Be Mindful of Mixed Fire Alarm Signals

Don’t confuse supervising and central station signals.

Recently I reviewed the plan check comments from a large fire department in California. One of the comments was that paragraphs, and from the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code be followed. The following paragraphs from Alarm Signals cover the handling of alarm, supervisory and trouble signals – have a look, and then read why something is amiss for this fire department. Alarm signals initiated by manual fire alarm boxes, automatic fire detectors, waterflow from the automatic sprinkler system, or actuation of other fire suppression system(s) or equipment shall be treated as fire alarms. The central station shall perform the following actions:

(1) Retransmit the alarm to the communications center in accordance with 26.2.1.

(2) Dispatch a runner or technician to the protected premises to arrive within two hours after receipt of a signal if equipment needs to be manually reset by the prime contractor. Except where prohibited by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), the runner or technician shall be permitted to be recalled prior to arrival at the premises if a qualified representative of the subscriber at the premises can provide the necessary resetting of the equipment and is able to place the system back in operating condition.

(3) Immediately notify the subscriber.

(4) Provide notice to the subscriber or AHJ, or both, if required. Supervisory Signals. Upon receipt of a supervisory signal from a sprinkler system, other fire suppression system(s), or other equipment, the central station shall perform the following actions:

(1) Communicate immediately with the persons designated by the subscriber and notify the fire department or law enforcement agency, or both, when required by the AHJ.

(2) Dispatch a runner or maintenance person to arrive within two hours to investigate unless the supervisory signal is cleared in accordance with a scheduled procedure determined by (1).

(3) Notify the AHJ when sprinkler systems or other fire suppression systems or equipment have been wholly or partially out of service for eight hours.

(4) When service has been restored, provide notice, if required, to the subscriber or the AHJ, or both, as to the nature of the signal, the time of occurrence, and the restoration of service when equipment has been out of service for eight hours or more. Trouble Signals. Upon receipt of trouble signals or other signals pertaining solely to matters of equipment maintenance of the alarm systems, the central station shall perform the following actions:

(1) Communicate immediately with persons designated by the subscriber.

(2) Dispatch personnel to arrive within four hours to initiate maintenance, if necessary.

(3) When the interruption is more than eight hours, provide notice to the subscriber and the fire department if so required by the AHJ as to the nature of the interruption, the time of occurrence, and the restoration of service.

There was just one slight problem: Section 26.3 is for central station service. So while these paragraphs are required if a document for central station service is issued, if there is no documentation, the system would effectively be a remote station system, which falls under Section 26.5. The fire department in question requires that all signals be transmitted into a listed supervising station, and requires that a certificate of compliance be provided for the same.

Take Precaution to Know Which Actions Apply

This is not to be confused with the certification, placarding or documentation of a system in accordance with Section 26.3. In other words, having signals transmitted into and acted upon within a listed supervising station is not in itself central station service. If there is not central station service, the paragraphs discussed above are not required to be followed. This particular fire department was under the assumption that by requiring signals to go into a listed supervising station this provided central station service. And it’s not the first department or fire alarm system provider that has assumed this.

A number of fire departments do require central station service, but in doing such, they require that the proper documentation be provided. In these cases, the paragraphs discussed above to apply. Make sure you know the difference between central station service and simply having signals received at a listed supervising station – this can avoid confusion in the end.


If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Commercial Integrator + Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add to your bottom line.

A FREE subscription to the top resource for security and integration industry will prove to be invaluable.

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters