This weekend our dept. was dispatched to a local restaurant for fire alarm activations twice. Once Saturday and once Sunday. Both days the fire alarm was reset prior to our arrival. Saturday no one advised them not to reset the panel prior to arrival. On Sunday I advised the staff not to reset the panel prior to our arrival and told them that they could be fined for tampering with fire safety equipment.


My question is how many depts. issue fines, or does a state or county Fire Marshal's office issue fines and do you give warning prior to the issuance of the fine?

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Hello bill to answer your question we do issue fines for back to back fire alarm calls if the company has not fixed the alarm problem
i wish we could give fines but unfortunately we can't we can advise them until we drop dead but that's as much as we can do and we also have those frequent fliers that just love to shut the alarm up first and then worry about what set it off
Resetting the alarm before arrival at times just masks the underlying problem.

Now as far as fines.... This is not as simple as it sounds. You need to have a town or city ordinance that a private business or homeowner will understand and follow. Without one, your fine means nothing. It is a private alarm system and they are responsible for the fire alarm maintenance and technically, responsible for re-setting the system. If you do it wrong or zone it out without notifying the building owner the fire department can be on the hook for damages.

Ours is a city ordinance, and states all fire alarms will be left in alarm until the fire department arrives to inviestigate the cause, and if the fire department has 2 or more responses in a 24 hour period for undetermined alarms, we "can" fine the establishment for false activations. So a false and then a legit alarm in a 24 hour period, like a (pull station) is not fineable. Our internal SOG states nothing gets reset without a cause and a fix, otherwise we are to zone out the problem area and reset the remaining system. The private repair company can then see the problem which is zoned out, and can be repaired properly. This does two things, it reduces potential false activations, and the ugly PR matter of fining someone for actually having a fire alarm system in place.
To much of a hassel to fine them. It seems like most hotels and motels want to reset right away, before investigating.. it usually is a false alarm, so they get complacent. They don't want to disturb the guests is what I have been told. Some day it will happen to them, they will try and reset, and they will get someone killed or hurt. Complacency kills...
If they reset, it always seems to go off again at 3am. Why the hell don't false alarms happen during the day? Why must it be in the wee hours of the morning... just sayin
If they have checked the building and there is no smoke or fire I see no problem in them resetting the alarm. It's their alarm system so we alwyas make the property owner reset them themselves even when we are there. We do this because of liability issues. If we reset the alarm improperly and break the alarm system it's opur liability to have it repaired. If they break it that's their problem.
We only fine them if the alarm is is a false alarm set off due to equipment malfunction or because they were testing the system and failed to notify us that they woud be testing it or it was set off due to construction dust or cleaning.

As a fire alarm technician, I am charged with repairing faulty fire alarm systems. Often I arrive on the site of a false alarm. The most common cause of false alarms is a faulty smoke detector.

While it’s still in alarm it’s easy for me to find the bad smoke detector. Sometimes, however, I have a problem finding the bad smoke detector;the system has been reset before I get there. The firefighters, after searching the building for a fire, haven’t found the faulty smoke detector; before leaving the firefighters reset the panel.

I then get called after the third false alarm, which is after the fire department has threated fines. My problem is, without finding the culprit causing the false alarms, the firefighters have been the ones to reset the system.

When the fire panel is reset, the whole fire alarm system is no longer broke, and I can’t fix it if it aint broke.

My only option is to tell the building management that after the next false alarm they should not reset the system. I also have to leave a note to the firefighters, requesting them to not reset the system either.

Is there some way for the firefighters to stand there until the building owners request the on-call fire alarm technician to come right away? If this is done, the firefighters can maybe leave the site knowing that the fire alarm company is going to come right away to fix the problem.

If there is no fire then why can't they reset the alarm. Actually we (the Fire dept) do no reset any alarms as they are the business or homeowners property and if we mess with it and break it, it would be our liability. We get quite a few fire alarms and I am actually glad when the business calls and says to cancel out as it's a false alarm asthen I can cancel the engine companies responding quicker and thus save on fuel and wear and tear on the rigs.

We have had occupancies that reset or disable their alarm systems, but most often they are activated on our arrival and we put it into silent mode.  The system is not disabled, only the audible alarms, this allows us to search the premise and generally find the activated head that's in alarm.

@Doug D

Do you really let the business/occupancy make the determination that there is no fire?  We've had numerous business alarms and it ended up being a smoke detector in the ductwork and an air handler motor burned out as the culprit.  There is a potential for electrical fire from such an occurrence.  Even with automatic alarms at residences and the homeowner with the proper code stating it was caused by the shower, or burned food, someone always continues to the scene to confirm and at least one engine continues at flow of traffic.  Otherwise we as a department are at fault because we're the experts, not the home or business owners.  As or liability for breaking the system, never been an issue here and if there are any questions, the FMO is called and we let them handle it.

As Jack mentions, there is an aspect of leaving the alarm in a silenced mode. Sometimes the reason for the alarm is easy to find, kid pulled a pull station, burnt food, shower steam, etc. Then there are times we have to find a cause and sometimes can find a bad smoke detector, etc. Usually the alarm panel can not be reset until the problem is fixed (IE reset a pull station), it can be silenced, but typically not reset.


Is there some way for the firefighters to stand there until the building owners request the on-call fire alarm technician to come right away? If this is done, the firefighters can maybe leave the site knowing that the fire alarm company is going to come right away to fix the problem.


In many cases, no. It may depend upon the department and call volume etc, but to have the FD babysit a building because of a faulty alarm system is really not a FD responsibility. If there is no hazard, there is no reason to sit on scene waiting for a third party person to arrive, especially when there are other calls and emergencies to take care of.


There have been a few occassions where the alarm system could not be reset.....again most times the system won't reset unless the problem is taken care of.....and the alarm was left in a silence mode. On these occassions, the building owner is contacted and it is their responsibility to ensure a fire watch is set while awaiting a vendor. The FD (at least us) can't just leave the building without having someone there to watch the place, even if we are assured someone is coming.

I am from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where there are 110 municipalities. This means 200 different ways of the fire fighters handling false alarms.

An example in one municipality is that I have seen one fire station allowed the owners to silence the alarms if the owners know that it was a false alarm. One time, however, another station in the same municipality responded to the site; these firefighters gave the owners a royal chew out for doing just that.

In a few municipalities (those with U L fire alarm systems), we (the company responsible for maintaining the fire alarm system) are required by law to be on site within 2 hours of an alarm. The owner is not allowed to silence it or reset the system, and, knowing we are going to arrive within that 2 hours to fix the system, the firefighters don’t reset it.  In this case, the fire department requires written documentation that we have been there and that we have fixed it. This documentation includes the requirement that the owner performs fire walks until the system has been fixed. (This gives the owner motivation to get the system fixed right away.)

Each fire department operates differently, and the response by the fire department runs the gambit all the way to seeing the detector that went into false alarm, the fire department is the one to reset the system.

(In the case I’m thinking of, the firefighters themselves reset the system after seeing which detector went into false alarm, but the detector went into false alarm again before the firefighters hit the end of the driveway. The owners, not wishing to pay for an overtime call, weren’t going to call us about the false alarm until the next convenient business day; after the second time the detector went into alarm though, the owners had to call us right away.)

Before the system is reset by the owner or the firefighters, I’m just looking for some way I can get there to fix the system. If I can’t get there, sooner or later the system is going to go into alarm again, and the fire department is going to have to respond, again.

Of course when this happens, the fire department gets mad at the owner for not having the system fixed, and the owner gets mad at me for not fixing the system.

You are correct, it is not reasonable for me to ask that firefighters stick around until I arrive.

The problem I’m talking about, though, is when the owner, at the direction of the firefighters, tries to reset the system while the firefighters are on site. This is the problem I’d like addressed here.

Pressing that reset button on the fire alarm panel, no matter who does it or when they do it, resets the detector that went into alarm.

There is a reason that before I arrive, the system should not be reset. When it’s reset, I can’t fix the system because the bad detector isn't showing bad anymore, and the false alarm is going to happen again. Can’t help it, that’s the way electronics work.

The alarm, of course, requires the fire fighters to respond, again, to another false alarm. No one is happy with that.

Actually, I’m not looking for the firefighters to stay on site until I arrive; I’m just looking for the firefighters require the owners to call us to fix the system right away. That way, the firefighters can leave while the system still in alarm (along with the imposition of fire walks and any other needed safety requirements).

Doug, doesnt the alarm panel allow you to view the alarm history and make printouts of all activity including which head activated?  I work with alarm systems and sprinkler systems in developmentaly disabled homes as a fire inspector and the systems we have allow you to do that, as well as the monitoring agency.

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