COMMENTS ON FIRE ALARMS AND SMOKE DETECTORS V SMOKE ALARMS FROM AUGUST 189 AND 20 2015 ARTICLES
If you have been in the Fire Alarm business for any length of time you would know all of this and that the biggest problem seems to be the informant of land lords to keep their systems serviced and up to date. The sad part is that the people living in these think they have smoke and fire protection and we do not know for sure because no one has ever tested it since it was put in. This is the big problem getting the landlords to have someone certified to do this work actually come out and conduct the correct NFPA annual system service and testing. Just the other day I went and looked at a 8 apartment because there was a trouble alarm coming from the enunciator panel. The Fire Department was called about the beeping noise! They checked it out and found that there was a problem with this system and recommended that they call someone certified to service this system. I was called on my arrival I was amazed the system was in for over 10 years and no one had ever serviced it at all. Some of the detectors had even had drop ceilings built under them hiding the detectors above them! The man factors spec is what need to be looked at and tested to not just changing the batteries! Another thing to keep in mind many of the detectors out there are out dated and you do not think the land lords or tenants are going to look at them and know anything about them. The only thing they will do is take it down if it is beeping annoying them or I have seen in some cases where they were smashed, removed and or missing. These are the real now happening problems.
Tony J. Saltamartini
It is with great interest I have been reading the comments about residential smoke detectors. I think it is sad that as an industry we have to approach this subject from the standpoint of what or how much protection is likely to keep us from being sued, as opposed to lives saved. We live in a litigious society, NY, NJ and CA probably being the worst. Our licenses require us to carry insurance. It is the deep pockets theory when it comes to law suits that we have to be concerned with. If your house burns down, and you sue everyone who has ever worked on your house, you will likely collect appreciably more than if you just sue the person or company who may actually be at fault. I have never read of an instance where a fire alarm started a fire, and it clearly states in all installation instructions that the system should be tested weekly. But who does that? I explain that to my customers and almost everyone of them answers to some degree "Yeah right, like who has time to do that?"
Moving on to the subject of smoke alarms and smoke detectors, I think the term "smoke alarm" is a misnomer. In virtually 100% of the time, a smoke alarm is a 110V.AC interconnected ionization detector. I have seen numerous videos where fires were started by throwing a lit cigarette into a waste basket containing paper material, and placed next to a padded chair or couch. The cigarette smolders for hours and fills the structure with smoke before the first flicker of flame is seen coming from the basket. In one video where they were going to raise a house in Florida, cameras, smoke alarms and temperature sensors were placed in a house. They left furniture there as well. They threw a lit cigarette into the waste basket and waited. Some two plus hours later, two firemen equipped with full turnout gear and using SCBA's walked through the house and one commented "I can't believe how much smoke there is, and the smoke detectors are not sounding." In the video, some time later, you can see the first flicker of flame rise above the rim of the trash can. In less than a second, all the smoke alarms were sounding. It is the rapid change in the ions in the air that causes the smoke alarm to trip, not so much the smoke. It is my opinion that they should rename them as "not so good flame detectors." In that same video, had they installed photo electric smoke detectors, the fire alarm would have sounded much, much sooner. PE smokes are what most burglar and fire alarm installers use.
Fire marshals and other fire officials refuse to acknowledge this fact for some odd reason, and insist on the use of the 110V.AC hardwired interconnected smoke alarms. In New Jersey, the Division of Community Affairs, the Div. of Codes and Standards issued a bulletin (#08-1 October 2008) stating that the low voltage smokes could be used with a few caveats. The residence had to be occupied by the owner, the system had to be monitored by a central station and there has to be proof of testing and inspection on a yearly basis. There are many conflicts in these codes, and often it is up to the LAHJ to have the final say in what goes on. In so many words it tells the fire marshal, that the homeowner, not the LAHJ has the final say, but they refuse to give up that little bit of authority.
After consulting many people who are much more knowledgeable about the fire codes than me, I have taken a different position. I don't argue with the LAHJ. Instead of playing tug of war with them, I have dropped the rope. I let him insist that the 110V.AC hardwired, interconnected smokes be installed. The people who I have consulted maintain that if you add wireless smoke detectors in addition to the smoke alarms, as long as you install one per living level, you remain inside code compliance. And for all those that would argue against this position, I say this: I can't tell you how many homes I have entered, where the 110V.AC smokes have been removed and the wires are left dangling out of the ceiling. If I'm adding protection, especially something that would likely sound the alarm many minutes if not hours before an ionization smoke alarm anyway, how can I be held accountable for damages that result from a fire? I know Mr. Zwirn will likely dispute this, but believe me when I tell you, I don't think he will like my response if he does.
John from New Jersey
I like what this Flanagan guy has to say. I wish I could express my view as well as he did. I also liked your follow up. As the years go by Im leaning towards your response Ken and that is don’t get involved. In other words something isn’t better than nothing in the real world of the NFPA 72 and legalities. There is a concept that something is better than nothing, and that, that concept is dumbing down the fire safety world. My opinion is lets not get to full of ourselves.
I was told that there is a fairly large full time staff hired back in Washington DC to maintain the NFPA 72. Like anything of this nature its has to be steeped in performance. In other words fellas we need to spend one Tuesday every week and think of new ideas for the placement of smoke sensors. What an incredibly hard job this would be. To rewrite and revise the NFPA 72 every few years. Its not my goal here to minimize fire safety, but come on. Do we really need to pay 20 people a hundred thousands dollars a year to maintain this Manual.
Re: "Fire alarm services exposes alarm companies to tremendous liability,…"
It seems that this needs to be a mantra of yours so these operators understand that simply asking a question will absolve them of having to submit to any formal learning in their endeavor. Even though I (kind of) beat up on Zwirn, he's the guy (and of course you) are the key people they need.
Hang in there and best wishes. They need you (and Zwirn) more than they could ever imagine, especially in this complicated and competitive world. "Sure ain't like them old days, is it!"