Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

Can the Fire Alarms be Quieter?

By Douglas Krantz | Residential

Can the Fire Alarms be Quieter?

Can the Fire Alarms be Quieter?

Greetings Douglas,

I have a question about the red horn boxes.

There is one outside my apartment that has a light and goes off if we burn something in our apartment, but only if we open the door.

The one inside my apartment doesn't go off if I burn something, just the regular smoke alarms do.

Is the red one inside my apartment only works if there is smoke in the hallways not inside the apartment? Is it just an alert box not a smoke/fire detector?

When the ones in the hallway go off, they all go off. Our red strobe horn and the super loud one in our apartment goes off so often because of frozen pipes, sanding in the room, etc.

Is there a way to lighten the sound since we are in a very tiny apartment, and already have two regular alarms?

I read that some have controls that make it not so harsh or change the pattern of the alarm.

If it is true, where can I find them and what are they called?

I have been through a fire with death resulting.

The horn going off so often and so loud it triggers me, especially because it is right near the bed.

Can we ask the landlord for a different one?

Thank You, LA

There are actually two different fire alarm systems in your apartment. One fire alarm system is for the common areas in the whole apartment building, like the halls and basement. The other fire alarm system is the smoke alarms located inside your apartment.

The fire alarm system in the building's common area sounds the alarm for the whole building, including the halls, common areas, and each individual apartment. The smoke alarm in your apartment only sounds the alarm inside your apartment.

Outside your apartment in the hall is a smoke detector. When it detects smoke, it's red light turns on, and the detector sends the alarm to the common area fire alarm system. This sounds the alarm in the common areas of the building, and also sounds the alarm in each and every apartment in the entire building. The common area fire alarm system uses the red horn/strobe on the wall.

When a smoke detector in the common area hallways goes off, or when someone activates a pull station (also called a Manual Call Point or MCP), or when water flows in the sprinkler system (to suppress a fire or when a frozen pipe bursts), the common area smoke alarm system sounds the alarm in the whole building.

Inside your apartment are one or more smoke alarms. They detect smoke in your apartment and sound the alarm only in your apartment. They do not sound the alarm in the rest of the building (so no one else will know that you burnt the food).

On the other hand, when there is cooking smoke in your apartment, and you open the door to your apartment in order to air out your apartment, you are letting the cooking smoke get out to the common area smoke detector. This will let everyone in the building know you burnt the food, and you even may get a special surprise visit from the fire department.

In other words, when your apartment is full of cooking smoke, open a window to air out your apartment.

False Alarms

The super loud red box on the wall in your bedroom is required by law to be loud enough to wake up anyone who isn't completely deaf. In other words, that has to be super loud. The action you are supposed to take when this sounds off is to get out of the building, right away.

You have a different problem, though, with your common area fire alarm system. You have false fire alarms.

Sanding is not a fire; a frozen pipe is not a fire; overcooked food is not a fire. If the fire alarm system sounds off when there is not a fire, the fire alarm system is sounding off with a false fire alarm.

If any thing other than a real fire sounded the fire alarms (false alarm), then people get used to the fire alarms sounding when there isn't a fire. People quit going out of the building when all they hear is false alarms. I've seen where this kind of inaction can cause office workers to not even lift their head when the alarm sounds.

With even a few false fire alarms, people don't take action when there are new false alarms, and they also don't take action when there is a fire.

Yes. People die from not taking action because of all the false alarms that they have been hearing.

If there are false alarms, talk to your building manager about the false alarms. See what can be done about reducing or eliminating the false alarms.

Douglas Krantz
Life Safety
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