Fire Alarm Stories
Sorry if this has been discussed already, but I was wonderin if anyone had any bad experiences with fire alarms and/or the monitoring company?
What got me curious about this is this evening the FD got sent on a auto fire alarm at the Red Roof Inn. Single engine responded code 3 as is dept policy for fire alarms and arrived to find heavy smoke showing from the NE corner on the 2nd floor of the building. The captain transmitted the box which brought 2 more engines, a truck and the Battalion chief. Now here's where it gets interesting (keep in mind nice room & contents fire on 2nd floor)...
"Carrollton to everyone responding, be advised E-115 was sent on a fire alarm and had heavy smoke showing on arrival. Also be advised we just received a call back from the alarm company stating there is no problem at the location and FD is not needed."
So anyway, just wonderin what else other people have seen/heard of an alarm company doing that was wierd.
It is more likely that the manager of the hotel called the alarm company and told them that because he didn't know his hotel was on fire. The alarm company is only relaying messages from the person they talk to on the phone. They aren't psychic (although some seem psycho) and have no crystal ball to see what is happening.
Some alarm companies are slow when it comes to notification and call-backs. Some area very on the ball. But the information they give you is only as good as it is given to them. It isn't necessarily the monitoring company that installed and/or services the alarm either.
On a related note. We had a structure fire once a few years ago involving a large detached building containing a garage, pool equipment, and a rec room (it was the size of a small house). It was totally gutted, surround and drown. Whil we were mopping up after the fire was out, the alarm company called in the smoke detector activation.
For the exact reason you detail above our dept. has always responded to all alarms regardless of phone-in information. Other FD's around us will cancel upon any info stating the call is false or all set. We have had calls stating there is no fire but they know nothing is wrong or alarm companies that call the business first and if the RP says not to send the FD they will not. This often results in our being sent to reset their alarm for them. I also like the employee who silences the alarm after seeing that there was no smoke present but not knowing they have heat detectors not smokes.
You're right about the information the company gets, but there's plenty of examples of them being false or called in late. A better "horror story" took place a few years ago. Carrollton had another fire alarm at a daycare in the 1100 block of MacArthur Drive. Back then the SOP for fire alarms was 2 engines, 1st due runs hot 2nd due was usually just sent on a leisurely round trip.
2100 or so a call comes in for the fire alarm. Engine 116 is first up with Engine 112 responding cold. 116 pulls up, "Nothing showing, light smell of smoke possibly from fireplaces in area. Engine 112 you can disregard."
Well, as luck would have it, 112 had already made it to the cross street and the shortest route back to the house required driving by the building. I'll never forget when Engine 112 transmitted that box. They came around the corner and had heavy smoke pouring out the charlie side of the building.
No one on engine 116 crew, some on for more than 20 years had EVER been to a fire alarm that was real. 20 years of false fire alarms before getting the real one. The only piece of equipment any of 116 was wearing were their bunker coats due to the cold weather.
Almost as if to serve as direct comparison Engine 112 showed up damn near ready to make entry into hell itself. Stretched a 2 1/2 inch line and attempted to make an interior attack. Inside they found only a slight haze due to most of the smoke exiting out the hole in the rear of the building. By the time Engine 116 had set up the water supply and got bunked out E-112 had exited the building and made it a defensive fire due to free burning in the attic on a truss roof.
Just imagine had 112 not come around the corner and seen that smoke. It woulda been just another go in, push the reset button and go home run for 116. Can you imagine going into a building with a free burning attic fire wearing only a bunker coat like 116 would have done if Engine 112 hadnt rounded that corner?
Over the summer sometime, we were dispatched to the proverbial "concerned citizen reporting an outside odor of smoke". Typical and historically ends up being unfounded every single time. I was at the station so I hopped in the engine and went, rescue was right behind me. I was going down the road thinking "why do I even have the siren on for this diesel fuel wasting BS call." Imagine my surprise when rounded the curve and there was smoke rolling into the street and the whole house was enveloped in smoke. "Oh $h!t!!"
A quick check of the property revealed no outside source of the smoke. More apparatus were arriving so we decided to force entry since something had to be wrong inside. Of course, there wasn't a hint of smoke or trouble inside the house. I broke 3 doors to get in this house and there was NOTHING. The smoke dissipated on it's own and the source was never found. That was frustrating but the homeowner took it well when they got home from vacation.
Fire alarm toned us out for a report of from ADT about a carbon monoxide detector activation at ### Woodland Drive.
We got in the rig and while en route, Fire Alarm reported that ADT just called back and reported both CO and a fire alarm actrvation from the address.
I didn't strike the box, but filled out the assignment as a precaution.
We arrived on Woodland Drive and found no residence with that address.
I requested Fire Alarm to call ADT back and verify the address...
Fire alarm radioed back that ADT had the wrong comunity.. it was ### Woodland Drive in Marshfield, not Marlborough or something to that effect...
Nice.... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: at least they got the first 3 letters of the town name correct...
I've been to quite a few alarms that have turned out to be actual fires, but there are a few that stick out in my mind as memorable.
We were dispatched to an automatic alarm at a grocery store just about 1000 feet from the station, during regular business hours. My FF was young and had only been on the dept for a year, or two. As we got on the engine, he asked if I wanted him in full gear. I told him yes! Always! (it's our policy for the first due to wear full PPE on any auto-alarm).
As I walked in the front door of the store, I asked an employee what the panel indicated. They stated it was first a smoke detector, then a water flow alarm a minute later. My ears perked up, and I asked where the manager was. I was told he was in the meat dept. investigating the alarm. The alarm had already been silenced by the employees prior to our arrival, and customers were still shopping, totally oblivious to the alarm.:eek: :mad:
As I made my way to the back of the store, the manager met me and said that a pull station had been hit with a shopping cart, and that everything was okay. I told him we needed to find the fire. He looked rather stunned, and again said everything was okay.
I walked into the back hall where the break and training rooms were...Manager on my heels. As I opened the door to the training room, thick, black smoke billowed out. The manager absolutely freaked!
The sprinkler system did its job, and we extinguished what little fire was left with a water can.
As it turned out, a 16 year old kid had just been fired, set the training room ablaze and was waiting for the manager in the front of the store with a 16" butcher knife hidden under his shirt.
Needless to say, the manager got one hell of a lecture from me, and I think he actually learned a valuable lesson, or two.
The little arsonist/wanna-be slasher was carted off to jail.
I remember going on a residential smoke detector alarm at about 0230 one morning. While en-route, dispatch stated the resident could smell smoke, but couldn't find the source.
Just before we arrived, dispatch stated the resident located the source...The neighbors house across the street was kickin' !:eek:
It's that one in a hundred alarms that turns out to be real that keeps you on your toes. You just never know what you might find when you get there. ;)
During the first 15 years of my career I never went to a fire alarm that was a working fire, however in the past 5 years I have been to a bunch.
2 Warehouse fires, both came in as water flow alarms, on one companies arrived with nothing showing and only upon entering the building with the keys from the Knox box located a working fire, the other fire had smoke showing on arrival.
3 residential fires, the weirdest part was all three were daytime when people were around and we received no additional calls or information that it was a working fire.
Luckily we respond to a fire alarm almost as if it was a structure fire. First due runs emergency, all others run non-emergency, RIT and Medic are only dispatched on reported fires. In each of the above situations we were able to arrive and go to work without having to wait to dispatch additional companies.
99.9% of our Automatic Alarms are false, which I think is the norm for most of them. I do like the way dispatch handles the calls.
Initial Dispatch "Engine 1 respond to an automatic alarm at 123 anystreet."
Usual Follow Up "Engine 1, the Alarm Company advises that the home/business owner states it is a False Alarm, check to your own satisfaction"
Good for the Alarm Companies and owners in the Post above.
We rolled up at a small building to check an automatic alarm report. We called back to report that the alarm at the building appears not to be sounding. There was a pause while dispatch checked with the alarm company and then they came back and suggested that maybe it was a "silent alarm."
Oh yeah, we wouldn't want the building occupants to know they were on fire.
What/when do your consider a fire alarm a false alarm? What I mean is I thin k we play up the false alarm statistics. If a smoke alarm goes off due to burnt toast the fire alarm worked correctly but I hear and have seen allot of departments call this a false alarm?
What/when do your consider a fire alarm a false alarm? What I mean is I think we play up the false alarm statistics. If a smoke alarm goes off due to burnt toast the fire alarm worked correctly but I hear and have seen allot of departments call this a false alarm?
spegram: we consider a it a false alarm if we can find on reason for the alarm to sound. Burnt toast or the like we file as food on the stove.
We had a residential fire alarm a couple of years ago. When we got there, the sheriff had also been dispatched for a burglar alarm sounding. The homeowner said he did not have an alarm service. When we checked it out, the old alarm had been disconnected (we physically saw that there was no phone line attached). When we contacted the alarm company, they insisted that there was an alarm at that address and had no answer when we told them the alarm had been disconnected.
The only alarm we consider "false" is a 10-92, an MFA aka Malicious false alarm, as in a kid pulls a box and runs away.
Originally Posted by spegram
Basicly everything else falls into some other category...for example...
10-26 Food on stove
10-31 Clogged incinerator
10-32 Defective oil burner
10-33 Odor of smoke
10-34 Sprinkler system emergency
- CODE 1 - Caused by nearby working fire, BBQ's, salamanders, Etc.
- CODE 2 - Any other type odor
10-35 Alarm system emergency
- CODE 1 - Defective equipment
- CODE 2 - Unnecessary alarm
- CODE 3 - Non fire activated
- CODE 1 - Defective alarm
- CODE 2 - Unnecessary alarm
- CODE 3 - Recorded alarm
false alarms for us are way down.
If the fire alarm worked correctly, as in burnt toast tripped the system, it is coded an an unintentional alarm tripped by cooking, investigation only.
Originally Posted by spegram
If the alarm goes off an nothing is found.. it's coded as a system malfunction, investigation only.
No fire... it's a false alarm.
even though auto alarms are what most people consider to be 'false alarms' 99.9% of the time, remember:
DONT LET THAT .1% BITE YOU IN THE ***!!!!
1: Out at a structure fire. Fire is knocked down, overhaul is starting. We get a call from dispatch about a second call coming in, at (address), activated fire alarm, general alarm, no specific zone. We radioed back, "On scene, fire is knocked down, please advise the keyholder". 30 minutes after the fire, they finally reported the alarm. :eek:
2: A quick humerous story: Dispatched to an alarm at a hotel, 3rd floor activation. Quick check of the panel shows the sauna area. Head up to the thrid floor, find a light haze. Manager says that the floor is evacuated. we open up the units on either side of the sauna, to check the status of the rooms. As I walk into the suite, I'm met by a (mostly) naked woman, demanding to know why we're in her place. Apparently, the activity she was engaged in was more important than the alarm. :D
Turns out someone had dumped a can of Mountain Dew into the rocks of the Sauna, creating the haze. :rolleyes:
Last year we were having major problems with a metal fab shop that was constantly having alarms. Every time a thunderstorm passed through the area, we got dispatched to this place...nothing found. After one particularly bad stretch where we were going there a couple of times a week, I met with the owner. He was cooperative and agreed to call the alarm company and have them send a technician out. The tech found a wire in the attic of the front office building that was just run against a wall, and a metal storage shelf had been placed against it, damaging the wiring, I suppose. Anyway, anytime there was a big clap of thunder the bad circuit would activate the alarm system. Tech fixed it and we have not been back there since. :)
Hey where is Lafireducator ? I thought he would be here to tell us how to go non-emergency to alarm calls. Seeing how they are always false. :rolleyes:
Malahat VFD has a commerical "bed & breakfast" that has evolved into... well anyhow its evolved. Every summer they receive at least 4 falsies from the AFA. Usually during the later part of the day, when the humidity in one of the bell towers starts to really climb and it triggers the heat sensor (we think).
Anyhow, everytime the alarm sounds, the Manager hits the enunciator panel to shut the alarm off - God forbid that you should interrupt the patrons in their meal or what have you, and ask them to temporarily evacuate the building. Then he calls the alarm company AND FireComm to tell us to stand down. We always send at least one unit to verifiy. One day its gonna go bad. :(
1) FFFRED...for NIMS, shouldn't we supposed to just refer to all those in vernacular or codes, or should we start memorizing NFIRS codes to use over the air...because then we know absolutely certainly what's up using NFIRS, but then that's not plain language... ;)
2) IMHO, it's false if there is no reasonable explanation -- steam or food on stove is reasonable. An electrical storm passing through setting it off isn't (thankfully the systems have gotten a lot better). I don't have a problem lumping those in with "good intent" since the alarm system honestly thought it was a fire.
3) !!$#%^ ADT sucks. I'm at the firehouse one day, phone rings. "This is ADT, we're receiving a trouble alarm from the fire station." "What's the address?" "The fire station." "That doesn't answer the question, what's the address?" "The fire station!" "Ok, I'm going to say this slow -- what's the address?" "The fire station!" "That doesn't tell me anything, we have more than one fire station that is monitored by this ADT contract." "Uh...hold on..." long pause and they finally give me the street address.
Unfortunately, they've pulled the same game with actual fire alarms. We've been toned for "Fire Alarm, from one of your stations, ADT doesn't know which one."
4) Going back, heck actually 20 years, is our best example.
Our policy is we will continue something, even if just an officer POV, to verify the situation.
Homeowner had opened their wood stove at oh-dark-thirty on a bitterly cold night. Put some wood in, a puff of smoke came out. Fire alarm went off, he called his alarm service to cancel (they had already alerted our dispatch center). Certainly was reasonable for him to think that smoke had set off the alarm. Dispatch notified the Chief, apparatus were held in quarters and the closest officer responding from home was directed to go verify the situation.
Meanwhile the homeowner then opened the door to the attached garage to get more wood and discovered he had a real fire. He did discover it and call 911 just before our officer responding from home arrived.
I have a coiuple after almost 20 years on ...............
first- Got dispatched to automatic alarm at a residence and found no one home and nothing showing from 3 sides. On this run I was driving and pulled past the structure and per the Officer stopped, got the rig in pump up and went onto the pump panel.....had the recirc and tank to pump pulled and imagine my surprise when the officer calls back to start pulling a line and charge it. Upon forcing entry there was bird in the oven that overheated and made for a nice ktichen fire. Needless to say it was quite a surprise as most guys would have just sat in the truck and waited. On the other hand we did have everyone in packs and past pulling the line there was no delay in getting a good knock on it.
Most recently (March of last year)- Got dispatched to a working residential fire .......pulled up and called command and as arrived and was setting up shop dispatch called and reported we were getting an automatic alarm from the location.:eek: :eek: .oh well .........better late than never ? ;)
I'm looking forward to the they day when an alarm going off can be trusted to be something real..... maybe sometime in 2020.
Owner calls and says its a false alarm. We always continue one engine, non-emergency, to confirm. I would hope evryone else does the same. If not, thats a lot of liability to assume on an FDs part.
Storms setting off alarms. Living in the lighting capital of the US, we run these once in a while. Belive it or not, most times its a ground fault in the dedicated phone lines for the alarms. Lighting hits the ground and zap, fire alarm. Food for thought.
Hitting the re-set and going home. Hmmm. You do realize that if you re-set and its an actual system malfunction, youve just made it very difficult (if not impossible) for the alarm tech to find and fix the problem? Thought not.
Unless you can find the problem, like a pulled alarm box, a better option is to silence, have the location post a fire watch and call the service tech. That is, unless you like running the same false alram over and over and over...
Now for the question...I always got a kick out of how when we force entry and are checking the building only to have dispatch call and report the alarm company now shows a burglar alarm. DUH...:D
I know exactly what you mean with the thunderstorms. It's a daily summertime ritual!
Originally Posted by Dave1983
We always send the first due, non-emergency to any request-to-cancell alarm. We also actually get off the truck and go inside to confirm the cause of the activation. We don't want any unpleasant surprises later.
It is our policy to never reset the alarm system ourselves. We will assist the key holder in some cases, but if the key holder cannot reset it themselves, we have them contact their service provider for assistance.
We also issue citations to commercial occupancies for 3 or more repeated malfunction activations within a 30 day period.