Showing posts with label false alarms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label false alarms. 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 ,
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, February 27, 2015

Q&A: Chain Link Fences and False Alarms

We're having false trips on an outside chain-link fence about once every two days. Can you advise us on possible causes and how to fix it?

It’s not uncommon for chain link fences to become susceptible to false alarms over the years for a variety of reasons. Before we go into the possible answers, let’s discuss how these barriers are commonly protected and what kinds of environmental conditions will affect the quality of use.

There are many ways to protect a chain link fence. Common methods include vibration sensors mounted on the fence fabric, metallic and fiber-optic cable designed to detect movement no matter how minute, light-of-site products that install inside the fence line, as well as several others that rely on either mechanical or electromagnetic disturbances of the wire mesh.

Most of the fence alarm systems mentioned above are susceptible to false alarms by a number of sources that usually boil down to a poorly maintained fence line. Probably the most common problem is that of excessive growth of foliage along fence lines. Trees with limbs that make contact with fences are especially troublesome during high winds. The other problem is torn fence fabric. The cure for all of these is to simply maintain your fence line.

With that said vibration sensors can require adjusting as they age. Adjustments in some systems must be done at the sensor while in others it’s performed in the main processor, usually by adjusting the detection threshold. In older devices this is performed using a small trim potentiometer on the processor circuit board. In newer systems sensor threshold adjustments is performed in software.

Probably the most false alarm-free detection technology is that of the taut-wire fence systems. The most common type mount atop the fence as well as at intervals along the fence line in a horizontal manner. These are spring-loaded, sensor-driven systems that require a more positive and verifiable means of detection. But like their on-fence sensor counterpart, you may have to tweak one or two sensors in a taunt-wire system over years of use.

If you have additional questions, or if the answer provided did not cover your specific application, please send an email with your situation and question to

John Larkin, Senior Partner