Fire Detection Systems


APPROVAL CATEGORY:  Type Approval to 46 CFR 161.002

EXCLUSIONS: Smoke detectors that are not intended to be connected to a fire detection system are not eligible for type approval.


  • The regulations for towing vessels do not require type approval of fire detection systems.  Please see 46 CFR 27.203 for uninspected towing vessels and 46 CFR 142.330 inspected towing vessels.
  • Type approval does not mean the equipment is suitable or satisfies requirements for any specific vessel.
  • The suitability for use in hazardous locations is not addressed during type approval. It is addressed during plan review of the vessel. See 46 CFR 111.105 for the requirements. The list of laboratories for testing to these requirements may be found at and searching by series name “Electrical Equipment for Hazardous Locations – 111.105.”
  • Enclosure protection requirements for all items are checked during plan review.  Control panels and remote annunciators are only checked during type approval to the minimum enclosure protection required for approval.  The requirement for installation onboard a vessel in a specific space may require a higher level of protection.
  • Gas detection systems are not covered by 46 CFR 161.002.


The requirements for approval are found in 46 CFR 161.002. There are additional requirements in §111.01-9 and §113.10.

There are two types of fire detection systems under 46 CFR 161.002. One is the typical system of initiating devices and notification appliances connected to a fire alarm control panel. This type may be type approved as a complete system or as individual components. The other is a marine-specific “sample-extraction smoke-detection system” for detecting smoke in cargo holds. The latter can only be approved as a complete system. 

The listing for fire service of the individual components to the UL and FM standards in §161.002-6(b) must be by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NTRL) whose scope includes that standard. A list of NTRLs can be found at To avoid establishing competing programs within the federal government, the U.S. Coast Guard does not intend to accept independent laboratories for testing to these standards.

All devices and appliances receiving power from the fire alarm control panel shall be listed for use with the fire alarm control panel. (Ref: NFPA 72 – 10.3.3).

Everything related to fire detection and alarm function must be successfully tested to IEC 60092-504 as identified in §161.002-6(c) by an independent laboratory acceptable by the U. S. Coast Guard.  This includes initiating devices with bases and accessories, notification appliances with bases and accessories, control panels and their accessories, address units, timers, and short-circuit isolators.

There is no requirement for listing to the IEC standard. The list of accepted laboratories may be found at Search by series name “Fire Detection Systems – 161.002.”

Control Units and Annunciators:  Please note that the control units (fire alarm control panel) must support initiating device and notification appliance circuits that are Class A or Class X pathway complying with Chapter 23 of NFPA 72. (Ref: 46CFR 161.002-10(b))

As a practical matter, control units must meet the marine environmental testing requirements for Category 2 or 3 of Table 161.002-6(c) as the units are installed at the operating or control station. An exception is where the control unit consists of two modules (i.e., boxes) where the user interface is in one module and the other module contains electronics (e.g., circuit modules, power supply, automatic transfer switches) without indicators or switches intended for the operator.  In that case, the user interface can meet Category 2 or 3 while the other can meet Category 1.

Enclosure protection of control units and remote annunciators must comply with the following:

Category 1 and 3 must meet or exceed NMEA 250 Type 2 or IP 22. 

Category 2 must meet or exceed IP 56 or meet NEMA 250 type 4, 4x, 6, or 6P.

For control panel, 46 CFR 113.10-9 requires that the battery charger be powered by the emergency power and the main panel be provided power from the main power source.