more on false alarms, NFPA 72 guidelines for fire response re article on October 3, 2017
The comment on false alarms by the firefighter in your October 3rd, 2017 email was interesting. First responders are courageous people and systems should be installed and used properly to prevent false alarms so that their response to alarms are when needed, not when there is a system error. The Firefighter indicated that 90% of the alarm signals they responded to were false but it would be interesting to know if they were commercial alarms or residential alarms.
Commercial fire alarm systems almost always have plans filed with, and reviewed by, the local AHJ prior to installation. Upon system completion, the local AHJ usually does a system test to make sure the system is installed according to the plans submitted. It is then up to the building owner/manager to have the building’s fire alarm system inspected and maintained according to the applicable Code/Standard so that it will work when needed and not create an alarm signal when not warranted.
As a result of the false alarm issue, with regards to non-residential fire alarm systems, there was a push to have alarm verification for fire alarm become the norm and was introduced to NFPA 72. There was a lot of debate about this issue during the Code making process. In the 2016 edition of NFPA 72, Section 26.2.2 discusses Alarm Verification. Essentially, the responsible fire department has to notify the appropriate central station that they want a particular premise to have alarm verification. To comply with the Code, the responsible fire department must provide documentation to the Supervising Station and the responsible fire department shall notify the supervising station and the protected premises if the requirement for verification changes. Since not all commercial occupancies are the same, it was felt that the decision about which, if any, buildings were to have any verification should be the responsibility of the AHJ.
Upon receipt of an alarm signal, the Supervising Station would have 90 seconds to try and verify a fire alarm signal. If verified, it is to be retransmitted to the Fire Department promptly. If not verified, it is retransmitted to the Fire Department after 90 seconds. NFPA 72, Section A-26.2.2 (appendix) gives an explanation of the Section. This rarely used section was introduced to address the false alarm issue. This was a way to try and reduce false alarms but didn’t address the cause of the false alarm issue with commercial fire alarms. Why not have better enforcement of the Companies installing the systems and of the systems being installed?
The bottom line is that when systems are installed, inspected, monitored and maintained according to the applicable Codes and Standards, the false alarm rate drops and systems operate as intended.
When enforcement of the installation, inspection and monitoring of systems is adhered to, the brave First Responders will not have to respond to as many calls and will be able to concentrate on responding to real alarms.
Please note that for residential systems NFPA 72 2016 Section 126.96.36.199 states “Remote monitoring stations shall be permitted to verify alarm signals prior to reporting them to the fire service, provided that the verification process does not delay the reporting by more than 90 seconds.” There is explanatory material in NFPA 72 2016 Section A188.8.131.52.
Richard Kleinman, President
AFA Protective Systems, Inc.
NFPA 72 is often incorporated by reference in building codes, so the guidelines could be the law in your jurisdiction.
false alarms and operator discretion
The Newsletter of September 27, 2017 highlighted more “false alarm issues”. The writer made a comment that needs a legal perspective. The issue was related to the monitoring company responsibility to call for police response to a single customer for high number of alarms during a short period of time. His two examples included two different customers… 7 alarms in one day, and ….26 alarms over 12 days. He also wrote… “Per the contract, the alarm company keeps dispatching”.
Question: Does the contract demand a call to the police on every alarm, or does the contract allow discretion by the licensed monitoring firm?
The Standard Form Agreements expressly permit exercise of discretion if the operator believes there is no real emergency condition, that it's a false alarm. Obviously that discretion needs to be exercised very prudently because failure to report a real alarm could have far more consequences than reporting a false alarm. Every central station should have a written Response Policydetailing how every conceivable alarm signal, or failure to receive signals, should be handled; the response procedure. Alarm dealers should ask for the written Response Policy and are encouraged to provide the Response Policy to the subscribers. Everyone in the loop should know the response procedure. Then all the central station needs to do is follow protocol.