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When is fire alarm trouble signal not a trouble signal
May 7, 2024
When is fire alarm trouble signal not a trouble signal 
Our central station informed me that an E380 trouble condition from a commercial fire alarm is handled as a generic trouble condition and not a fire trouble. The fire trouble would trigger the NFPA code requirements to notify AHJ and customer within a specific time frame (I believe this is 4-hours).
            My question is, when would a trouble condition reported from a commercial fire alarm not be a fire trouble?
          This is a very technical question so I turned to the experts.  See opinions from leading experts below; thanks to Jeff, Peter and Morgan for participating:
From Jeff Zwirn:
          When is a fire alarm trouble signal not a trouble signal? Answer: NEVER
          A Fire Trouble Condition requires that the Central Station notify designated persons on the emergency contact list, not the AHJ, to the extent the writer of the question is implying contacting the Fire Department on a Fire Trouble condition. Having said that, a Fire Department can be considered an AHJ, but if the Central Station contacted the Fire Department on a Fire Trouble condition, such as from a AC power loss and/or low battery condition they would not respond. 
          NFPA-72 does not adopt, distinguish, or recognize the language generic fire trouble, versus Fire Trouble, nor does it give a Central Station or an Alarm Contractor the option to change its mandatory minimum notification requirements, as no notification and/or that a Central Station can simply delay notification, is nothing less than a violation of NFPA 72 and Alarm Contractor Licensing Laws. In other words, notification of a Fire Trouble is Mandatory.  
          With this in mind, the inclusion of the verbiage generic, does not change any the adopted mandatory minimum fire code requirements set forth in NFPA-72. On the other end of the technical spectrum, if the Fire Alarm Control Unit (FACU) can only transmit a generic Fire Trouble to the Central Station (Remote Station), and cannot provide global details on the particular cause of the Fire Trouble condition it still by default, always requires Notification.  
          To that end, no matter how a Central Station or an Alarm Contractor wants to define something or not define something, on a Commercial Fire Alarm System does not change the requirement of notification as per NFPA 72.  To the extent that the Central Station has taken the position that a Fire Trouble being detected by a Commercial Fire Alarm System is not just that, they would be 100% of the time wrong. 
          I am also keenly aware of the fact that many Central Stations feverishly try to find "innovative" ways to do less and less, which in many cases can and will increase contractor liability, and at the same time violate NFPA 72 as it relates to Fire Alarm Systems. 
          Based on the foregoing, notification of a Fire Trouble condition is mandatory, no matter how it is defined and to the extent the Central Station will not comply with the aforementioned, you either need to demand the change, or change Central Stations.  
Jeffrey D. Zwirn, CPP, CFPS, CFE, SET, FASI&T, CHPA-IV, MBAT, NFPA 3000(PS), President  
IDS Research & Development, Incorporated  
Tenafly, New Jersey 07670  
Phone: 201-227-2559  
From Peter Goldring:
          An E380 will vary in its exact meaning from panel to panel but generally speaking, it’s a sensor trouble; a cover that was removed; a device off its mounting bracket, or something similar. 
          Any trouble from a commercial fire panel should be treated as a trouble, by default, unless there is some specific definition that applies - on a case by case basis and with the approval of the AHJ.  One example would be a duct smoke detector. Some AHJ’s want those treated as trouble signals, some want them treated as alarms. 
          Section 4.6.1 of NFPA-72 states that the system owner or their designated representative are to be notified when a fire alarm system or part thereof is impaired. Impairments to systems are to include out-of-service events.
          If the central station monitoring your fire alarms doesn’t use standard NFPA guidelines to handle commercial fire alarm accounts you are likely using the wrong central station. 
Peter Goldring, SET, NICET #143428 Fire Alarm Systems, Level IV, ACFE Certified Fraud Examine
From Morgan Hertel from Rapid Response:
          An E380 is properly defined in the Contact ID as a SENSOR TROUBLE; this is typically associated with a problem with a wireless door contact etc vs an E370 which is the proper Contact ID code for Fire Trouble.
          Panel manufacturers have adapted CID in many creative ways and there are hundreds of ways they have been used over the years, and then to make it even more of a mess each panel can get programmed differently by the installer. Most panels have defaults that can be applied to manage all the ways they were used. But this is why in fire alarms it’s a requirement to perform 100% testing where signals received have to be matched against what occurred on the panel. Something like this should have been caught on the acceptance testing of the system as this is an NFPA requirement.
          While all this exists in panels in many ways, in automation any signal can be converted to any other signal, so if the panel is sending an E380 these can easily be converted to an E373 or something like it if the desired result needs to be something different.
          Additionally, if the desired CS response needs to be different for E373’s at the monitoring center then that can be changed globally for either the account or the dealer but then things like a  trouble from burglary devices will get handled the same way as a fire trouble would be.
          The problem is there are all kinds of “commercial fire systems” Some are combo burg and fire or medical and it’s not a binary decision as to what to do with a signal, if a dealer wants a specific event set-up as a specific event code and wants a specific response he needs to tell us and if he is doing his own data entry to save money he can set up the events. As I said before this should have been caught at the time of installation not after the fact.
          Jeff Zwirn and Peter Goldring like to sensationalize everything and not knowing all the details or possibilities jump to “someone made a mistake” conclusion.  The question could easily have been, why is the central station sending my fire alarm techs in the middle of the night to respond on a wireless door contact; it’s costing me a fortune?
          Any CS can do this in their automation so I would recommend that the dealer contact their rep at the CS to make the necessary changes to the account or the dealer globally.
Morgan Hertel, VP of Technology and Innovation
Rapid Response Monitoring 
Office: 877-553-4531 
Direct Cell: 909-915-8045

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