Five Fire alarm facts:

by Rick Overholt on February 11, 2019

Five fire alarm facts you might not be aware of, and, who is ultimately responsible for the fire alarm in a building?

I recently attended a seminar in Houston that was hosted by Texas Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Ernest McCloud, and Jason Webb, Business Development Rep for Potter Controls. (February, 2019)

Jason Webb, former AHJ presenting in Houston

The seminar was well attended by Fire Marshal representatives from mostly around the Houston Metro area.  The focus was on properly commissioning a Fire alarm and the question was asked who is ultimately responsible that a fire alarm is tested and commissioned properly?

Answer: The building owner. –  they most often fulfill this duty by hiring a licensed company.

Here are a few high points from the meeting:

  • There is typically a 15 year delay for the Fire Code to keep up with technology.
  • Some local area fire marshals still require a fire alarm to connect to a “POTS” old tech standard phone line – in spite of the fact that this technology is set to be shut down in less than two years.
  • Elevators should only be controlled by smoke detectors in the elevator lobby, shaft and equipment room.  Pull stations and other smoke detectors should not affect elevator operation.

The role of Fire Alarms in active shooter situations was discussed,  including the following points:

  • The local fire marshal, can override the installing of pull stations at every exit, as long as automatic detection is installed per code.   This in view of 2 out of 16 school active shooter events that involved fire alarm activation.
  • A system may delay full activation of the fire alarm under the following circumstance:
  •  The alarm is manually acknowledged at the control panel within 15 seconds AND
  • Someone visually checks the area of the alarm within 180 seconds of the alarm.  If there is no sign of fire they may reset the alarm.

Kudos to Texas Assistant FM Ernest McCloud and Jason Webb for a very informative presentation! Lots of participation and note taking.


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