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A false fire alarm, whether accidental or on purpose, can cost the fire department at least $600 to answer. Even worse, it takes those firefighters and trucks away from true emergency calls. Some fire departments charge businesses that have frequent false alarms to offset the cost. You can avoid this unnecessary charge for your business with careful management of your alarm system.
Tip #1: Consider the Placement
There are two types of manual fire stations used in most commercial alarm systems – the wall-mounted pull station and the fire exit handlebar. Pull stations should be high enough off the ground so that they are out of the reach of small children, but easily reachable by adults. If possible, place a video surveillance camera near pull stations to discourage pranksters, especially if you have had problems in the past.
Fire doors need to be clearly marked as such to discourage other uses. Make sure it's obvious that an alarm will sound. Once again, this is a good area for video surveillance if you have had past problems.
Tip #2: Look for Outside Stimulants
It's not always people that set off the fire alarm system. Burnt popcorn from the break room or dust from a remodeling project can set off the alarm. In most cases, you have no control over where the alarms are located – this is decided by local fire code.
Instead, you have a choice of what type of alarm to install. Choose local alarms for areas that are prone to false alarms, such as break rooms. This gives you a chance to verify that there is a real emergency and not just burnt popcorn before calling in the fire brigade.
Tip #3: Hire Outside Help
An alarm monitoring company may be the best choice, especially if your business is prone to false alarms. These companies call first to verify that there is an emergency before sending the alarm notification through to the fire department. Keep in mind, that this can impact response time during a real emergency.
Another option is to use verification alarms. These check the air for both smoke and heat. When they receive an alarm, they wait 30 seconds or so and then check for smoke and heat again. Only if it's still present do they activate. Since cooking smoke generally begins to disperse quickly, this can cut down on false alarms.
Finally, keep your system fully maintained. Regular cleaning and testing is necessary to make sure your system works correctly and doesn't go off due to mechanical error. Generally, you want to to test the alarms twice yearly. Many people do it during the fall and spring Daylight Savings Time clock changes. You will also want your fire system installer to perform a full inspection annually.