Have any of you that went to college/are in college have dorms or buildings on your campus with 2-stage systems or systems with alarm verification?
My college campus did not have 2-stage systems in any of the dorms, despite most of them having voice evac systems and fairly high end panels (Siemens FireFinder XLS/Simplex 4100ES). The largest dorm on campus had alarm activations nearly every week, and the entire 14-story building had to be evacuated. (They didn’t use floor above/below evacuation either, so the entire building was evacuating at once.)
Are there sometimes local ordinances or state laws that prevent the use of 2-stage systems? In the case above, it seems like it would have been hugely beneficial to install 2-stage in that dorm. Upon activation an RA/RD can investigate within a few minutes and if it’s real, just pull a pull station to trigger building wide evacuation. Otherwise they can reset it and no one has to evacuate at 3am because someone burnt popcorn or a drunk kid thought it would be fun to pull the alarm.
2-stage systems aren’t something that the codes in the US provide for. It would require approval for a variance from the local Authority Having Jurisdiction.
These systems are mainly used in airports where false evacuations would cause a “ripple effect” of disruptions, not to mention the need for all guests to re-enter through security.
Where approved, here is how these systems generally work.
- Any activation results in a standby message such as these:
Notifier: Good morning las Vegas - YouTube
Siemens: (the system in the video is a floor-by-floor setup but it’s the only one I could find with this message) 05/05/2021 Bell Test (Siemens FireFinder w/ EVAC) - YouTube
- If the alarm is not silenced in X minutes, the evacuation message begins.
- The evacuation message will begin immediately if a second initiating device gets activated.
Just curious: what was the usual cause of the false alarms in that particular dorm?
Aside from the code issues referenced above, here’s the other obstacle to a 2-stage system like that: every RA that could conceivably be stationed at the dorm would have to be trained on how to interact with the dorm’s fire alarm system. How to acknowledge an alarm, how to interpret the display, and then the RA will be tasked with determining whether the 3am smoke coming from a room is in fact a fire or just some long-overcooked popcorn. Additionally, since the verification of a fire is now partially in the hands of a human (even a 90-second delay can cost lives!), there must be a qualified investigator in the building around the clock. It’s ultimately less expensive and less complicated to let the 3am alarms ring on, and wherever possible, pass the cost to the residents.
That’s how it works at my college - if the fire alarm is tripped by a student, the entire dorm is fined $5(ish?) to cover the cost.
Yeah, usually it’s more of a Canadian thing, and even then I rarely see the systems. Schools/Universities usually are required to have single stage systems, and second stage systems are usually found in places like hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, older hotels, etc. Places that wouldn’t want to evacuate if there wasn’t a real emergency. They also have them in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Canada. They used to be older Edwards systems, I think they were replaced with Siemens 2 stage systems recently with the upgrades they were going through.
I think the primary cause is freshmen doing dumb things like smoking weed in their rooms, vaping too close to their HFP-11 (which I hear are pretty good at detecting real vs. false alarms), and on at least one instance, a fraternity had pledges pull the alarm in that building.
Pulling false alarms is a huge issue in that building, I’ve heard from RAs. And only that building! No other dorm on campus even came close to the amount of falses from this dorm (the one I stayed in freshman year, I never even once heard the alarm go off, I was in class during the one and only drill).
Cameras have since been added to the dorm but they do not cover all of the pull stations (such as ones at the bottom of stairwells). I’ve heard that they added ink to the pulls, but you can easily get around that by pulling with a glove or some other object.
That dorm with the constant malicious pulls may also want to consider installing break-glass Stoppers: STI-4100 - STI US
and/or posting signage such as “Misuse of this alarm will result in disciplinary action and prosecution - [RELEVANT_STATUTE_HERE]”
In my case, the fire alarm system in my college dorm is always in MANUAL mode, and there’re always security personnel staying in the fire alarm control room. That means all the alarm inputs (smokes, heats, pulls) will only trigger the panel buzzer and the man on duty would inspect the zone where the alarms come from. If there is an actual fire outbreak, he’ll activate the NACs manually and then switch the panel to AUTO mode to enable all the linkage action (Mains power emergency cut-off, emergency stop of elevators & HVAC systems, automatic shutoff of fireproof doors & curtains, auto-start of smoke extractor fans etc.) If it’s just a false alarm, he’ll just silence it and reset the panel.
Or just use key-operated “jail version” alarm switches?
From what I’ve heard from others, a positive alarm sequence tends to be a more accepted method in the US compared to two stage alarm systems. NFPA 72 (ver. 2022) 22.214.171.124 describes the process in more detail.