My School's (and District's) Fire Alarm System History: Complete

This is the history of my school/district’s fire alarm system, from when my district was formed from combining the small school district in my village (town) with the one in the adjacent township. Dates are concurrent with the time of the merger, construction of the buildings in the district, and the release of products by Simplex Time Recorder Co. (all from many years before the Tyco acquisition and subsequent merger with Grinnell).



If any enthusiasts or technicians have any more accurate dates or information that contradict what I’ve gathered here, feel free to chime in as I’d be very interested when said upgrades actually took place as I have never seen to have found any official documentation or detail from the district, so all of this info is estimated or gathered by me with dates and years of known building construction/additions/renovations, etc. In the future I’d like to get in contact with my district to see if they have any of this official documentation that sheds light on when exactly this occurred, but all of this is coming from what I know for right now.



First we need to start many years before the consolidation and formation of my current school district from the old buildings that existed since before the time this took place.



1921-1923: Both the local village’s K-12 school and the adjacent township’s school are constructed during this time. They are brick, three story school buildings similar to school architecture at the time. At this time, both schools house both elementary, middle, and high school students in the same building until my district’s formation in the early 1950’s.



Early 1950’s: The two communities vote to combine their two smaller school districts into one local school district. Consolidation was approved and the district was officially named, unfortunately which I cannot disclose due to privacy concerns. Land is set aside on former horse show/farming fields for the construction of new school buildings.



1951-1952: Construction of a new elementary school, a new middle school, and a new high school are completed during this time. The township’s elementary school received a substantial addition to their 1920’s facility during this time (as well as in 1967) and the village would receive an addition of a gymnasium and an annex building (detached) to their facility in the early 1960’s.



The high school was built in 1951 and received additions in 1953, 1956, 1963, 1967, 1970, 1982, and lastly in 1994 (addition and renovations completed in 1995). We will be focusing on this building the most as it is the one I attend (I moved here going into the ninth grade so I didn’t go to any of the other schools). So many additions have been completed in this building that it has a total of 31 different roofs, which would cost $5 million to repair to make them leakproof. As you can imagine the resulting costs make it much cheaper to build a new building, a bond issue was approved last year and construction will start adjacent to the current building in 2018.



Anyways, back to the history.



Sometime in Between 1953 and 1956: A time system is installed by the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM). This time system was to my knowledge not finished by the time Simplex bought IBM as there was substancial additions done in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the master clock system is indeed Simplex.



Around this time, my school I believe did not have a fire alarm system. It may have had one of those old coded systems, but there is no prescence of such system if it existed; it was completely removed when the current fire alarm system was put in during the 1980’s and 1990’s.



1970: The main gymnasium is added onto the building. Pull station(s) is/are first generation 4251-20’s with the metal handle and no arrow below the ‘PULL DOWN’ lettering. No other changes to the system are made at this time.



1982: My Local School District takes a step to upgrade and overhaul all the fire alarm systems in all buildings in the district. The winning bid is awarded to Simplex Time Recorder Co. of Gardner, Mass. in conjunction with the regional Ohio branch of Simplex. All systems in all 3 elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school are of the same type. The panels used are Model 4002 conventional FACP’s. Signals used are Simplex 2903-9101 strobe plates with 2901-9838 horns mounted on them. Many are surface mounted on the 2975-9145 backboxes, but a few are recessed into the cinder block walls of each building and flush mounted. Trim plates are not utilized, making tiny gaps between the hole in the wall and the devices present. All traces of the original system are removed as part of this project. At this time the only smoke detector installed in the high school is the one which recalls the elevator, which is accessed with a special key from the front office to prevent misuse. The high school is the only building in the district to have an elevator. Additional pull stations added are Simplex 4251-20 type conventional pull stations. Signal coding on all the 4002 units are set to march time at a rate of 120 beats per minute. All existing Simplex Local Alarm Chevron pull stations and the 1st generation 4251-20 in the high school are retained. All of the other buildings receive complete replacements of all devices. In the elementary school in my village, 4251-30 break glass type stations were utilized instead of the 4251-20’s used in the other buildings; the purpose of which is unknown.



The systems in operation in the high school, middle school, and two elementary schools (not including the one in my village) retain their original 4002 panels at least until 1994.



1994-1995: Another fire Alarm upgrade is conducted as the two elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school are being renovated and the middle and high school both receiving additions to the building. The contract is once again awarded to Simplex.



Around this time, the elementary school in my village is permanently closed. Students at that building are consolidated into the two remaining buildings located elsewhere in the district.



Simplex begins work on altering the fire alarm systems in the newer (1960’s) elementary school, the middle school, and the high school once renovations and additions are nearing completion. The high school system is upgraded first before other buildings recieved theirs, hence the differences in the devices you’re about to hear (Simplex was in the process of changing their product lines around during the 1990’s).



In the high school, a Simplex 4020 MAPNET II addressable, two bay FACP replaces the 4002. This system is one of the most advanced at the time, and in new additions and renovated areas, Simplex MAPNET II addressable TrueAlarms (Hochiki version) are installed, as well as Simplex 2099-9761 series dual action addressable pulls in these areas. All the other areas not affected by said renovations and additions retain their notification appliances and initiation devices from the 1982 upgrade.



The notification appliances installed in upgraded areas are Simplex 2901-9846 100 decibel horns on Simplex 4903-9104 (15/75 cd) strobe plates (which were made by Gentex for Simplex) to satisfy ADA requirements in those areas, which would have to be followed there. Most of these new notification appliances are flush mounted, however in the library, some are surface mounted using retrofit plates and 2975-9145 boxes turned horizontal. The new science wing also receives these new notification appliances and pull stations as well as the chemistry classrooms which were renovated (NA’s in the hall are still 2903’s and a 4251-20 is there but in the 2 classrooms are these devices. The new photography wing, library, and video production classroom (upstairs from the science wing) also recieved these new devices. The existing NA’s from 1982 are tied into the system using a 4009 N.A.C. Power Extender, and I believe the conventional devices were retained using some kind of module or program. The addressable devices in the new areas went directly to the panel, however. Some of the 2099-9761’s are mounted on 2099 flush mount trim plates, but not all are done this way.



The middle school received the same pulls and also a 4020 panel, and again all devices prior to the additions and renovations there were retained. However the new NA’s there are slightly different: same -9104 plates but they had 4901-9805 horns mounted on them (this was just after the 2901 series was discontinued), and because the upgrade here was done some time after the one at the high school, the NA’s were different due to this factor.



I’m not sure what both other elementary schools got because I’ve never been inside them. As you all know the since long abandoned elementary school in my village was torn down because a housing developer bought the land, and the building was in real bad shape from vandalism and being abandoned for nearly 25 years. Before the building was torn down though the demolition workers were kind enough to salvage several of the devices for me, which is how I drew the conclusion to the district wide upgrade (that and because all the alarms from the '82 upgrade in my district are all the same). I was unable to get the panel and all the pulls I got were broken, but the alarms work perfectly fine.



Anyways, I hope you all enjoy this history/timeline I put together. I spent a very long time typing this up and thinking about it, so enjoy! Feel free to offer any insight/feedback below, as I’d love to hear it!

This is a really interesting write-up and I like how the system has changed over time! I wish that I could do a write-up like this but I don’t know what other horns my schools had besides the ones they had when I was there and the ones they have now.

I may be incorrect here, but my knowledge serves me correctly, the 4001 and 4002 panels didn’t launch until 1985-1986. If the upgrades were completed in 1982, the panels almost certainly would have been 2001 models.


I have to agree. I found an old FSB with the 4002 software release dates.



Rev 0.05 2-12-87 Pre-release to branches for demo and training panels.

Rev 1.00 4-2-87 First production release.

I was guessing either one or the other, but yeah I was thinking about that myself and though that was way too early for a 4002, so they must’ve been 2001 models. Unfortunately without any trace of said panels existing anymore and the countless renovations that happened since then it’s hard to tell…I bet the administration might know, but a lot of people there are relatively new so they might not have a clue. Thanks for the help!

Anybody know what would have been used in 1918? That is when my elementary school was first built and it was before they put the addition on in the late-80s to early-90s or around there I think (which was the cafeteria/gymnasium).


Probably a “pull rod” alarm. Basically someone would have to go and pull a big rod that connected the floors and ring the bells.

A pull rod system would be my opinion too.

Here is a web link to a site with more information.

<LINK_TEXT text=“http://oldschoolfirealarms.com/pull-rod … m-systems/”>http://oldschoolfirealarms.com/pull-rod-fire-alarm-systems/</LINK_TEXT>

OK but what notification appliance would be used back then? Would it be a fire bell or an AC horn or what?

The notification appliance would have originally been the trip bell connected to the pull rod. Until the advent of electrical actuators as mentioned in the webpage Retired STR-SG linked, there were no electrical components in these “systems” - pulling the rod would release a spring mechanism to ring a single stroke of the bell.

To solve the question of whether or not a 2001 was used in these installations, I turned to the label on the back of the alarms that came out of the old elementary school in my village which was recently demolished. The 2903’s have an ID tag similar to those used on the 4903-9101 series strobe plates, and since most Simplex products have a date code on them, I thought that perhaps this label could give us a clue of when they might’ve been installed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe these are first generation 2801-9838s on these strobe plates due to the different font used in the label being the older kind before Faraday started using the Arial style font.

Can a moderator please delete the post with the photos since they didn’t go through anyways? I’m gonna have to use a different image hosting thing from now on because there’s no way I’m gonna pay to do that…that’s just stupid. :roll:



I think I’ll just link them to my YouTube account’s Google Drive instead. And now I can’t delete my Photobucket account either so…

Images have been deleted. If you’d like, you can email your pictures to my YouTube email address and I will post them for you.

So there would only have been one ring of the bell and that would tell everybody to evacuate? I sure hope that bell was loud enough then.

Oh yes, they are loud. Not that I’ve heard one in person (only on YouTube), but they were on each floor of the school building from what I’ve heard, and sometimes they had more than one.

Realistically, the person who discovered the fire would likely pull the rod multiple times to alert the facility’s occupants, but you are correct that pulling the rod once would only ring the bell once.

OK. And realistically, how long would this system stay up for? Since all of the schools in my district had Simplex 4051s+4050-80s at one point (and I think only the junior highs have them left), would they be up until the 1970s or would they be replaced with an upgrade sooner?

EDIT: 2001 panels were used instead of 4002’s, since those were not in production yet until 1985-1986.



Also throughout the 2000’s, a 4903-9252 was added on a retrofit plate to replace a -9846 combo in the aux gym which was added after the '94 upgrade because it died; 9 2903 combo units were replaced with Wheelock HSR Exceder Horn Strobes in the 2010’s, and a Simplex 4 wire TrueAlert was also added to replace a dead 2903 combo in the 2000’s. All the replacements were due to said devices not working anymore, but all the others still work fine.

Well as long as they are only replaced because they don’t work anymore thats good.