Showing posts with label Fire Alarm Testing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fire Alarm Testing. Show all posts

Monday, November 23, 2015

Your Choice: False Alarm Fines or Routine Preventative Maintenance

The fallout from a malfunctioning alarm system extends well beyond the facility it is suppose to guard and protect. Evidence of this fact is everywhere you go as every community of any size has or is routinely creating false alarm fines, some of them substantial for repeat offenders. Burglar or fire alarm makes no matter, false alarms due to malfunctions are not tolerated by local communities any longer.

Six years ago, the city of Toronto decided that the false fire alarm problem had reached epidemic proportions, so they decided to institute an aggressive solution consisting of stiff fines.

“About 1,100 homeowners have received notices of fines for false alarms since April 1, after city council heeded the fire department’s plea to wipe out a provision allowing one failure per year without charge,” says Security System News. “Most or all received bills for $1,050 — $350 for each of three trucks routinely dispatched after a monitoring company calls in an alarm. Traditionally, most of those fined are owners of high-rises and commercial buildings” (Toronto levies heavy false fire alarm fines , http://bit.ly/1ldOvng).
Fire alarms are not the only problem when it comes to routine maintenance and the issue of false and unwanted alarms. Burglar alarms also pose a tremendous problem for police when their owners do not take steps to routinely maintain them. There are two kinds of nuisance alarms that authorities are having issues with: 1) false, and 2) unwanted.

False alarms are caused by components in a burglar or fire alarm system that trip for some unknown reason. Perhaps an aging, dirty smoke detector detects the presence of spiders, or it’s possible for a passive infrared motion detector to falsely trip because someone made a change in the environment surrounding it that represents human motion to the sensor.

Unwanted alarms, on the other hand, are user generated, such as a store manager who mistakenly closes the door on his way out a few seconds after the exit delay has expired, or one of the employees forgot his/her user PIN (Personal Identification Number) when entering early in the morning. User generated alarms are the leading cause of unwanted alarms and the cure for that is a combination of training and self awareness on the part of management.

So the question is, what kind of maintenance is reasonable and customary where it comes to burglar and fire alarm systems.

First, there really is no choice in the degree of maintenance required for a fire alarm system in this modern day and age. Fire code requires that most fire alarm system components be inspected twice a year and functionally tested once a year. You as the alarm system owner are permitted to conduct one of the visual inspections yourself, providing you keep a detailed record of them on hand at the location. Annual testing, however, must be conducted by a licensed fire alarm technician that holds certification for this in the state of Ohio, or whatever state you happen to be in.

Burglar alarm systems are usually good for the first year after they are installed, but it’s a good idea to have the alarm company inspect and test your system once a year after that. Is there a code that requires you to do that? Not on a national basis, and certainly not within the state of Ohio, but the fines that will ensue if you fail to maintain your burglar alarm in working order will prove to be significant as it has in many cases.

Electronic Systems Consultants (ESC), which is based in Columbus, Ohio, offers inspection and testing services for all burglar and fire alarm systems. Our technicians are trained and certified on all major brands. Not only do we offer the quality, timely service you require, but we also provide top, quality central station monitoring at very reasonable prices.

The next time you find yourself in need of help with your fire or burglar alarm system, think ESC. Give us a call at 614-754-1393 or use the convenient form below to reach me.

–John Larkin, ESC Senior Partner


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Friday, October 9, 2015

The Importance of Quality Inspection & Testing

Smoke detectors are one of the most important life safety items in commercial office buildings, retail businesses, schools, and other facilities. They are commonly called “early warning devices” because that is what they do, give us early warning of a fire in progress. For this reason, smoke detectors are extremely important to include in your facility maintenance and service scheduling. The lives they save cannot be measured.

Unfortunately, far too many facility managers fail to take a pro-active position with regards to their smoke detector inspection and testing. There are cases on the books where deals are struck to issue false inspection/testing reports for a fee, which is generally a lot less than a full inspection.

Case in point, one of our staff members was approached by the facility manager of a large company in North Central Ohio about issuing a false inspection/testing report for the fire alarm system in his building, which included a full-compliment of sprinkler heads. Because the building was fully sprinkled, the only smoke detector in use was above the fire alarm control panel, per code, but there were a dozen or two duct-type smoke detectors. When our employee said no, the manager’s reply was, “Then we’ll find another company that will,” and we never heard from them again.

Another case in point, a second member of my staff, while working for another burglar/fire alarm company in city up north, encountered a situation. According to him his boss routinely provided false inspection/testing reports to this company. Then, one day, a fire took place in a section of the facility and the fire alarm did not work. An investigation by the local fire marshal revealed that there were major problems at which time a full inspection was ordered.

The burglar/fire alarm company in question found that over 60% of the smoke detectors on site were not working within the sensitivity range specified by fire code. In the end, the facility manager dropped the alarm company and chose another to do the actual work. To make matter worse, I’m sure that the local fire authorities knew that the alarm company in question had issued false reports, otherwise that many smoke detectors could never have become defective so soon since the last inspection/testing report was issued.

There are several kinds of smoke detectors in a typical commercial building:

  • Spot-type smoke detectors
  • Duct-type smoke detectors
  • Projected beam-type smoke detectors

The test frequency associated with each is the same, once a year. In addition, someone must visually “inspect” each component in your fire alarm system every six months. The fire alarm company you hire to do the actual inspection/testing, such as Electronic Systems Consultants (ESC) of Columbus, Ohio, will arbitrarily “inspect” the system visually as they test the necessary devices. On the off six month inspections, however, you can have a member of your own staff perform them.

Testing for all of these smoke detectors includes a sensitivity check using a test device or method listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratory, Northbrook, Ill). That can include an internal means of calibration, an external tool sold and/or specified by the maker of the smoke detector, or using a third-party-made sensitivity testing tool, listed by UL for that purpose. In some cases sensitivity testing is conducted continually by a sophisticated addressable fire alarm panel.

ESC offers inspection and testing services not only to our current customers, but also to those who may not be totally happy with their present fire alarm company. ESC has the finest technicians available, factory trained, certified, and ready to assist you at a moment’s notice. ESC also services burglar alarms, access control systems, camera systems, and others.

In addition, ESC holds the following certifications and licenses for your convenience:

  • City of Columbus Contractors License
  • City of Columbus MBE
  • Columbus City School LEDGE
  • Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council
  • Ohio Turnpike MBE Certification
  • State of Ohio DBE
  • State of Ohio EDGE Pg. 1 of 2
  • State of Ohio EDGE Pg. 2 of 2
  • State of Ohio MBE Pg. 1 of 2
  • State of Ohio MBE Pg. 2 of 2

Give us a call at 614-754-1393, email us at electronicsystemsconsultants@gmail.com, or use the handy contact form below and let us prove to you the power of ESC

John Larkin, ESC Senior Partner

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Whose Responsibility is it to Notify Me About Fire Alarm Inspections?

It's natural for our clients to have questions about the sophisticated electronic systems they use on an everyday basis. I believe it's the responsibility of Electronic Systems Consultants to help answer those questions and to provide help in whatever way possible, even when it was one of our competitors that installed these systems.

The following question concerns the point of responsibility where it involves routine fire alarm inspections. If you should have a question of your own, send it to ESC at electronicsystemsconsultants@gmail.com or use our Contact Us page.

Question:

As a business owner, several years ago the city fathers forced us to install a new fire alarm system even though we had gone more than two decades without one. We’ve never had a fire and nothing bad has ever happened. Yesterday a fire inspector came to our offices and did an inspection, which they have never done before. I’m told that I’m out of compliance because no one has been inspecting the system.

I know your company did not install my system, but whose responsibility is it to do this, mine or the alarm company that installed it in the first place? The original sales guy did not tell me that we would have to do this and then they didn’t call to let me know when it was time. I guess I got a little upset and the fire inspector has cited us and he’ll fine us as well if we don’t get this done in 30 days.

Well, it’s been over 30 days, and perhaps I’m a little to blame because it slipped my mind and I called the alarm company about two or three weeks after the citation. Shouldn’t the alarm company who put this thing in pay the fine because they didn’t warn us in the first place?

Answer:

Thank you for contacting Electronic Systems Consultants about your fire alarm inspection issue. The bottom line to your question is simply this, if you are the property owner, then it’s your obligation to see that your fire alarm system is fully code compliant on a regular basis, and there are specific requirements for this. Code in general requires a visual inspection twice a year and a functional test once a year. In general, this means that your fire alarm company will have to visit your facility twice a year.

In Section 14.2.3.1 of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, 2013 Edition, it says, “The property or building or system owner or the owner’s designated representative shall be responsible for inspection, testing, and maintenance of the system and for alterations or additions to this system.”

No matter what you do to escape responsibility for this fine, the city you are in will most likely send you the bill as the attitude in government is invariably “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” You might appeal to a higher authority within city government to forgive the fine, throwing yourself on their mercy, so to speak, but in general, they do not have to do that, and they will not fine the alarm company that installed it in the first place. In all fairness to the alarm company, in your original installation contract it probably had an option for yearly inspections, which you did not choose to accept.

So far we’ve looked at your situation as though you are the property owner. If you are merely a tenant, it may very well fall upon the landlord who owns the building(s) to take care of these inspections and maintenance issues. Check the terms of your lease to see if this is the case. If not, you need to contract with the fire alarm company right away so they can place your inspections on their calendar so you can avoid a repeat of the same situation next year and every year thereafter.

To read the entire section of NFPA 72 that pertains to fire testing and inspection from a party of responsibility standpoint, click here.

John Larkin, ESC Senior Partner

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Inspection & Testing of Common Fire Alarm Devices

I ran across the following videos on fire alarm testing and inspection and thought I'd add them to this article on the ESC website. ESC believes it's important that our clients fully understand what must be done and why we do it. These videos will give you a good idea about both. Sometimes it may see redundant that we have to do this on such a regular basis, but your fire alarm system is an important part of your safety program. Without a working system, lives could be lost.

The second video is a training video on a specific fire alarm panel, a Notifier 3030 system. The value of this video is the general explanation of how fire alarms work, what the various devices are called, and what to do under certain conditions. It's a good, general training video that I believe can make a huge difference in your understanding of fire alarm systems and the issues surrounding testing and inspections.

The remainder of this article pertains to frequency of testing and inspection:

As most facility managers know, there are fire codes at the local, state, and national level that require the testing and inspection of all fire alarm systems installed in commercial and government settings. The following test and inspection frequency chart comes from information contained in the National Training Center (NTC) Chuck Notes publication. For more information on NTC, go to: http://www.nationaltrainingcenter.net/index.xml.

Remember, only qualified, licensed fire alarm technicians are authorized to test fire alarm devices and systems. Inspections can be performed by end users, but you must adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of Quincy, Mass. per NFPA Chapter 10.

 

Testing & Inspection of Common Fire Alarm Devices

Device

Inspection

Testing

Audible Devices

Semi-Annually

Annually

Visual Devices

Semi-Annually

Annually

Manual Pull Stations

Semi-Annually

Annually

Heat Detectors

Quarterly

Annually

Smoke Detectors

Semi-Annually

Annually

Testing & Inspection of Common Fire Systems

System

Inspection

Testing

Monitored Fire Alarm Control Panel

Annually

Annually

Non-monitored Fire Alarm Control Panel

Weekly

Quarterly

Voice Evacuation Systems

Semi-Annually

Annually

Primary Power Supplies

Annually

Annually

Secondary Power Batteries

Annually

Annually

Secondary Power Chargers

Quarterly

Quarterly

 

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Replace Your Home Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years

image of Jim Willisms installing a smoke detectorHome smoke alarms, also called single- and multiple-station smoke alarms, should be, by National Fire Code (NFC), replaced every 10 years.

“According to NFPA, aging smoke alarms don't operate as efficiently and often are the source for nuisance alarms. Older smoke alarms are estimated to have a 30% probability of failure within the first 10 years. Newer smoke alarms do better, but should be replaced after 10 years. Unless you know that the smoke alarms are new, replacing them when moving into a new residence is also recommended by NFPA” (NFPA urges replacing home smoke alarms after 10, National Fire Prevention Association, Quincy, Mass.)

The important point to know is which type of sensor fits the definitions set forth in NFPA 72, NFC, assembled by the consensus of fire professionals and experts and published by NFPA. For example, a single-station smoke alarm, whether used in stand-alone or multi-mode format, is that of the common, ordinary battery-operated detector found in most homes. This includes the 120VAC detector that often comes with a 9-V backup battery. In many locales, for good or bad, the latter has become the detector of choice among code enforcement officials, although recent changes in the NFC allows the use of smoke detectors (read on)’

Photo Caption: This is a combination fire/burglar alarm panel with a supervised power supply in the top panel.

In contrast, the other type of smoke detection device that fire technicians commonly work with is the smoke detector, which connects to a fire alarm system in the home or business. This type of detector derives its operating power from an approved and listed power supply, usually part of a compliant fire alarm control panel. Thus, a smoke detector is able to report alarms and possible trouble conditions to a central monitoring station, as well as locally in the home by sounders placed throughout.

The reason why smoke alarms must be replaced every 10 years primarily relates to the fact that residential smoke alarms are rarely inspected and cared for in the same manner as smoke detectors. In addition, there are safeguards built into a fire alarm system that are designed to detect sensitivity and operational issues that smoke alarms cannot perform in a proactive manner.

If you should have questions pertaining to the smoke alarms in your home and you need the advice of a professional, ESC stands ready to assist you in any and every way possible. If you have a fire alarm system and you’re having issues, also feel free to call on ESC. We offer the finest in service and installation in the state of Ohio.

Give us an opportunity to prove ourselves to you by calling me today. Use our quick response form on the right or visit our Contact Page.

John Larkin, Senior Partner

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