Do single station smoke alarms have low frequency sounders?

NFPA 72 now requires a 520 hz square wave fire alarm signal in smoke detector sounder bases provided for publicly available sleeping areas.  The 520 hz tone has been shown as more effective in waking people of a certain age (ahem), deep sleepers or those that may have had a few too many the night before.  Most commercial fire alarm manufacturers have a smoke detector sounder base that provides this tone at an acceptable dB output.  However, a lot of hotels and SROs use single station smoke alarms.  To clarify, single station smoke alarms are the type you may get at your home improvement store, whereas smoke detectors are connected to fire alarm systems.  If a municipality is enforcing the 2013 version of NFPA 72 or later, designers of record are going to have a real problem achieving code compliance if they are trying to utilize smoke alarms in sleeping units.  In fact, I’ve only found one manufacturer that has a 520 hz smoke alarm & it costs around $200.  This seems like a no brainer for smoke alarm manufacturers, so why aren’t there any cost effective 520 hz smoke alarms available?  The short answer is that in order to produce a 520 hz tone loud enough to meet audibility requirements (75 dB at the pillow), the speaker has to be larger than what can fit in a standard smoke alarm.  System smoke detectors with sounders have separate bases and have the space to fit these sounders.  They don’t have to fit the detection components in a single unit like the smoke alarms.  If you have to supply sleeping area detectors for a hotel in a municipality that enforces the 2013 version of NFPA 72, and it has a fire alarm system, count on using the system to provide detection and proper audibility in the sleeping areas.  There are no cost effective single station smoke alarms that can be utilized at this time.

Gamewell-FCI has 520 hz detctors that can be programmed to function like a single station smoke alarm.  Contact Affiliated Fire Systems for more information on how to deploy them in your building’s design.

Gene Rowe – Affiliated Fire Systems

About Gene Rowe

Gene Rowe serves as the Director of Business Development for Affiliated Customer Service. He brings twenty three years of fire alarm and emergency voice systems experience to the table with both an operational and marketing viewpoint. A US Army veteran, NICET certified, an executive board member of the IL-AFAA and a member of the NFPA, he began his career establishing operational expertise as a technician, developed graphic skills with CAD design as a general engineer, gained a ‘big picture’ mindset by moving to project management and finally a marketing perspective directing business development efforts. By interfacing with a broad range of diverse organizations such as the AFAA, CAA, AIA, CEA and the IFIA, he combines concerns of the owner, designer of record, contractor, distributor and approving authority to bring a unique perspective to Affiliated.

An avid marathon runner, he resides in west suburban Chicago with his wife and two sons. He's served the community as a Cub Scout Leader, as well as coaching multiple levels of travel and park district basketball and baseball teams. Professionally, he serves as the Treasurer and is on the Board of Directors for the Illinois chapter of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (IL-AFAA).


  1. Mike Durnen says:

    There are some products on the market such as Loundenlow, SafeAwake, and Lifetone, but they sell for
    $180-$250, This is too costly for most seniors. Kidde tried to bring a low frequency alarm on the market
    back in 2005, but they pulled it, it cost $90 and had to be used only with their wireless smoke alarm.
    I have designed a $40 product (retail price) with my local electrical engineering firm. Need to build the prototype for proof off concept and component costing. Trying to get companies interested in working with me on this low cost solution, but so far no interest.

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