A key requirement in a building is to ensure that fire alarm systems are fully-functional at all times, so that occupants can be alerted of any emergencies that may arise. These systems consist of a fire alarm control panel, with a host of connected devices such as pull stations, smoke and heat detectors, audible alarms, sprinkler flow equipment and pressure devices. In general, once the fire alarm control panel has been engaged, the audible devices are activated throughout the building. Some fire alarm systems are equipped with an annunciator located at the entrance of the building. These annunciators provide the first responders with the necessary details as to where the alarm was initiated in the building. The fire alarm control panel may also be continuously monitored by a central station for trouble and general alarm signals. In some cases, the sprinkler system risers are monitored for water flow, low pressure and valve isolations. The monitoring station is an independent agency that monitors the fire equipment 24/7 for alarm and trouble signals that occur in the building. The safety of building occupants is the priority of every first responder. Whenever there is an emergency and the fire alarm system is activated, it is expected that the fire trucks and the crew will be dispatched. Whether or not there is an actual fire within the building, the fire responders arrive in response to the emergency call. Unfortunately, false fire alarm calls are increasing at a staggering rate, leading to the implementation of municipal bylaws prescribing false alarm fees. Through the false alarm bylaws, fire departments are working to educate businesses and citizens on the need to reduce non-emergency calls, so that crews are available to respond to events where emergency help is truly needed. These bylaws set fees for specific non-emergency services provided by the Fire Department, including responses to repeat preventable false fire alarms. The goal of the bylaws is to reduce the number of false alarms to which fire crews respond each year. Fewer false alarms mean reduced risk to businesses, citizens and firefighters, as emergency response vehicles are free and able to respond more quickly to actual emergency calls. In addition, fewer false alarms for a building or apartment mean fewer disruptions to businesses and residents. Under the bylaws, the fire department charges for responses to preventable false alarms on a per calendar year basis
Recent studies have confirmed that the majority of false alarms could have been prevented through system maintenance, modifications to the alarm system, or better control during construction, maintenance and renovation of buildings. False alarms from fire safety systems that are activated directly or through on-site monitoring systems are the most easily prevented. These may be a result of equipment malfunction or failure, improper installation or inadequate maintenance. The second most preventable cause of false alarms are building activities such as construction, renovation, maintenance or work taking place on the fire alarm system itself. Fire drills involving activation of the fire alarm system where the Fire Department has not been notified also fit into this category. A property owner is responsible for ensuring the proper use, installation, maintenance and operation of any fire alarm system installed on the property, which will help to avoid false alarms. When a building has repeated alarms for which there is no actual emergency or fire, the Fire Department will work with the operator to determine actions required so as to prevent future false alarms from occurring.
This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.