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Comments on Alarm Company disagrees with AHJ and customer over fire alarm 
July 25, 2023
Comments on Alarm Company disagrees with AHJ and customer over fire alarm from article on July 15, 2023
          The AHJ SHALL conform to the minimum code requirement. (They have to conform to the minimum requirements outlined by code = SHALL) 
          The AHJ SHOULD increase the level of protection above the minimum requirement, without restrictions or limits, if it is deemed necessary for life safety, and that feels like "The Law"
          The law can only go above and beyond the minimum code requirements. The system never met the minimum requirements.
          But nobody wants to have an adversarial relationship with an inspector that holds your future in their hands.  I feel your pain! Next thing you know you'll be waiting 5 hours to test a 3 smoke system with 2 horn/strobes, and wondering why it's so long???
Boss Sec
Another comment
          Regarding Jersey Jerry’s July 15, 2023 email in which he is concerned that he was contracted to inspect and service an insufficient fire alarm in a condo community, I can relate to his concern.  My firm does accounting, but I also hold a Texas Burg license so we operate alarm companies from time to time.  Burglar alarm liability issues are complicated but burg losses are typically financial and can be handled with good Monitoring Agreements (like yours), and sufficient insurance coverage. 
          Fire alarms are another story.  Fire alarm losses can easily exceed insurance coverage, and most importantly, fires can cause injuries and loss of life.  Fire Codes are an example of 20/20 hindsight and, while they are effective at reducing losses, they are minimum standards.  Alarm systems can perform flawlessly and there can still be massive damage, injury, and loss of life.  We know what we don’t know about fire alarms and we leave them to the people who know what they are doing. 
          We operated a burglar alarm company for an owner with dementia and found out that even though he didn’t have a fire license he had installed a handful of fire alarms.  I contacted the customers and gave them three choices:  have a real fire alarm company take over the system; disconnect the fire devices (none of these systems were required by Code); or we would let them out of their contract and they could find another company to monitor them.  
          One of the customers was a dry cleaner in a retail strip center who was using a residential panel with eight smoke sensors attached.  We gave him the three choices and he had the Fire Marshall for the city (not a small town) call us.  The Fire Marshall told me that since the location didn’t require a fire alarm he was OK with the install because “something was better than nothing.”   He even offered to send me an email authorizing the system.  As tempting as this may sound, I don’t want to have anything to do with a possibly inadequate system.  If there was a fire at the location, the email isn’t going to keep the place from burning to the ground and possibly injuring or killing people. 
          I have spent a lot of time in courtrooms testifying as an expert about financial matters and I have seen lawyers manipulate clueless jurors.  I don’t want to be sitting on the stand and explaining how I allowed an alarm panel that was built to monitor doors and windows on a three bedroom house to “ensure the safety of these poor victims.” 
          Jerry is correct when he states that there is a sentiment in the Fire Alarm community that the last technical person who touches the system becomes responsible for the system's flaws and ills.  He is correct to be concerned about servicing this system.  If there is a teachable moment here I would say that it would be a good idea to inspect, and charge to inspect, the system before contracting to maintain it. 
          Ken, your contracts are an excellent defense against liability.  Maybe I am a bit jaded, but I get calls all of the time from lawyers who represent customers that want me to determine what an alarm company is worth so that they can negotiate a settlement in a liability claim.  I don’t take the engagement but someone else typically does.  In a perfect world jurors would leave their bias at the door to the courtroom but they don’t.  Anyone who has been on a jury has seen this play out.  That $200 per month service agreement may seem tempting but, an alarm company owner should question why they were so lucky to get asked to provide the service.  As PT Barnum said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
 Mitch Reitman 
817 698 9999 XT 101 
Reitman Consulting Group
Fort Worth, TX
          I think Demetri Boss hit it on the head when he suggested you could be left waiting hours at a site for the AHJ to show up for an inspection, not once but most of the time.  Human nature.  I recently heard a TV character opine that “The sweetest revenge is not success, its revenge”.  It ultimately won’t “pay” to be on the wrong side of the AHJ, and surely includes the Fire Marshals who come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments [and probably skills].  BTW, those Fire Marshals who participate on this forum often are all unquestionably superb and extremely knowledgeable and helpful to those they serve, the fire alarm industry and its customers and the public.
          Mitch is also correct in his assessment and especially so when it comes to the unpredictability of a jury or judge’s final determination.  When it comes to a trial most times both sides think they are right and the usual ending is that one of them is wrong.  Lot of factors go into deciding a legal dispute and, perhaps, unfortunately, the law is only one factor because the law is not usually such a straight road with only one final destination; there are enough twists and turns to permit most any outcome, and well, you already know what I think of human nature.

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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