Pull stations with the key inserted in buildings.

Have you been in buildings that had pull stations with the key inserted? At a Petsmart that just opened near me, there are two visible Bosch pull stations, one by the front entrance and one by a back emergency exit. Both pull stations have the key inserted.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this type of situation in my area. I’ve come across a few panels and annunciators with keys in their locks, but I’ve never seen a key left in a pull station.

A few years ago, however, I saw this FCI pull station at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale :

I have never come across a situation where a key was ever left in the panel, the annunciator or the pull station.

I’ve seen a key in an annunciator at a bookstore once. That’s about it.

Not surprising if you live in Rhode Island. Not sure on the specifics of the laws there but they are tough on who’s granted access to fire alarm equipment. I sent a defective control panel back to its’ manufacturer through a distributor in the Cranston area, and when I brought it into the building, I was advised to leave it in its box, don’t show that I had a key for it, and do not remove the control board from the chassis myself. The reason? The representative told me that in the state of Rhode Island, just putting the key into the box or touching the internal components without being a firefighter or licensed technician, is considered a FELONY - go to prison, lose your right to vote, the whole she-bang. Doesn’t matter if the system is live or my own panel just sitting in its packaging.

Do you think this law has ever been used against hobbyists?

I honestly couldn’t tell you if it has because I do not know of anybody at all that actually LIVES in Rhode Island or who would work here nor would I know any of the codes for the alarms that are used. The closest I get to having an enthusiast live near me is probably Massachusetts but I haven’t really seen anybody on the forum or on YouTube who collects alarms and lives in the state.

Though I will say that CoolSimasGuy, while he doesn’t collect alarms himself, actually lives in Warwick which isn’t that far from where I live.

To be honest, the distributor I went to in Rhode Island seemed to never have heard of a fire alarm enthusiast before so I don’t know if they’d use it against me but since it was an official business that only served contractors I can’t blame them for making sure they keep up with the rules as much as possible.

And Simplex 4051 it’s funny, I live in Massachusetts too, I have a fire alarm system installed in my basement; the field wiring is “hardwired” but the AC connection is just a regular 3-prong plug so it’s technically not a permanent fixture (if what I’m reading in the state’s codes is interpreted the way I see it). But in years of watching inspections and fire drills in MA (sometimes the firemen on duty would let me pull the alarm for drills at my old school!) I’ve never seen such strict rules like in RI. Yeah, they have to be careful about who’s allowed to touch these things, but aside from malicious prank pulls, I’ve seen very few people outside the industry actually interested in obtaining a key to access panels and other peripherals.

I once saw a CAT-45 key left in a Gamewell Zans 400 panel at a store. The key disappeared after a few months, then the panel disappeared and was replaced with a Notifier system. I’m willing to bet the panel went into false alarm frequently, explaining why the key was there and why it was eventually replaced.

Well if there are strict laws against tampering with a panel or making a false alarm, I wonder if they were implemented a bit later than other codes? My elementary school had a lot of people pulling the alarm but in most cases it was just some confused primary grader. Only one time I can think of where someone (in the same grade as me: 6th) pulled it maliciously. In middle school, it happened only slightly less. In high school, it NEVER happened because there was Stopper covers on the pulls and nobody was stupid enough to try to pull it in the Modular building. If laws were REALLY strict back when I was in elementary and middle school (1997 to 2004, 2004 to 2006), I would have imagined a lot of kids being expelled.

I’d imagine that as far as malicious/accidental activations in schools go they’re about as strict as anyone else; if the kid that pulled the alarm when you were in 6th grade had somehow found a key and started screwing with the control panel he would have almost certainly been expelled.

Couldn’t tell you when these strict rules were implemented since I don’t really keep up with state laws outside of Massachusetts’ (since I live there and have to toe the line with my basement system), I just follow the NFPA publications for guidelines when wiring my system up. I only know the RI regulations based off what the distributor representatives were telling me while they were handling my faulty FACP.

Maybe all these strict laws in Rhode Island were implemented as a reaction to The Station nightclub fire?

i see keys in fire alarm panels all the time, but they’re already located in locked electrical closets.

pull stations very rarely have them.

From the State of Rhode Island General Laws - Title 11 Criminal Offenses - Chapter 4 Arson & Fire:

§ 11-4-10 Interference with fire alarm apparatus – Penalty.

Every person who unlawfully and without just cause willfully or knowingly tampers with, interferes with or in any way impairs any public fire alarm apparatus, wire or associated equipment shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not less than one thousand ($1,000) nor more than five thousand ($5,000) dollars, or shall be imprisoned for not less than one nor more than five (5) years, or both.

So technically, yes, it would be a felony to open up a panel and start messing around with things. And a felony is defined as more then one year in prison. BUT, if you look at the code, it specifically states “who unlawfully and without just cause”. I would find it hard to believe a system owner who opens up the panel to silence a trouble condition or disable his system for construction would be thrown in prison. After all, the fire department would not be dispatched for a low battery and expecting someone to call a technician out every time the AC Fail trouble sounds would be impractical. And I doubt they would prosecute someone who owns a panel and puts in in his basement as a “hobby system”. The intent of a code like this is to keep the general public from messing around with vital life safety equipment. For example - a building tenant opens up the fire alarm panel to silence the alarm or takes a baseball bat to the horn/strobe in his apartment. Not lock up a building owner because he wanted to open the panel and check the log book to see when it was last inspected.


The fatalities at The Station were a result of improper sound insulation material installed on the stage, overcrowding, and lack of a fire sprinkler system. The fire alarm system operated as designed and was not reported to have been tampered with.

I know, but what I mean is that the state might have toughened all of its fire safety laws, and not just those that played a part in The Station disaster, in a knee-jerk reaction.

(Plus the fire alarm at The Station did go off a bit too late and failed a bit too early.)

It failed because the fire ended up eating through the wiring of the alarms way too soon because it had more than enough fuel because the Derderian Dumbasses thought it would be a good idea to put egg-crate foam on the walls which was a fuel source which made it burn hotter and longer.

Also you can blame the band to because depending on who you believe, they were told they COULDN’T use pyrotechnics in the show but went behind the club managers back (not that they would have enforced it; during the fire one of them grabbed the CASH DRAWER instead of helping people and one of their “bouncers” wouldn’t let people out the band too and then during a reunion smirked and said it was him and he was proud of it). As for the alarm not going off sooner, I don’t think the smoke caught the detector until the VERY last moment and even then if there were sprinklers they would have went off at the same time. I haven’t heard an MT in person so I don’t know if there is a delay or something.

I doubt they would put a “fire alarm tampering provision” in the code because of the Station fire. If anything, because of this fire, RI would have explored making it mandatory for sprinklers in all assembly occupancies, outlawed indoor pyrotechnics, strengthened fire codes of interior finish materials, and/or required more or better marked exits. All things that would have prevented or saved lives in this situation. Historically, pretty much all fire codes and standards that get adopted are directly related to a particular incident. Think “reactive” as opposed to “proactive”. I would imagine if you researched the current RI statute about fire alarm tampering, you’ll be able to find an incident where someone unauthorized did something to a fire alarm system that caused someone else to be injured or killed. As a reaction to that, they developed that statute.

According to the investigation, the fire alarm activated in 41 seconds after the start of the fire. I’m not sure of the coverage of the fire alarm system, if the smoke detectors were even located according to proper code spacing. The modeling that was done by NIST shows that if there was a properly installed sprinkler system, it would have activated in 24 seconds from the start of the fire.