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Subscriber ignoring fire alarm trouble signals / Comment on nightmare takeovers of fire alarm  

September 3,  2021
Subscriber ignoring fire alarm trouble signals
           We have a subscriber (FD NYC Fire Acct) that has phone line issues so they keep placing the trouble signals on disregard so they are not bothered with calls.  We have proposed to change from phone lines to other technology but they want unrealistic contract terms so the change is not happening. 
          Can we instruct the central office not to accept the disregard requests so they get called each time (usually a few times a day).  We have notified the FDNY Dispatcher multiple times hoping the administrative engine company would go give them a violation; they don't seem to care.
Thank you
                Fire alarms in NYC are highly regulated with stiff enforcement, particularly in the approval and installation stages.  Of course other jurisdictions also have fire alarm laws that they enforce more or less as NYC does.  Many jurisdictions rely on NFPA, and the NFPA guidelines have been codified by the jurisdiction, though the statutes don’t always keep up with NFPA changes.  I don’t know if NFPA standards, and those adopted by the NYC FD, have changed much over the years, particularly regarding response to trouble signals.  If I am not mistaken trouble signals must be reported to the subscriber within a certain number of hours.  Alarm fire experts can fill us in with details; please do.
          Other issues come to mind, maybe because I am not technical. 
          At what point should the central station determine that the fire alarm system is not functioning so as to report a fire signal reliably?  If that determination is made who does the central station notify, the subscriber, dealer or fire department, or all three? 
          If the central station determines that fire alarm monitoring is no longer reliable does the central station have the obligation to notify the fire department [presumably the AHJ] that monitoring is not feasible or monitoring has been terminated?  That would presumably trigger a Fire Watch requirement, which is generally a lot more expensive than fixing the fire alarm.  I could be wrong, but NFPA may call for a Fire Watch, or the AHJ could require it threatening to pull the Certificate of Occupancy unless a Fire Watch is implemented until the fire alarm is repaired and monitoring restored.
          Another question raised by the question is who is the “they” that keeps placing the fire alarm trouble signal on “disregard”?  I am not clear on how a subscriber can place trouble signals on disregard.  A central station should feel uncomfortable accepting that direction.  The Fire All in One and the Residential All in One does provide that the subscriber appoints the alarm dealer as its agent to deal with the central station.  It doesn’t however make that agency designation exclusive, so arguably a subscriber could call the central station with directives.  More than likely, in the above situation, the central station called the subscriber enough times until the subscriber final said “don’t call anymore’ and perhaps “don’t dispatch on these trouble signals or any signals”.  Again, the central station should have a policy how to handle these directives, and I caution that deviating from NFPA guidelines and fire alarm laws and regulations could be a serious problem if there is a fire loss that goes unreported or delayed.  Those in the fire alarm business would be well advised to keep in mind that even though a properly worded fire alarm contract will provide that there are no third beneficiaries; courts may, under some circumstances, disagree.  These “some circumstances” are almost always going to be when there has been a catastrophic loss of property, personal injury or death.  That is not the time to test whether the central station should have accepted the subscriber’s directive to ignore the trouble signal.
          Ignoring the trouble signal brings another NFPA guideline to mind, and again I hope some fire expert will comment on this.  Would “ignore” the trouble signal be the same as “put the system on test”?  I believe putting the system on test can be done for a number of hours but the system has to be restored after those hours automatically.  So the disregard directive could not be for longer than the “on test” period of time, which probably won’t give the subscriber the reprieve it was looking for when it decided not to be bothered with trouble signal calls.
          From a legal standpoint it’s easier and more prudent for me to advise to keep calling the subscriber with the trouble signal.  If the subscriber becomes adamant that it doesn’t want or won’t take the calls then the central station should suspend monitoring and take whatever steps it should take at that point.  I believe that means notifying the dealer, the subscriber and the AHJ that fire alarm monitoring is suspended.
Comment on nightmare takeovers of fire alarm from August 2, 2021
          Another remedy is the AHJ.
          The can and in most cases WILL mandate that the subscriber make the required repairs, or face substantial fines and possibly building closure.
While the AHJ is NOT your enforcement arm, they ARE the Jurisdictions, and swing a BIG fine book.
          The AHJ will often (especially if notified) will make a random inspection of the property).  The client, since under contract, will most likely use the "company" to remedy the violations (and put some additional cash in your coffers), and you save the RMR of the account.
          I overlooked this comment when I published to follow-up, but its applicable here, and good advice.  A letter to the AHJ will more than likely get some response.  I know that many of you are concerned about shaking up your relationship with the Fire Marshal, if you have one [fire marshal and a relationship], but you can word a letter without insulting the public servant.  A friendly phone call with a heads up may also be wise. 
          A Fire Marshal would take a considerable risk ignoring a notice from you that the fire alarm is out of order and monitoring suspended or terminated.  I haven’t given this much thought but it might be a good idea to develop a form notice that you use to send to the Fire Marshal’s office, something much less personal yet descriptive of the building address and fire alarm problem.  Once received I think any responsible Fire Marshal will take action, against the subscriber, not you. 

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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