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False Alarm Fighting

In September's "Fire Side Chat" we talked about false alarms and how they can overwhelm public agencies, such as firefighters and police personnel, impact municipal budgets, and how end users are often fined to offset the negative monetary effects.

Vegas Toughens Fire Response

Steven Goble, Henderson, Nev., deputy fire chief, offered the following statement to better explain Las Vegas’ worrisome fire alarm regulation:

“In June of 2007 we adopted a fire alarm response policy that states that the Henderson Fire Department will not respond to unverified automatic fire alarms. The exceptions to this policy are schools, hospitals (and other care facilities) and government installations. We continue to respond to water-flow alarms, which are indicators that a sprinkler head has activated in occupancy. We have found that water-flow alarms are a reliable indicator of whether or not a fire is present. Whenever we receive a call from a person that sees, smells or otherwise senses that there might be a smoke/fire problem we respond immediately; we consider that verified. In October 2007, our city adopted a fire code that reflects that policy.” (Las Vegas Sun Web site, published Feb. 18, 2008).

Restrictions placed on commercial and residential occupancies include using electronic alarm verification through a code-compliant fire alarm panel.

“Commercial facilities equipped with a fire alarm and detection system shall be equipped with verification-type smoke detectors or system integral-approved circuitry. The activation of an initial smoke detector shall activate the premise audible/visual signaling appliances providing early warning notification to the occupants. Smoke detectors shall be arranged, programmed, etc. that only after the second smoke detector alarm activation (after verification) shall any signals be transmitted to the approved central station for fire dispatch.” (Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Fire Alarm System Dispatch/Registration Regulations).

Using Video to Validate Alerts

Central station operators can also use video surveillance systems to verify the presence of fire. In a residential environment this may not always be practical, unless video cameras and other equipment are installed. In commercial and institutional applications, however, verification is much simpler to do when there’s an existing video surveillance system already in place. Here it’s possible to view camera images over an Internet connection via a DVR.

“I think video verification using a DVR is a good thing as it does stop a lot of problems,” says Markowitz. “It allows the central station to look at the area where a fire alarm occurred so they can determine whether there’s really a fire. If they see smoke, they know there’s a fire and they can dispatch the fire department.”

This type of system usually requires a static IP address on the Internet to which the central station connects via a Web browser. There are some video products that require the use of proprietary software that the end user must install.

When an alarm occurs, the central station operator can log into the DVR and look at just those cameras in the vicinity of the smoke, heat or manual fire pull device. This is easily done by searching the hard drive by camera, date and time.

Al Colombo is an award-winning writer who has covered electronic security and life safety since 1986. Visit his Web site at

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Article Topics
Fire/Life Safety · Systems Integration · Fire/Life Safety 2 · Central Stations · False Alarms · Fire Side Chat · Fire Side Chat with Al Colombo · NFPA 72 · Reducing False Alarms · All Topics

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Central Stations, False Alarms, Fire Side Chat, Fire Side Chat with Al Colombo, NFPA 72, Reducing False Alarms, Smoke Detection

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