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Are you required to provide your fire alarm customer with site software and passcode
September 26, 2022
Are you required to provide your fire alarm customer with site software and passcode
          Fire alarm companies installing large commercial fire alarm systems do not routinely provide the software and passcode to the fire alarm panel.  There’s good justification, especially when the fire alarm company is providing monitoring, repair service and inspection services:
1.       The alarm company does not want anyone tampering with the fire alarm, including and especially the programming,  There would be no quality control and no accountability if the fire alarm system became corrupted or non-functioning. 
2.       Many fire alarm panels and systems are proprietary in the sense that they are manufactured and sold only to “authorized dealers” of the manufacturer.  There could be reasons for a dealer program such as, again, quality control through proper training and certifying personnel who will be working on and programming the fire alarm systems. 
3.       Programming a large fire alarm system is a significant part of the installation.  Time consuming and often requiring equipment available only to authorized dealers and technicians.  Fire alarm companies usually consider the programming the proprietary property of the alarm company, something that the alarm company retains ownership of and does not share with the customer.  Besides the above reasons,
4.       Customers don’t need the fire alarm programming or codes unless they are going to permit another fire alarm company to “take over” the fire alarm services.  Most fire alarm companies are not particularly interested in assisting their competitors to take over the systems; there would be loss of RMR, loss of customer relations and potential criticism of the outgoing alarm company’s work.
          The Standard Commercial Fire All in One clearly provides that the programming software and codes are property of the alarm company and turned over to the customer only upon customer full performance of the agreement.  Is the alarm company holding the program and password hostage to compel performance of the contract?  I suppose that’s one way to look at it.  But what’s wrong with that reason?
          Well, according to a recent customer demand, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, requires that a copy of site-specific software be stored at the premises in nonvolatile, nonerasable, non-rewritable memory.  That doesn’t appear to require that the customer have access.  But NFASC 7.5.71 provides that a copy of the site-specific software be provided to the customer.  Some AHJs may also require that the programming and codes be maintained on-site and perhaps accessible to the fire department or fire marshal. 
          The code requirement to turn over the programming is in direct conflict with the Fire Alarm Agreement.   My counsel, typically, is to adhere to the contract terms.  If the customer has not fully performed the contract then the customer is not entitled to the programming and codes.
          What practices do you [commercial fire alarm companies] follow in this circumstance?

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301