Extremely Loud Apartment Fire Alarm


The fire alarm at my apartment complex seems way too loud. Ear damagingly loud. From what I have read, per code, fire alarms are supposed to be 5 to 15 decibels above the prevailing noise level of the area where the building is located and shouldn’t be any louder than 115 decibels or so. On the high end, this is not supposed to be loud enough to do ear damage unless exposure is for over a minute or two. On the low end, ear damage shouldn’t be a problem I wouldn’t think.

I believe the alarm is a SpectrAlert P2415, or similar, from System Sensor. Here is a photo of the alarm.

I’m wondering, how loud can this alarm get? The specs I found online indicate around 85 to 100 decibels. But I believe the noise was much louder than that. 85 to 100 decibels would seem to be safe for the ears for a time, certainly for several minutes I would think. But the level of noise was not safe for any length of time I’d say. Seems to be a hazard if you’re trying to get out of the building carrying a baby or just in general. You and the kid would get your ears damaged as it takes time to go down the stairs and get out. The alarms are outside in the apartment entryways/stairs on each floor. And of course there are different alarms inside the apartments too.

Anyway, hope someone can give me some insight on how loud this alarm could potentially get and the safety and health implications of it. Could it be improperly set up to produce way too loud of a noise? Should the apartment complex management be testing this sort of thing and ensuring it is not damaging hearing? Any thoughts are appreciated.

I know for a fact they can be very low as 50 dB or high as 100 dB. Lol I have 8 and they are all on high volume and sound like my neighbors yelling at each other.

I have those neighbors too XD

The decibel ratings on spec sheets are often measured at a distance of 10 feet in a reverberant room, along with a close measurement in an anechoic space. A horn has the potential to be much quieter or louder than these ratings depending on the environment it’s installed in. Certain materials such as carpet and foam ceiling tiles will diffuse high-frequency sounds, while less-porous surfaces like concrete, glass, and drywall will reflect those frequencies. The shape of the room also has a lot to do with how sound is diffused or bounced.

The odds of any serious hearing loss occurring from it are low. I believe that some individuals have a greater psychosomatic sensitivity towards sound than others. The brain responds to jarring stimuli with an arousal of the sympathetic nervous system which magnifies the sensation and could be perceived as more painful than it actually is. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but it’s not a bad thing to be concerned about your hearing. Personality often has more to do with things like pain perception than physicality. I have a high tolerance towards sound which has led to permanent hearing loss and occasional tinnitus from loud music. Perhaps that’s reflective of my self-destructive side. :lol:

One nearly started a fight with my father because the neighbor kept on saying F you to my dad, and my dad responded. In the end, the cops were called, and the scene was not pretty. My neighbors and idiot lol.

Leason learned from that don’t puss of Brandon’s father XD

You sound like me and my dad. My dad was a child of the '80s, and whenever him or I listen to music, you can hear it crystal-clear from the other end of the house! :lol: My mom is very concerned I’ll suffer hearing loss like my dad, so she nags on me to wear ear plugs whenever I test fire alarms.

For whatever reason, my bell doesnt bother me, but I can’t be in the same room as my MT when I set it off! :lol:

You mentioned your apartment had different alarms inside. So the SpectrAlert is louder than them? That’s crazy!

I have a “classic” SpectrAlert myself, and it’s one of my quieter alarms (I can even test it without wearing ear protection!) But mine is set on low volume; that one must be on high. However, it’s successor, the SpectrAlert Advance, is DEFINITELY louder.

As for those decibel ratings, it seems the older fire alarms prior to the 1980s were generally louder than the fire alarms of today. (The Simplex 4040s at my high school definitely surpass many of those newer alarms in volume!) And then alarm speakers can vary quite a bit in volume. I’ve heard a few that were rather loud, and even some that I’d be standing right under and it wouldn’t bother my ears at all.

Somewhere Andrew said somthing about volume,tone, and “loundness”…

I blive it was:

Higher pitch+low volume= low pitch+ high volume

Examples: Spectra Alert Advanced on low volume= DEAFNESS, 4030 on, well ‘Normal’= tolerable

One reason why electromechanicals tend to be louder is that they occupy a wider frequency range, giving a more acoustic and full-bodied sound than electronic horns which may put out only a few frequencies. It’s also a reason why some speakers seem louder. Another factor is that lower amplitude sounds travel farther and aren’t muffled as much by carpeting and other soft surfaces in the room.

The SpectrAlert Classic puts out maybe two or three harmonic frequencies which beat together and create a slightly abrasive yet still tonal quality. The Advance has a “broadband” tone which involves at least one of those frequencies being rapidly modulated by a sine wave, causing the atonal fluttery quality that pains your eardrums. It covers a wider frequency range similar to electromechanicals and will have greater throughput to your ears than an electronic horn with static frequencies.

Thanks for the info! :smiley: