Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
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Please Firefighter, Don't Reset the False Alarm

Yes, the fire alarm system should be active, it should be reset after every alarm. Resetting the system without knowing for sure what caused the alarm just means more false alarms. Requiring fire walks is far better than resetting a false alarm.

If no one knows the cause of a false alarm, dont reset the fire alarm panel
False alarms will happen again if the fire alarm control panel is reset before finging out what caused the false alarm.


By Douglas Krantz

False Alarms

When the alarm sounds and the firefighter arrives, even for a false alarm, the firefighter is on site for property protection and life safety. So when leaving, from the point of view of the firefighter, the fire alarm system should never be left in any condition but "Green Light Normal".

As an opposing problem, though, a service technician, the person that can fix the system so it won't go into false alarm again, is pretty much never on site at the time the firefighter is on site.

Real life says, though, if the fire alarm system sounded off with a false alarm, and the cause of the false alarm isn't fixed, the fire alarm system will go into false alarm again. We are dealing with real life.

False Alarms Means Green Light Normal is not Normal

Yes, resetting the panel can clear the alarm and show only a green light, but "Green Light Normal" is not Normal if the system is going to go into false alarm again. Knowing this is important because false alarms make real fires more dangerous.

Reset Doesn't Make It Normal

Including the device that went into false alarm, resetting the panel resets all devices in the fire alarm system. If no one knows absolutely which device caused the false alarm, resetting the panel to show a "Green Light Normal" condition is a problem.

The problem is if the fire alarm system is reset (so it looks normal) before the system is fixed, the cause of the false alarms becomes hidden but is not fixed. Because of the false alarms, even though only the green light is lit, the fire alarm system is not normal.

Yes, the green light is the only light on the panel, and yes, it indicates the fire alarm system is normal. However, when the fire alarm system can go into false alarm, the system is not working right; the green light on the panel is lying.

Fixing the False Alarm

The only way for a technician to find the cause of the false alarm is for the firefighter to leave the panel in alarm.

The trouble is that when the panel is in alarm, it is compromised. Sometimes only one device won't do its job, sometimes a whole zone that won't do its job, sometimes the whole system won't work at all.

Until the system is totally fixed, even a service technician doesn't know how much it is compromised.

Bottom Line

The bottom line for the firefighter is that fire should still be detected, the occupants should still be notified, and the fire department should still be called.

This can be done automatically with a working fire alarm system, or this can be done manually by having someone walk the building on a regular basis with the primary purpose of looking for fire.

Fix It Before Reset

Until the service technician can fix the problems, if the cause of the false alarms is not obvious, it may be best for the firefighter to require fire walks by the owners of the building and not reset the fire alarm system.
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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