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What is your SOP when responding to an automatic alarm, smoke or sprinkler?
What information do you get from the alarm panel?
What additional information do you need and how do you get it?

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What is your SOP when responding to an automatic alarm, smoke or sprinkler?
Chief, our response to a report of "alarms sounding" with no smoke or fire reported is an engine and a truck company. All members of responding companies will be in full turnout gear with SCBA and tools. Typically the truck company will investigate the building for the location of the alarm and determine a cause for it if possible. The engine company will stand by in the event that a line has to be stretched. If a fire is discovered or a smoke condition is found and being investigated, a full first alarm response will be ordered (2 addnt'l engines and the deputy chief). If there is no cause for the alarm and it apears to be a malfunction of the system, that zone will be left in alarm or disabled. Our fire prevention bureau requires all smokes, heats and CO detectors to have battery back up. Upon returning to quarters after leaving a zone or device in alarm or disabled the officer in charge of the incident must fill out a "fire prevention refferral" stating what action was taken and what status the fire alarm panel was left in and why. Fire prevention will immediately follow up with the building owner or management company to ensure that the system is repaired and brought back on line as soon as possible.

What information do you get from the alarm panel?
The fire alarm panels within our city vary in age. Obviously the first information we must obtain is the location of the activation, or the "activated zone". With the older fire alarm panels the zones may represent an area, such as a specific floor of the occupancy with many alarm devices tied into it; smokes, heats, COs and/or pull stations. If this is the case our truck company will try to check and find the activated device. Fire prevention, over the last few years, has required that occupanices that are being built new or are going through siginificant rehab must install a "fully addressable system and fire alarm panel". These panels give an LED display that uses plain english to identify the location of the activated device. in other words each smoke, heat, CO or pull station is essentially its own zone. It may be identified as "smoke det. outside apt. 312" or "PullStat in west stairwell 4th floor". So over these last few years the newer panels have become very "user friendly" ad actually, in many cases, reduce our onscene time. As they direct us much more quickly to exactly where ther problem is.

What additional information do you need and how do you get it?
For the purposes of the refferral mentioned above the officer must optain the name, address and phone number of the owner and/or management company, the name, address, phone number of the company tha services the fire alarm. We may have this info from previous incidents, we may get it from tenents or neighbors or even from our city police dept. If our investigation results in the deactivation of an alarm system or having t shut down a fire supression system we may require a fire watch in the form of a paid private fire detail until the situation is corrected and the alarm system is restored. I hope this is helpful to you.
Our response seems "typical" to what's been posted. We run 1 and 1 to all activated alarms and bump to a full 1st Alarm on all Nursing Homes, Elderly Housing, Hotels and Schools. One of the two officers goes to FACP if a remote annunciator isn't conveniently located. Due to short staffing all hands check the zone or alarm device, adjacent units/areas and the floor above and below.

My FD used to require a specific coded key for all FACP locks so we had only one to carry as we do reset alarms. In my experience, given our fairly small city and the rural area around, many owners have inadequate RP's for the buildings and will refuse to come out at night to correct issues. The "home rule" nature of a rural area keeps the City form attaching fines or thinking about forcefully making people correct issues (it is getting better though).

At the FACP we find the alarm system type, device types, zone maps or device maps, requisite telephone numbers (always up to date, right?) keys or Allen wrenches for pull stations and directions for the FACP. This is pretty standard in all but real old systems. If anything else is needed our dispatch calls the alarm company.

As I said, we reset the system whenever we can do so without disabling zones or devices. We've yet to be "burned" by this. What types of issues has this brought about for others? Our bigger issue is finding systems reset prior to arrival where occupants have no clue about the system. Very often they point to a heat detector and say someone was smoking right near here so we reset it! Or assume a child pulled an alarm when it was a detector trip.
You mention that the alarm is sometimes reset before you arrive. That is one of the key things that we need to educate building employees about. Once that alarm is reset, we have no indication as to where the detector or head activated or even if it was a detector or head. It is OK for them to silence the alarm, but never to reset it.
You mention that "many owners have inadequate RP's for the buildings". Pardon my ignorance, but what are "RP's".

Frank




Adam Miceli said:
Our response seems "typical" to what's been posted. We run 1 and 1 to all activated alarms and bump to a full 1st Alarm on all Nursing Homes, Elderly Housing, Hotels and Schools. One of the two officers goes to FACP if a remote annunciator isn't conveniently located. Due to short staffing all hands check the zone or alarm device, adjacent units/areas and the floor above and below.

My FD used to require a specific coded key for all FACP locks so we had only one to carry as we do reset alarms. In my experience, given our fairly small city and the rural area around, many owners have inadequate RP's for the buildings and will refuse to come out at night to correct issues. The "home rule" nature of a rural area keeps the City form attaching fines or thinking about forcefully making people correct issues (it is getting better though).

At the FACP we find the alarm system type, device types, zone maps or device maps, requisite telephone numbers (always up to date, right?) keys or Allen wrenches for pull stations and directions for the FACP. This is pretty standard in all but real old systems. If anything else is needed our dispatch calls the alarm company.

As I said, we reset the system whenever we can do so without disabling zones or devices. We've yet to be "burned" by this. What types of issues has this brought about for others? Our bigger issue is finding systems reset prior to arrival where occupants have no clue about the system. Very often they point to a heat detector and say someone was smoking right near here so we reset it! Or assume a child pulled an alarm when it was a detector trip.
Frank Montagna said:
You mention that the alarm is sometimes reset before you arrive. That is one of the key things that we need to educate building employees about. Once that alarm is reset, we have no indication as to where the detector or head activated or even if it was a detector or head. It is OK for them to silence the alarm, but never to reset it.
You mention that "many owners have inadequate RP's for the buildings". Pardon my ignorance, but what are "RP's". Frank




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Yes, the issue of educating the public about resetting alarms is a problem. We've found this to be especially true in the cases of stores and fast food joints where their first concern is keeping customers at the registers. Most of the time we have no repeat offenders and all new businesses that are inspected by our FD get a speech on our expectations during activated alarms. This has worked well except a large number of new businesses occupy previous spaces where if there is not a "change of use" an inspection doesn't take place.

RP= Responsible Party. All buildings with alarms must provide a list of people whom may be called to resecure the building, contact requisite contractors (boilers, gas, snow removal, etc) and to standby for alarm co. reps or technicians if need be. These lists also fail to get updated in the aforementioned cases on "new" businesses in old spaces.

Given the small size of our district and an average response time of 4.5 minutes from 911 to arrival, we also warn against silencing alarms. Unless they know for certain the cause and this is found to be rare as so few people understand their own systems. Being short staffed we like to have the building as evacuated as possible. Often we will reactivated silenced alarms in large commercial occupancies when the manager or employees who silenced it cannot give us a cause. This usually causes some stress initially but upon explanation is alleviated most of the time. We make a "commitment to the business owner, that if they evacuate and await our prompt response, we will have them back in as soon as we locate the cause and mitigate and hazards. If they know the cause, we'll verify and reset. The converse is that if we arrived to silenced alarms and a store full of people we need to evacuate them prior to committing all personnel to finding the cause. Of course we still immediately look for the cause, but firefighters are detailed to assist evacuating which takes time in Walmart, Home Depot et als.
We send one engine to residential alarms unless call is backed up by a 911 call. Commercial alarms receive 2 engines, 1 truck and Battalion Chief. First engine checks alarm panel and usually assigns a company or will go check the zone themselves. Upon checking the zone and finding no fire or smoke, we allow the alarm to be silenced if the property owner or manager has not done that before our arrival. If we find nothing upon investigation, we have the alarm reset by a responsible party and if it resounds; we silience and have a alarm technican requested to fix the problem.

We also inspect business's once a year and assembly structures twice a year. This does allow for preplanning and familiarization with the structure and gives the business owner/manager a point of contact with us and a good customer service for us.
At my part time department, I am a Truck Officer and the OIC at my station. We try as best we can to keep the responses somewhat consistent. so, for automatic alarms, we respond with 1 Truck and 1 Engine(just as we do for reported structure fires). If en route, dispatch advises me that we are cancelled, I will send the Eng Co back and the Truck Co continues in non emergency. If we are not cancelled en route, I send the Eng Co to the FDC(if no FDC, they go to the nearest hydrant) and the Truck goes to the front door. We investigate the structure based on the info that we get from the panel(if we can) and if not a newer panel, we request that dispatch call a resident or business contact person to meet us. If the panel reads a particular Zone, I ask the maintenance personnel to lead us to the zone in question. I try to obtain what type of alarm(smoke, trouble, water flow, etc...) as well as the contact person's name and phone number. I also try to obtain any info on any work being done involving the alarm system. Some alarms I will reset and some others, I will have the resident reset and then ask them to notify their alarm company of the situation. If the alarm can not be reset(trouble, etc..)I advise the resident or maintenance personnel to establish a fire watch and to call the alarm company for repairs.
Our response to an Alarm is a joke. Depends on the Supervisor. We are a small four sqaure mile city with a full time public safety department. If we get an alarm and actually have personel on duty with smarts they will send our engine and truck and be dressed in full turn out gear. But being that we have cops trying to be fire fighters, some supervisors will just send a patrol car to check it out first. We have one dispatcher on duty and usually an alarm company calls dispatch that will then tone the fire alarm out. It is a scary scary time. Luckly they have never had a valid alarm when they just send a patrol car.

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