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How many Departments Reset Alarm Systems after an activation as a courtesy or do you have a policy of silencing the alarm and turning the premises over to the owner/ occupant to contact the alarm company to have it serviced?

My question is in response to officers who have reset alarms with the system being a trouble alarm system only to return to a reactivation later requiring a second and third response adding more risk to responding firefighters unnecssarily. Who "really" benifits from this, the FD or the alarm company who has a contract ?

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AT times I think were are a bit relaxed with this. We never tell them to turn the system off but we do advise them that the system needs to be checked and put back in service. We respond if it is 1 time or 10 times, now if we know we have a faulty system we will go emergency status with the first Engine and the second Engine will come non emergency. The first time we will do the normal response of two engines, rescue ,ladder, and rit. We feel it is a fire until WE get on the scene and say it is not a fire. After that we have confirmed that we have a faulty system we will drop down to the above mentioned.
We continue to respond to these false alarms because we feel it is our responsibility to confirm there is no emergency. Now let me also say that there has been times where we have had a alarm tech come and fix the issue in the middle of the night.

We rarely have alarm drops in our district, maybe 20 a year.

What's right what's wrong it is hard to say, we never want to get caught with our "pants down". We work very hard with our costumer service in our district.

Todd McKee
My department allows for us to silence the alarm after we have confirmed that there is no fire on site. We investigate the zone and find the problem and advise our dispatch to contact a building representative to make the scene. We then advise them of the situation found and see if the alarm will reset. If it will not reset, then we advise them to call out a service tech for the alarm company. If no building representative is available, we asked for a service tech from the alarm company to make the scene. We generally return to service after accomplishing on eof the above mentioned goals. If it continues to be a problem, we advise our fire marshal of the situation and turn it over to him.
Our agency does the 2nd option. Our thinking is that we don’t want the responsibility put on us to say it is fine or not. The alarm went off for some reason. We don’t see or smell smoke there is no fire, what was the cause. Whether from dust, spiders crawling over a sensor, workers caused it to go off what ever the reason. We’ll tell the owner that the alarm is silenced (if they have not already done that) and they need to get in touch with the alarm company to have it looked at. This stops the second and third alarms if they do have system malfunction.
Hey Todd,

Hope all is well ! We also respond to all alarms on a realarm. We also do a check of all floors and zones to make sure nothing is wrong. But, do we need to ? If there is a problem with the system where it went into an alarm mode and no fire is found then the alarm company should come out to service it . At what level of liability are we as non technicians. They are getting paid for this in their contract not the FD. When do we leave it to the alarm experts? Before we get hurt or after? Each time the Engine hits the road for that same alarm you increase the chances of firefighter injury or death. Risk vs Benefit. If the alarm is just silenced and not reset, it is in a trouble mode but will still alarm if there is a real fire. Firefighters first, customer service second.
Thanks for the reply !!

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
As a matter of policy, we attempt to reset automatic alarm systems after investigating the activated device. Usually we are successful and have no further issues. However responsability for system maintenance rests with the property owner by law. The owners are also required to maintain a service contract for round the clock response with a licensed fire alarm technician. If the system fails to reset, the responsible party for the property is contacted and advised to have the alarm company respond forthwith. Depending on the occupancy, they may be required to post a fire watch.,
Hey Capt, We basically run the same way that Davids dept does. We too investigate for the reason of the activation and then if the alarm is able to reset then we will. The only time we do this is if we actually find the cause such as a pull station in the local daycare, or back in the day a certain police officer smoking a cigar in the police station. Just about every automatic alarm that we cannot determine its cause we leave in trouble, notify the owner to get the tech out, and the fire official. Alarm activations has been an argument of mine for years tho. We spend way to much time playing alarm tech's. I have been at alarm activations in my dept were we have been on scene for almost an hour looking for the cause as well as waitng for the owner.The only good thing about it is the co's in that area begin to know those repeat offender buildings like the back of their hands and they can relay info along. You see in my dept only one complex of a mini strip mall actually has a knox system. We wont go into that tho. I do strongly agree with you but again everyone has valid points. Stay safe.
When we respond to an automatic alarm we will reset the system IF we can identify the source of the alarm. (pull station, FOS, etc.) We always check that the service (annual or quarterly) is up to date and will issue a compliance notice if it is not.

If we cannot identify the source of the alarm we will reset, wait 5 minutes, if the alarm stays reset the companies can return. If the alarm will not reset, or reactivates, (activation not trouble) then we find what the problem is. Perhaps there was a small paper fire on, say floor 12, of the highrise in a storage closet. The fire is out but the sprinkler is active. The FF cannot locate it easily but, if you don't find it now you will be back later and the damage could be in the millions. (for example) In the meantime the company officer would contact the building owner/tenant.

If we cannot reset but are sure there is not a fire we call the owner/representative to the location and issue them a violation notice to have the system repaired and maintain a fire watch until it is fixed. A fire watch requires the building owner to walk the builiding every 15 minutes. We do this so that if the building catches on fire, and the alarm is not working, we still get notified. I doubt they all comply with the requirement but it does transfer the liability plus any low-income property owned by the government definitely complies.

This can mean a long out of service time on occasion but nothing gets an alarm repaired faster than an owner doing fire watch at 0200. And nothing would be worse than to have a fire in a building that the alarm doesn't work and the FD knew it.

If a system becomes a problem our Fire Marshall's office becomes involved for improvements. That would basically mean more than 1 "nuisance alarm" per month. Nuisance means the detector was bad or something similar. Would not include Food on Stove, or a pull station. While those may be a nuisance to us the reality is that the system worked as designed.
We do something I have not heard of in other areas. Currently if we have an alarm we send 2 engines and 1 ladder with a B/C to investigate. With this much equipment responding to an alarm we would like to limit the number of false alarms we go to. So on arrival we check the panel, building etc. and try to figure out what caused the alarm. If we find it is burned toast, popcorn, or other identifiable reason for an alarm we will reset the alarm and head home. If the alarm is caused by something that the person who set it off should have known better, like an alarm tech doing testing, we issue what is called a preventable response citation, this carries a fine of about $350. If we can not determine the cause of the alarm we will issue the same type of citation. The citation can be appealed and the fine can be dropped if the system is repaired by a tech and they find some type of cause. Like a spider living in a smoke detector, water leak or varmits chewing wire, ect. This has lowered or false alarms by about 75% or more since we started this program.
Our Deparment has a policy that if we go on more than 1 (confirmed false) alarms at a location within 72 hours we place that business on a "Firewarch" This means that the business persons take the place of the alarm system and they walk the property every 60 minutes and then call our dispatch center every 120 minutes. If they fail to call we send a response (based on the batallion chiefs discression) and bill the business for a false alarm. The fees start at $600 and double with each successive alarm. This seems to work, It has it's downfalls but it is a way to address the issue.

Dale Fahrney
Hey Tim

This sounds like a policy that works with Firefighters at the top of the list ! Short and to the point !

Thanks for the reply !

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
Hey Andrew,

I believe this is the best policy in todays day of liability and puts the alarm company on notice to do their job ! Our job discription changes every day, how much more do we add ?

Thanks for the reply !

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
Hey David,

This seems to be the standard in the fire service used by many departments for alarm response. It has great points in informing who is the responsable party !

Thanks for the reply !

STAY SAFE !! Dennis

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