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Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Visible Alarms in Alterations to Existing Facilities. The 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.3(14) and 4.1.6(1)(b), and sections 202.3 and 215.1 of the 2010 Standards require that when existing elements and spaces of a facility are altered, the alterations must comply with new construction requirements. Section 215.1 of the 2010 Standards adds a new exception to the scoping requirement for visible alarms in existing facilities so that visible alarms must be installed only when an existing fire alarm system is upgraded or replaced, or a new fire alarm system is installed.

Some commenters urged the Department not to include the exception and to make visible alarms a mandatory requirement for all spaces, both existing and new. Other commenters said that the exception will make the safety of individuals with disabilities dependent upon the varying age of existing fire alarm systems. Other commenters suggested that including this requirement, even with the exception, will result in significant cost to building owners and operators.

The Department believes that the language of the exception to section 215.1 of the 2010 Standards strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of individuals with disabilities and those of the business community. If undertaken at the time a system is installed, whether in a new facility or in a planned system upgrade, the cost of adding visible alarms is reasonable. Over time, existing facilities will become fully accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and will add minimal costs to owners and operators.


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