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not to code wireless fire alarm - how can you protect yourself / operators working from home

July 29, 2021
not to code wireless fire alarm - how can you protect yourself
     We have a customer (a Church) that has done major renovations to their sanctuary and wanted a fire alarm for their own notification purposes if a fire should break out. They spoke to multiple companies who install traditional fire systems, but all of them have declined to install it because of the inability to run wiring.
     The city they are in has stated that since a fire alarm was not required at the time the building was constructed, that a fire alarm is not required by the city, and that if they want a means of detection, it is entirely within their discretion as to what they use, as its stated and intended purpose is not for life safety, only for fire detection.
     We have the ability to provide such a system wirelessly, however, my question is this: Is it possible to have a customer, through a contract or agreement, completely release us of any and all liability for the system, since it is not traditional and not required by code?
     If it can be waived by the customer, is there a contract that covers this, or can you provide such a thing?
     This issue arises in many scenarios. In your case either there isn't any fire codes or the AHJ has decided this building is not required to comply with fire codes, for whatever reason. As a fire alarm expert you are essentially questioning the wisdom of the AHJ and the subscriber for their decision to install a fire alarm system that you believe presents some safety issues.         Your concerns are well-founded. Why? Well, imagine a catastrophic loss of property and life as a result of a fire. Now imagine yourself on the witness stand in a civil lawsuit, or worse, a criminal action, and you are faced with the questions, "didn't you know better?", "what could have been done that may have saved lives and property from this fire?".
     Can a contract provide you any protection against these implicit accusations? The simple answer is, yes; the Fire All in One is particularly designed to highlight this issue. If the subscriber is asking for anything other than a fire alarm that is approved and inspected by the AHJ then both you and the subscriber need to check the provision in the Fire All in One that the fire alarm is not to code. The fire alarm you describe is not to code. It may be permitted by the Fire Marshal, but you know it's not to code, and so does the Fire Marshal, who, by the way, will be hiding under his desk or conveniently unavailable when the shit hits the fan. But not you; you don't have governmental immunity for your decisions.
     Fortunately you do have a contract, a Fire All in One. It has all the contractual protection that is currently available by law; you'll need it in your scenario and many others.
     You don't have an updated Fire All in One? Maybe the AHJ has room for you under his desk.
operators working from home
     I have a hard time understanding how we can save money by having our operators working from home. Our operators are all back working from within our Central Station now. If anything, our profitability went down during the 15 months with half our operators working from home. The higher cost is due to equipment upgrades (laptops, IP phones, etc.) and remote desktop software. We decided not to take the VPN path due to ease of implementation of remote software and security. We were still required by UL to process UL certificated costumers by an operator in our central station, so we still had to man our central station 24 hours a day. We setup substations within our building but outside our central station, one operator in each area including the central station at a time.
  Thanks for your time,
Dave Davenport
Wyandotte Alarm Company
     I'm not a fan of employees working from home, at least not until they have a proven track record. Even so, there is much more opportunity for distraction at most homes than at the workplace. Obviously supervision can be challenging when employees work from home. Then there's the technology and additional opportunities for communication error.
     Dealers should find out if their central station is permitting operators to work from home, and while you're at it you may want to find out exactly what facilities your central station has. It's time to recognize that selecting a central station requires more due diligence on your part than which one offers the best pricing and takes you out to dinner once in a while. Check out The Alarm Exchange for reputable central stations and be sure to insist on adding the Rider for Central Station Dealer Agreement to your central station's dealer agreement; it will identify and cover the issues that should be important to you as a dealer.

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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