During a 10-year period beginning in 1988, false alarm calls for system malfunctions increased annually from 550,500 to 901,500 in 1999. The number of calls would eventually reverse course and decrease more than 21% by the end of 2010. Despite the reduction, nuisance alarms continue to be a major concern for industry stakeholders, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).
In its work to reduce the amount of nuisance alarms in commercial facilities, IAFC submitted 41 documents during the proposal and comment cycle for the 2013 edition of NFPA 72. On its Web site, IAFC states the proposals “reflect a comprehensive approach to leverage existing and new technologies, current IAFC policies and NFPA code, and the need for local fire departments to gain efficiencies that are safe for the public and responders.” While most of the proposals were rejected by NFPA technical committees, several were pushed through.
Despite various territorial boundaries, industry stakeholders have at times showed a willingness to work cooperatively toward combatting the myriad causes of nuisance alarms. For instance in May 2011, IAFC, U.S. Fire Administration and NFPA hosted a summit to discuss the issues surrounding nuisance alarms and the risks associated with them. Panel discussions centered on design and manufacturing, installation and maintenance practices, and emergency response models.
Following the wide-ranging discourse, the event sponsors drafted several summary consensus points. Among the imperatives is “the need to enhance efficiency of service by lowering the number of calls that need a system response, and determining the appropriate response for those who do require system-wide resources.”
Participants agreed that existing commercial alarm systems do function appropriately, but “most of the challenges stem from the physical, operational or response environment in which current systems exist.” Building owners and managers must be viewed as critical stakeholders, since “success will be much dependent on what [they] will be willing to accept, able to implement and held accountable for,” according to the summary.
Complacency created by nuisance alarms is a growing and significant threat, the groups warned. Likewise, education, above all, must improve in order for all stakeholders to galvanize in a unified front against false fire alarms. “We can only find a common solution if we can identify the common problems,” the summary stated.
Rodney Bosch is Managing Editor of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be contacted at (310) 533-2426.
Fire Fast Facts
- Average residential fire-only installations costs $954, down about $41 from 2010.
- Security contractors collect 13% of their total revenues from fire-only installations.
- Average number of smoke detectors installed in a commercial fire alarm system is 23; residential is 5.
- Average percentage of installations that include carbon monoxide (CO) detectors is 23%.
- 3% of security contractors are in involved in sprinkler systems.
Source: SSI 2011 Installation Business Report
Cellular Advances in Commercial Fire Systems
by Shawn Welsh
Following new revisions adopted into the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, cellular has shifted from simply being the backup communication path for commercial fire systems.
This development is a result of the latest edition of the code allowing UL864-Listed cellular communicators to be installed as the sole path of communication for commercial fire systems. Now installing system contractors can offer their customers newfound savings while benefitting from the latest technology.
On average, cellular monitoring costs the customer significantly less than a dedicated landline. The updated code allows all of the landlines currently dedicated to the master control unit to be replaced with a single cellular communicator. This eliminates a bill from the telephone company for the customer and affords the dealer to collect a more cost-effective monthly monitoring fee.
Along with this good news come a few considerations to keep closely in mind when choosing cellular. With the rapid changes in cellular technology, it is important to select the right cellular alarm communicator. Dealers installing 2G or GSM cellular solutions will are expected to have to replace those units in the next five to eight years since 2G is being phased out.
What can dealers do to avoid the financial impact of having to purchase new hardware, plus the cost of rolling a truck, to replace these units? They should start installing cellular alarm communicators that work on 2G, 3G and 4G networks to future-proof their installations. An example of a product that meets these requirements and is helping dealers take advantage of the code change is Telguard’s TG-7FS unit.
Another consideration to be mindfulness of is that while NFPA 72 is more than a year old, many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) are not familiar with it and may oppose the use of cellular as the sole path. To address this issue, ask the manufacturers of cellular communicators to provide an explanation of the code along with a checklist to help the AHJ quickly and easily approve a sole-path installation. It’s this type of collaboration between dealers and manufacturers that will help increase awareness.
Shawn Welsh (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Chicago-based Telular Corp.
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