Hello all! Today at my school, we had a false fire alarm. The alarm was due to a pull station. When we have false alarms due to smoke detectors, my schools pre-alarm kicks in and they always seem to acknowledge it within the 30 seconds giving them time to reset the system. Today however, since a pull station was activated, the alarm went off instantly. After no more than 20 seconds, the alarm was silenced and we were told not to leave over the intercom. This is baffling to me because there is absolutely no way to confirm this to be a false alarm until they investigated which could not have been done in the time given.
My school has always been this way with silencing extremely quick after alarms and I am completely against the way it is handled. Just wondering thoughts on the subject.
The question of who is allowed to silence a fire alarm falls to each authority having jurisdiction. Some will allow “authorized building personnel” (i.e. building owner, trained staff, on-site security, etc) to silence the system, some require that no one but the fire department is allowed to silence the system.
In the case of only twenty seconds elapsing between the alarm going off and the alarm being silenced, is pretty suspicious but not completely unlikely. There may have been an administrator who was patrolling the halls, caught the prankster, and radioed to the front office that they saw the guy pull it. It may have been a pull station near the front office where staff could visually identify themselves (in my high school, the front entrance pull station was visible from the fire alarm panel).
I think comparing a school false alarm to 9/11 is a little extreme. While it is true that when the first plane hit the North Tower, people from the South Tower attempted to evacuate. Some were told to stay where they were (how could you predict multiple planes?), but some, who had experienced the 1993 bombing evacuated anyway because they knew that it may take up to eight hours to evacuate.
A single two or three story high school is not the same as two 110-floor high-rise buildings, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
So today I did actually get some answers but it’s still a bit murky. So apparently my schools policy for pull stations being activated is to immediately silence and tell kids not to evacuate to “keep everyone contained while not risking the threat of fire doors being opened up again”. Very odd in my opinion. My school has a little over 4700 kids though. It’s 2 Notifier NFS2-3030 panels and multiple sub units and 6 annunciators. A mixture of system sensor remote horns, gentex remote strobes, and system sensor horn strobe devices. I learned that the alarm was activated by a pull station in the lecture hall because one of the projectors had caught fire. A custodian ran to an annunciator and silenced the system immediately. The fire was put out with a fire extinguisher and the monitoring company was called to not have the department come. No alarms went off later and we were never evacuated… planning on filing a report
I don’t know the full story behind Dale’s school, but it sounds like a policy that many schools put in place in response to school shootings. Either way, telling students not to evacuate when there was an actual fire is quite baffling to me.
I don’t know the full story behind Dale’s school, but it sounds like a policy that many schools put in place in response to school shootings.
That policy is short-sighted and has many downsides. There are multiple other ways to cause a false alarm. (In fact, one of them - damaging a sprinkler head - would cause much more commotion, not to mention water damage.)
If a school (or other facility) wants to prevent false evacuations, here’s another option that still ensures proper evacuation during an actual fire.
This option (which would require permission from the local jurisdiction) is already used in some airport terminals, due to the massive disruption that false evacuations would cause. This option requires a voice-evacuation system.
Here’s how it works.
Upon the initial alarm activation, a standby message plays to indicate that the alarm is being investigated.
If the alarm is not silenced within X minutes, or if a second initiating device is activated, the evacuation message plays.
Here are examples of standby messages.
Notifier: Good morning las Vegas - YouTube
“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. An alarm has been activated. We are investigating the cause. Please remain calm and stand by near the speakers for further instructions.”
Good news! I brought over the policy with school leaders and it has been addressed and discarded. The new policy will involve the same steps of the previous one except will include the continued sounding of the alarms and a full evacuation until the fire department arrives. My school is also slowly adding more A/V devices to more classrooms. If interested, I would be willing to give a brief history of the system that dates from 1995-present, and I will also explain the old system with documents I obtained.
They don’t necessarily need to wait for the fire department… if administrators are allowed to investigate alarms they should do so - but don’t silence unless and until it’s verified as being a false alarm.
Keep in mind the school’s previous risk analysis may have allowed such procedures to be followed. The fact that they are reviewing it is a good thing – they do need to be reviewed from time to time and make adjustments accordingly.
While I personally disagree with their previous plan, I wouldn’t put that out of the question.
(Deleted my next post to respond to BousaiGuy too)
My school never had a risk analysis. That plan had been put into place without ever being considered and seen by a fire Marshall. If the life safety system in a building goes off, the school has no business turning it off until it has been deemed safe by fire officials.
A few years ago, there was an AC fire at another school in my AHJ. When the alarm was pulled by a teacher because she saw smoke, the dampers were closed which stopped the spread of smoke. The schools deemed the alarm false though and starting letting kids back in as a room was being filled with smoke because the system was reset and didn’t have automatic detection in the ducts to re-alarm the building. That could’ve had devastating consequences.
All in all, I believe that if a fire alarm system goes off, it’s job is to contain smoke and flames. Frankly if it’s doing it’s job, your average person shouldn’t be able to easily walk by and know that there’s a fire. Let the alarm ring and have fire officials give a thorough investigation before turning it off.
As a side note, many panels have a “Silence Inhibit” feature that can be programmed to prevent silencing of the NACs for at least one minute after activation of the alarm, to prevent this kind of situations.
Where I live, most systems have an inhibit to prevent this. Also, the fire department here will ream you out if you silence the system before they arrive, so its best to leave it unless you call the FD off.
My school is extremely large so it isn’t monitored by a company. The schools climate control plant that’s on a mostly underground campus at my school is staffed 24/7 and monitors the system. They call for when any pre alarm happens and call security to investigate alarms. But they are supposed to also call the fire department but I don’t know if that actually happens.