Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

I Put It Back, Do I Have to Pay for this Service Call?

By Douglas Krantz | Residential

I Put It Back, Do I Have to Pay for this Service Call?

I Put It Back, Do I Have to Pay for this Service Call?

Greetings Douglas,

I live in a handicap style apartment with a smoke detector and a fire horn. The fire alarm goes off all the time.

The last time the fire alarm went off I disconnected the horn and left it off a couple days.

The complex says a guy from a company came out and verified that it was my apartment where the disconnect was coming from. The complex left me a note saying that the room would be inspected on Monday.

I reconnected the alarm, and the guy didn't say anything when he came in. But two days before, I did try to do the right thing by telling the I had disconnected it.

The complex says not to tamper with it.

But from how I interpret the State Law, the law says that if a horn is disconnected, the building management must give a notice. And there are 7 days to reconnect it, or face penalties.

I reconnected the horn right after I got the letter, but it wasn't even stating that I need to reconnect anything.

Now they want to charge me over 1,000 dollars to pay the company that came out to check the circuit.

What are your thoughts?

Thank You, AN

Two Independent Fire Alarm Systems

There are two independent fire alarm systems in your apartment: the smoke alarm on the ceiling and the common-to-the-building sounder on the wall.

The life-safety smoke alarm on the ceiling is there to give you a warning that there's smoke in your apartment.

The common-to-the-building sounder on the wall is designed to warn you that somewhere else in the building, there's a fire. The building's fire alarm system is all over the building, it warns all the residents in their apartments of fire, and many times, it automatically calls the fire department.

It's difficult for anyone, including me, to tell which one is sounding off: the smoke alarm or the building-wide fire alarm system. However, if one of these alarms keeps sounding off again and again over weeks, and the building-wide fire alarm system doesn't call the fire department to come, it's probably the smoke alarm on the ceiling that's sounding off, not the building's fire alarm system.

Life-Safety, Building-Wide Fire Alarm System

When there's a fire, the life-safety, building-wide fire alarm system has to warn everyone of danger. If some people aren't warned, their lives are in peril. It's a system that has to be totally working, and not just partly working.

So that fire alarm systems can be fixed right away, fire alarm systems are designed to detect when parts of the system aren't working correctly. If something in the building's alarm system isn't working right, the panel immediately shows a trouble light and sounds a buzzer inside the panel.

When the horn was disconnected, that's all that the apartment complex's management could see; they couldn't tell what was causing the trouble. They had to call for service.

Yes, the cause of the trouble was inside your apartment. When the life-safety fire horn inside your apartment was disconnected, however, many apartments' life-safety fire horns were disabled. If there was a real fire in the building while your fire horn was disconnected, many people would not receive the fire-danger warning.

Troubleshooting a Fire Alarm System

I know from personal experience that it usually takes three to four hours for a trained fire alarm technician to narrow down the apartments to the exact one that has a disconnected life-safety fire horn.

It takes so long to find the disconnected fire horn because it's not just one horn that doesn't work, but it's a whole group of fire horns, in a whole group of apartments, that no longer work.

Because somewhere in the entire building a fire horn was disconnected, the first trip on site for the fire alarm technician took several hours. Then, the same technician had to make a second trip, just to confirm that the fire horn was reconnected, and also that the rest of the fire horns were now back in the system.

Legal Fines

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the State is referring to a legal notice - complete with a threat - "If the fire horn isn't reconnected, the government will issue its own legal fines."

The complex management didn't drag the legalities of the State into this, they didn't even use threatening language. In the note, they just told you, apparently, that the apartment would be inspected.

Someone Has to Pay

Beyond the legal fines (that weren't applied to anyone), there are still costs involved.

For both trips, the fire alarm company has to pay their technician, and also pay a lot of overhead costs. To pay all their costs, they charged the apartment complex for the two trips to the complex by the technician, the first trip took several hours.

The apartment complex has to pay this. However, the complex isn't made out of money; the complex has to get this money from somewhere. Rather than charging a little more rent money from every resident in the complex, they are passing on the cost of fixing the fire alarm system to the person making them pay for the service in the first place.

Douglas Krantz

Greetings Douglas,

Thank you for all of that information.

Life Safety
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