done, and also ensure your chosen fire safety measures meet the prescribed fire alarm requirements by law.

Ideally, fire alarms with smoke detectors should be placed in the following locations on commercial premises:

  • On every floor
  • In every hallway
  • In every office
  • In every storage area
  • In every bathroom
  • In every stairway
  • Indoor car parking area
  • In any other room where a fire could start.

Where to Locate the Hardwired Smoke Detector in Commercial Premises?

Smoke Detector in Commercial Premises

It is important to hardwire smoke detectors used in your fire alarm system as this prevents tampering and unauthorized movement during building fires.

Placing hardwired smoke detectors in commercial buildings needs to be done strategically and in accordance with building codes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends hardwired smoke detectors on every floor of the building in addition to a smoke detector in each stairway of the building. According to the NFPA, a smoke detector will cover a radius of 21 square feet.

These are the minimal requirements for smoke detector placements. Is it enough? Can you ever be too safe? The amount of smoke detectors a business puts in place comes down to budget, but why gamble with your staff and your business? You’re required to follow the NFPA regulations, but to really protect what you care about, the more detectors, the better.

You should understand that the primary purpose of smoke detectors is to detect smoke early and therefore prevent a fire accident from occurring. Hence, it is important you make use of fire alarm systems with high smoke detector sensitivity.

Generally, you should take note of the following when deciding where to place smoke detectors:

  • Each room and hallway in your commercial property should have a working smoke detector and an audible fire alarm.
  • If a smoke detector is placed more than 10 feet high, it should have a remote alarm or indicator that will be easily noticed.
  • Place smoke detectors in stairways in a position where smoke will not be hard to reach.
  • Place smoke detectors no less than 10 feet away from natural smoke and moisture systems such as bathrooms and ovens to prevent false alarms.
  • Replace smoke detector batteries at least once a year. Meanwhile, it is ideal to change a fire alarm system every 10 years. However, you can always contact the manufacturer for precise maintenance instructions.

Do I Need Wireless Smoke Detectors?

fire alarm system

Traditionally, wired smoke detectors have been used. However, with the ever-growing emergence of wireless technologies, no field has been left untouched. Wireless smoke detectors are becoming increasingly popular because they are easy to install anywhere in an office building or any other commercial building.

Unlike wired detectors, they are not limited to a certain location and can be moved around. Wireless smoke detectors also use signal towers and radio frequencies to communicate emergencies, which can save time in the event of a fire. In addition, they could be more cost-effective than wired smoke detectors. This is especially true in large buildings where wired fire alarm system installation will be too extensive and will require a lot of concealing.

Ensure that you install wireless smoke detectors and other fire alarm system components in accordance with the occupancy type and stipulated NFPA requirements.

Here are some NFPA requirements for wireless smoke detectors and fire alarm systems:

  • The product used must be UL-listed or listed by another agency of comparable standard.
  • Wireless fire alarm systems and smoke detectors must be battery operated, with the batteries capable of powering operation for up to one year.
  • There must be a signal transmitted between fire alarm systems every 200 seconds or less.
  • The fire alarm system must be able to notify building occupants in the event of a battery or system failure.
  • The failure or battery glitch of one smoke detector unit should not disable the functioning of the other units in the fire safety system.
  • There must be regular fire alarm inspection and maintenance for the wireless fire alarm system installed.

Note that wireless smoke detectors do come with their own cons. For example, it is possible that the signal generated in a wireless system is not relayed as fast as in wired systems. Where signals are transmitted very quickly (in about 5 to 20 seconds), it impacts battery life, causing the battery to drain speedily. Most wireless fire alarm systems have a signal delay of up to two minutes for extended battery life. However, such delays could cause significant negative impacts as occupants may not be alerted in time to take necessary measures.

Final Thoughts

Fires are dangerous, but you can protect yourself and your business by consulting with the right service provider. Forbel has professional expertise in the field of fire systems installation in Chicago and surrounding areas. Our team of security system design consultants is readily available to offer advice to companies during the early stages of security system design. We also ensure only the best smoke detectors are used in the commercial properties of our clients. Contact us now for a free consultation.


Request a Quote


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Text Link
Dzmitry Beliayeu
Dzmitry Beliayeu

Dzmitry Beliayeu is a commercial building security expert, technology consultant, and licensed alarm contractor

Related posts
request a quote
Attach a file
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.