Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
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I Can't Fix Fire Alarm Systems that are Reset

Fires are bad, false alarms are just about as bad. If the fire alarm system is reset before the cause of a false alarm is found, likely, there will be another false alarm. Require fire-walks rather than just resetting a false alarm.

If there is a false alarm, resetting the fire alarm system before repairs will mean false alars again.
Resetting the fire alarm system after a false alarm but before repairs can be made means that the system will false alarm again.


By Douglas Krantz

Help! I service fire alarm systems. When I'm on call, I have to respond on a 24/7 basis to fix fire alarm systems. This includes those systems that have gone into false alarm.

Often, when I arrive on site, the fire alarm panel has been reset already. Before leaving, the fire department has reset the system.

Resetting Prevents Fixing

The problem is resetting the fire alarm panel also resets all other devices in the building, including the smoke detector that went into false alarm.

I can't help it, but if the fire panel is reset (normal) before I arrive, I can't find the problem to fix it.

Fire Alarm Systems Needs to be Active at All Times

You are correct, of course, before the firefighters arrive on site to assess the situation, the fire alarm panel should never be reset. But we need to go one step further in this line of thinking.

Before determining the cause of the false alarm, the panel should never be reset.

Yes, I know. Firefighters are loathed to leave the premises unprotected. But resetting the fire alarm panel, before finding the cause of the false alarm, resets and makes normal the device causing the false alarm. Until the fire alarm panel can be left in alarm for the service technician, the system will keep going into false alarm, at odd hours, and the firefighters will keep returning.

Getting mad at the building owners or the fire alarm service company, because of the repeated false alarms, won't solve anything. Unless, of course, while the firefighters are still on site, their getting mad makes the owners call the fire alarm service company immediately.

UL Certified Fire Alarm Systems

Some fire departments do this, or do the equivalent. In a few municipalities, with UL Certified fire alarm systems, the service company is required by law to be on site within 2 hours of the alarm; the system is not reset by anyone, but left in alarm for the service company to find the problem and fix the system properly.

Maybe, Just Maybe

Perhaps, having found out it was a false alarm, the firefighters can stand there and just wait for the owner, or owners rep, to call the service company. Then, having made sure someone who can fix the problem will be arriving shortly, the firefighters can leave the site while the panel is still in alarm.
Based on his electronics training, and his understanding of Life Safety, Douglas Krantz has compiled his knowledge of Conventional Fire Alarm Systems into the book Make It Work - Conventional Fire Alarms. The book covers the basics of the Conventional Fire Alarm System, and shows how Life Safety and internal supervision affects the fire alarm system.

Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

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