Have you ever been in a store when the fire alarm was being tested?

I was in the local Walmart recently. They made an announcement “Attention Walmart customers we will be testing our fire alarms”. The fire alarms sounded (ceiling-mount SpectrAlert Classics). I remember hearing someone in the store saying, “they sure have a strange sounding fire alarm”.

Yes I have.

However I was the one doing the testing. :wink:


Same here. But usually the stores have us come in about an hour before they open to do that.

Before I was in the industry, I worked at the data center for the local hospital. Right above my desk in the print shop was a Wheelock 7002T. One day, the thing went off when the building went into alarm (there was actually a small fire in the room across the hall when someone had shorted out some ups batteries and burnt away the insulation on the wires). The thing scared the stuff out of me!

It wasn’t exactly a store but where I work; the fire protection company we use came and completely drained out the sprinklers or did some sort of flow test and our alarms went off for about ten seconds (until my boss had enough and silenced it) :mrgreen:

I work at a Walmart, so my answer is yes. We have SpectrAlert Advance horn/strobes on Code-3 (most are ceiling-mount.) I remember in the back hall area (like where the receiving, stocking and maintenance supplies are located) it was really loud, echoey and obnoxious. But in the break room it wasn’t so bad, despite there being a horn/strobe right in the room (maybe it was set on low volume?) And when starting up they would do four or five blasts before pausing and then going into the usual Code-3. (I think that’s something with the System Sensor sync modules.)

I was also at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree, MA once when they were working on the fire alarms, a little over five years ago. So in one area of the mall I constantly heard the older Simplex slow whoop on vertical 4903 and TrueAlert speaker/strobes (they have a Simplex 4120 system network.) It wasn’t very loud at all.

Why does every Walmart/Sam’s Club (Not just the ones in my town) have Spectralerts? Be it Advances or Classics. Did Mr. Mcmillon or Mrs. Brewer get a good deal or something with system sensor? (Lol probably not, just making a joke. I know it has to do with whats cheapest at the time.)

5 times I can remember off hand:

1: KMart in Rochester, MN Ca. late 1980s/early 1990s

Alarm: 6" bell near service desk.

They were doing testing.

2: Hobby Lobby in Rochester, MN ca. 2000s

•Alarm: Radionics system with legacy SpectrAlerts set to Code-3.

•An adjoining store was setting up and somehow a sprinkler flow was tripped. (AFAIK no head was activated/tripped)

3: Goodwill Outlet, Dayton, OH. ca. 2009-ish

•Alarms: Simplex 4903. They looked like they had the electronic horn but when they sounded they sounded like a

-9219. All in Continuous.

•Testing again.

4: Hy-Vee, Austin, MN (mentioned this before)

•Alarms: Wheelock NS/RSS

•Work in back triggered some part of the system.

5: Walmart, Austin, MN, 2011

•Alarms: Radionics system tied in to a Safepath 4.

•5 second 1100Hz tone, then Message 3 played. Go to <LINK_TEXT text=“http://www.cooperindustries.com/content … urces.html”>http://www.cooperindustries.com/content/public/en/safety/notification/products/voice_evacuation/safepath_voice_evacuationsystem.resources.html</LINK_TEXT> and click on Standard Message 3.

•Sprinkler Testing, IIRC.

Probably just how the contracts worked when they built the stores. The walmarts in my area have mostly EST systems. One is part of a mall which has a huge EST system with Edwards 439-10AWGs, one has Integritys, and one has Genesis’.

I’ve been in stores/malls where there have been false alarms, but never for testing. I have seen them test systems in stores, however, they deactivated/silenced the NACs.

In the US, Walmarts tend to be divided based on when they were built/renovated. During the 2000s, they’re mostly SpectrAlerts. Earlier construction (at least as far as I’ve seen) uses Wheelock AS or MT horns. Every new (2010s or so) Walmart I’ve been in has Wheelock ceiling-mounted speakers.

Every Canadian Walmart I’ve been in has an EST system with Genesis horn/strobes. Seems to be quite the common setup in Ontario, as it is in neighboring parts of New York.

Back on topic, I was at Crossgates Mall in Albany when the building went off. At least back then, it had Wheelock EHS-DL1s and MTs on continuous. Obnoxiously loud.

They did that at my school over by the cafeteria this guy went in. The fire alarms went off for about 5 seconds. and a whole ton of water came out of this pipe. Does that mean they completely flushed the tanks to put in fresh water?

Sounds almost like they were performing a test on the sprinkler system. They open what is called an “inspector’s test” and flow water through it. They are located at the most remote end of a sprinkler system and are designed to simulate a sprinkler flowing water. As the water flows out, it trips the flow switch, which sends a signal to the panel sending it into alarm. I did a few of these a few years ago, lots of fun!

Most likely a periodic sprinkler system test. The pipe is the Inspectors Test which is placed at the end of a run and is calibrated to be the flow of one sprinkler head. It takes a fair amount of water to trip the fire alarm due to the delay built into the flow switch. Typically 20 seconds.

Typically one company has the national contract to install all of them being built during a certain period. After so many get built they get hard spec’d and nothing else can be installed.

A lot of retail stores are built on a “cookie cutter” format. I know of one drug store chain where they always place the fire alarm panel in the mezzanine electrical room and it’s always a Silent Knight SK-5208. Then there’s a grocery store where on the prints, they always place the sprinkler riser in this triangular shaped room in the front right side in the produce section or in the rear stock room - it even specifies to use the front room when the water supply comes in from the front or use the stock room location when the water source comes in from the back. This same grocery store even leaves a section of the cold food cases to be used two ways - stores that are allowed to sell alcohol, sell alcohol out of those cases. Stores that can’t, it’s “seasonal items” but the copper lines are roughed in just in case they can start selling alcohol.

I would imagine the big benefit of doing things this way is the retail company can better control the costs of building new stores. If they know they can build a new store for x-dollars, every other store after that should cost around the same. When it comes to fire alarm and sprinkler costs, you end up designing a system for one cookie cutter and can just copy and paste then tweak the design as needed. And you don’t have to pay someone to design a custom system for each building. Battery calculations would always be constant if they are using the same make/model of notification devices. Plus if they specify a common brand - like Wheelock or System Sensor that anyone can purchase - any company can come in and install devices.

For the sprinkler testing… More then likely, the sprinkler company wasn’t really flushing or draining the system - they were conducting their quarterly or annual flow testing. Basically, they open up an “inspectors test” valve somewhere in the system that simulates one sprinkler head being activated - and they are just verifying the waterflow alarm is working. Sometimes I’ll keep the valve open if the water is really dirty and I’m trying to clean off the sidewalk from the sprinkler water, but typically they only open the test valve for a minute or two. They should also be preforming a 2" main drain test but that is usually before the waterflow switch where the system enters the building and won’t trip the system. They really should disable the system before they do anything with it. I know some of the guys who really don’t care and just have someone at the panel to quickly hit the silence button when it goes off. There is a local school district around here that if the alarm goes off, even for a second, they have to evacuate the entire building, period. If we cannot disable the system, we don’t do anything. I’m lucky in that I understand both fire alarms and sprinklers and can easily disable the panels when I’m doing my sprinkler testing.

I’ll have to take some pictures next time I do a sprinkler inspection - just so some of the guys who don’t really see that part of it done know what’s going on.

Thanks that would be great! :smiley:

More so if you’re building 200 stores and only have to deal with one electrical for all 200 instead of 200 electricals…

Even if that main electrical subs out all the work too local electricians, the main company not in the business of building buildings but selling groceries or whatever doesn’t have to deal with whatever goes on down the line. Fire alarm problem? They call one guy.

Plus at that scale they always have negotiated prices.

I’d also like to add that regarding my Walmart, I learned that the Walmart corporation apparently designed the store’s alarm system, and that the contractors were simply following their plan and supplying the devices. This would explain why there are horn/strobes just about everywhere, even in smaller offices and rooms (though to be fair, the ones in the small rooms are probably set on “low” volume, like the one in the break room probably is.)

When the store was originally built in 1994, they had an FCI FC-72 system with Wheelock MT-24-WM horn/strobes, which was replaced when the store remodeled and became a supercenter last year. I even recall some co-workers told me the old alarms were worse than what we have now (apparently the old system was on Continuous.)

I even remember when I first began working there, the back restrooms still had the old Wheelock MTs intact but disconnected, along with the new ceiling-mount Spectra Advances. I remember when the alarm company was there fixing a trouble condition (the panel does seem to often go into “trouble,” and it has a very annoying trouble piezo too!) and they came into the mens’ room while I was cleaning it, I said to them that I hoped the Wheelock MT wasn’t hooked up, as having two horn/strobes in a restroom like this would’ve been crazy! They told me that it wasn’t, and that it will be taken down soon, so that was good. (I didn’t ask for them because I already have one in my alarm collection anyways!)

A lot of your national chains hire a national fire protection company to manage all of their sites. That national company then hires out individual local companies to do the work in specific locations. I’ve done work in Lowes, Home Depot, and Target just to name a few, but we are always working 3rd party for a national company. The entire process is a PITA - you have to call in when you get to the site, call out when you are done, and half the time if the invoice wasn’t entered into their system correctly, you end up calling a half-dozen phone numbers just to clear the workorder so you know your company will get paid! There was one national chain we did work for - 3rd party from a company in NY - where I would go out there in June to do a fire alarm inspection, only to return in July to do a sprinkler inspection, only to return in August to test the backflows. Maybe a total of 4 hours work and could all be done at one time, but that’s the way the national company wanted it done!

As far as I know a single engineering firm designs all of the Walmart systems. A single electrical used to be in charge of installing all of their systems too, but I don’t know if that’s still the case.

It’s not just Walmart stores around here. Lots of places in my area have SpectrAlerts and BG-12 pull stations. SpectrAlerts are very popular around here.