You can read all of our articles on our website. Having trouble getting our emails?   Change your spam controls and whitelist 
Comment on notifying customer of fire alarm trouble signal
November 26, 2022
Comment on notifying customer of fire alarm trouble signal from article on November 12, 2022
          I know that you publish these things for discussion but wouldn't you think someone installing fire alarms would look at NFPA 72, the Standard upon which the codes are based? Chapter 26, which is the chapter of the National Fire Alarm Code which deals with Central station* service, deals with what to do with trouble signals and the delay from receipt of a signal to dispatch.
          FYI, there are 3 types of monitoring discussed.
  *  One is for traditional central station service, where one company provides all the services (monitoring, inspection, service) and a UL Certificate (or FM placard) is issued to confirm the service.
  *  The second type is proprietary, where the ownership staffs their own central station (Rockefeller Center was approved for this type of service).   
*  The third type is called remote station service where one company monitors and other services are provided by a local company.
          With regards to Trouble signals, the Standard seems to state that all trouble signals are to be called out promptly.
          You were not correct about the 3 minutes from receipt of signal to dispatch, though 3 minutes can be arrived at from the inception of the condition at the premise and dispatch to the FD. At the premise (this is handled by the chapter on Premises) there is permitted to be a delay of 90 seconds from the inception of the alarm event (a waterflow?) to when the fire alarm control unit acts on it. This is because some alarm conditions resolve themselves quickly and should be reported.
          Once the signal is received by the monitoring center, there is 90 seconds permitted for dispatch.  So, if you add the two together (even though they are mutually exclusive) you get your 3 minutes.
          The fire department is to be dispatched first before any other notification is done. There is a section that was added that, in certain instances, the customer can be notified first. However, the customer, fire department and insurance company must all agree on it (in writing).
Name withheld
          Fire alarm codes and enforcement by the AHJ is not uniform throughout the country [United States].  For example, in most of the country if plans, specifications and a permit is required for a fire alarm it’s the alarm company who submits the plans. In other places, such as New York, only architects and engineers can submit and stamp [sign off on] the plans.
          In most parts of the country an alarm company is licensed to install all alarm systems, including fire.  Some states require a different license to install commercial fire alarms.  Other areas, like New York City, don’t allow alarm companies, even those licensed by New York State [which license includes an unrestricted right to install fire alarms, everywhere, including New York City] to install, service or inspect commercial fire alarms.  A NYC alarm company can get “certified” to inspect and service a commercial fire alarm, but not install a fire alarm.  Why no fire alarm company has challenged this is perhaps understandable [they don’t want to tangle with the NYC FD] but unfortunate for New York licensed alarm companies.
          NFPA has timelines but not all jurisdictions adhere to these guidelines or enforce them; the guidelines are not the law in these jurisdictions.  Presumably professional central stations [referred to as Monitoring Centers when monitoring fire] know what each jurisdiction requires when it comes time to reporting fire alarms.  I am certain that central stations dispatch a fire alarm signal to the FD as soon as possible; they don’t wait to time the dispatch.  Calling customers is typically done after the dispatch to the FD, but a customer can request to be called first in many circumstances without running afoul of FD requirements, or exposing the central station to damages for a delayed dispatch.  In all likelihood the delay of calling the customer first will result in less than a minute delay to the FD. 
          If a commercial fire alarm is installed because it’s required by law then it is very likely that dispatch to the FD if a fire signal is received is required and a customer could not change that even by contract.  The alarm company, dealer who signed up the job and the central station providing the monitoring, most be mindful that a fire alarm is essential not only for the customer but in many instances others in the same or adjoining buildings.  So if the fire alarm and fire alarm monitoring is required then notifying the FD in a timely manner.
          Keep in mind also that when we discuss fire alarm we usually include gas and CO detectors, which may not be noticeable outside the premises or verifiable without the FD gaining access to the premises; thus failure to get any confirmation of the alarm condition would not be sufficient evidence that no emergency condition exists. 
          The Fire All in One has very specific provisions dealing with monitoring [so do the other All in One agreements].  It’s not uncommon for prospective subscribers and their counsel to request [sometimes] demand, editing of these requirements.  I resist these changes and you should too. I am particularly leery asking a central station to change its operating practice for a subscriber because some property manager or real estate attorney thinks they have a better idea.  Central station operators are highly trained [well, they should be] and deviating from their standard practice is looking for trouble [and I don’t care how much the central station sales people or customer service people tell you that “however you want” monitoring is just fine and will be adhered to]. 
          Getting back to the issue first raised, central station notification of a fire signal is different than a trouble signal.  Our unnamed expert didn’t focus on that.  While dispatch for a fire signal has short dispatch times trouble signals are not reported to the FD, at least not when first received by the central station.  Upon receipt of a trouble signals [communication pathway failure or electrical outage are two examples] the central station notifies the subscriber, and immediate notification is not required.  I don’t know the time frame but I think it’s one hour or so.  The FD must then be notified if the trouble condition is not rectified within another time frame, I think 8 hours [that may be time for notifying FD of fire alarm system put on test]. 
          Some clarification for the fire alarm experts on the time frame for trouble or test would be helpful.
          BTW, the Fire All in One does not specify the time frames and that is sometimes the crux of the subscriber challenge. The Fire All in One does provide that the central station is going to adhere to AHJ requirements for dispatch, and that’s all that’s needed [and of course how signals should be handled].

To order up to date Standard Form Alarm /  Security / Fire and related Agreements click here:

To order up to date Standard Form Alarm /  Security / Fire and related Agreements click here:
CONCIERGE LAWYER SERVICE PROGRAM FOR THE ALARM INDUSTRY You can check out the program and sign up here: or contact our Program Coordinator Stacy Spector, Esq at 516 747 6700 x 304.
ALARM ARTICLES:  You can always read our Articles on our website at  updated daily             
THE ALARM EXCHANGE - the alarm industries leading classified and business exchange - updated daily
Wondering how much your alarm company is worth?  
Click here:
Getting on our Email List / Email Articles archived: 
    Many of you are forwarding these emails to friends or asking that others be added to the list.  Sign up for our daily newsletter here: Sign Up.  You can read articles and order alarm contracts on our web site

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