Snuffing Out False Fire Alarms

The fact is false fire alarms also represent a burden to everyday people, especially in multifamily structures, dormitories and commercial buildings where individuals, knowing that an alarm is false, might decide not to evacuate.

“When the fire alarm sounded in Smith Hall on a recent Tuesday morning, residents were asked to abandon their preparations for early classes and exit the building. Many left their rooms to go downstairs to see what had happened, while others lingered in their rooms and in the hallways to see if this was just another false alarm,” says Rhyan Shirley, author of “False Fire Alarms Annoy Residents,” published April 27, 2009 in The Oracle, a student newspaper associated with Henderson University of Arkadelphia, Ark.

According to Shirley, students who refuse to evacuate during a fire alarm are subject to a $50 fine.

Enforcing Testing & Maintenance

Another reason why fire alarm systems malfunction is lack of proper care, such as periodic testing and general maintenance. Fire alarm companies should automatically offer a maintenance agreement with every fire alarm they install. This can be included as an option/add-on in the original proposal.

Veteran fire alarm technicians know there will always be clients that refuse to pay for these services. Unfortunately, these users fail to realize that the burden of testing and proper maintenance lies with them, not the original installation company.

According to Section of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, 2007 Edition, “The owner or the owner’s designated representative and service personnel shall coordinate system testing to prevent interruption of critical building systems or equipment.”

Insurance companies can be a big help when a client refuses to follow code in this regard. Plan ahead by asking the owner for the name and contact information of their local insurance company. Offer to send them a letter or certificate that outlines what you installed so the insurance company can provide every possible financial perk.

Having the insurance company’s contact information also makes it possible to notify the agent in the event that the system falls out of compliance and you’re unable to resolve the problem.

Al Colombo is an award-winning writer who has covered electronic security and life safety since 1986. To reach Al, visit www.firenetonline.com or E-mail abc@.alcolombo.us

8 False Fire Alarm Prevention Tips

  1. Missing points in addressable systems — Observe the manufacturer’s specifications when it comes to the placement of two or more data loops or signaling line circuits (SLCs) next to one another. This is especially true when they travel a considerable distance.
  2. Manufacturer recalls — Be sure to stay in contact with th
    e manufacturer of the equipment you use so you do not miss any recalls. When seemingly chronic problems occur and you can identify a trend, check with the manufacturer to see if there have been a- Be sure to stay in contact with the manufacturer of the equipment you use so you do not miss any recalls. When seemingly chronic problems occur and you can identify a trend, check with the manufacturer to see if there have been any recalls on the related equipment.
  3. Ionization vs. photoelectric — Use the correct smoke detector technology for the application. Use ionization only where smaller particulates of smoke would result from a fire, and photoelectric where the smoke involves a larger particulate.
  4. Smoke detector placement — Double check the code to assure placement for automatic smoke detectors. Do not install them near potential false alarm sources such as bathroom showers, fireplaces, cook tops, etc.
  5. Manual fire pulls — Use dual-action manual fire pulls when there’s the propensity of mischief among those visiting, working or living in the facility in question.
  6. Testing — Just because the economy is experiencing a downtrun is not enough reason to sacrafice proper care and testing of a fire alarm system.
  7. Maintenance — Offer new and old clients a maintenance agreement that includes yearly inspections.
  8. Inspections — Clients that refuse to have their systems inspected should be given every opportunity to do so, but when they decidedly refuse, the alarm company should report them to the local AHJ. During inspections, be proactiveand clean your client’s smoke detectors after testing using compressed air.


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