Fire Alarm Shutdowns

There is a practice in the fire alarm industry that is causing a concern among fire officials and should be a concern for the fire industry as well. That is the practice of disabling fire alarm systems for work to be done in the building. This can be a plumber doing soldering in the corridors to major demolition to the annual fire inspection itself.

It is a good idea for the industry to come up with a Best Practices for dealing with these shutdowns. If an emergency were to occur during the shutdown, how does a) the fire department get dispatched and b) how do the occupants of the building get notified of an emergency?

There are different levels of shutdowns that we deal with. We can be asked to disable monitoring, disable the outputs, disable the notification appliances, disable a floor or area or even a single device.

When it comes to re-enabling these bypasses there can be a variety of different ways to do that. Some of the newer panels use software to bypass functions and can be reinstated by pushing a few buttons or a few keystrokes. On older systems wires are often disconnected requiring these wires to be reconnected before the system is functional again.

On top of that buildings themselves have different levels of supervisory staff available, Some buildings have a full compliment of maintenance & security people who are thoroughly trained while others may not have anybody in the building at all.

How do we deal with shutdowns in these various scenarios?

The Alberta (& National) Fire Code requires that the fire department be notified of any shutdown lasting more than 2 hours. The Code also mandates that any shutdown be isolated to as small an area as possible. All provisions of the Fire Code are the responsibility of the owner except for the notification which falls on the fire servicing company involved with the system.

In order to ensure the safety of the occupants, the following is recommended:

If at all possible, only disable the device(s) in the immediate area of the work being done. Advise the monitoring station to ignore only trouble signals so that a real fire alarm would be processed normally. The contractor working in the area where the devices are bypassed will then be advised to call 911 plus activate a pull station in an area that was not bypassed if anything were to happen in the area where they are working. This advice must be in written form. Have the contractor sign a copy of the form and retain a copy to be faxed in to the fire department if the shutdown is in excess of 2 hours.

In a case where the monitoring must be bypassed or a large area is bypassed or all of the outputs disabled then a trained person must be left at the fire panel until the system is restored. This trained person must be able to:

A) Call 911 in the event of an emergency.

B) Reinstate and activate the visual and audible alarm signals.

C) Reinstate the monitoring connection and activate an alarm so that the alarm signal goes through to the monitoring station.