Current Thinking on Security Fog Systems

Industry insiders weigh in on potential risks and proper system design

Security fog systems received a bit of grief last month with the IAFC releaseing a statement discouraging their use, and a subsequent statement from a CSAA leader reiterating some of the same thoughts. To get to the meat of what this means for security installing dealers and for potential end-users, we got in touch with one potential dealer who has been following the issue closely for his own association, and with a vendor who is marketing such systems. The interviews with both gentleman appear below:

POINT: Installers and Security Users Need to Consult with Fire/Police

To discuss what dealers/installers should know about security fog systems, we turned to Ron Haner, the alarm response manager of the Washington Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.

SIW: What's the general thinking from the security/alarm community on the effectiveness of these systems?

Frankly, I don't know. They are not in wide use. Their effectiveness is probably not in question, but any such "peripheral" device that includes a significant price addition is typically difficult to market. There have been attempts to market this product off and on over the past decade. It seems to get a lot of attention at the shows, but I don't think they have had a significant market penetration.

Was there a serious event where this issue cropped up (such as a life safety incident)?

No incident of which I am aware. The company that is marketing the "SmokeCloak" product has been targeting NBFAA members recently with email promotions. I received several over a recent 10-day period, one of which was forwarded to me by a local law enforcement official expressing concerns about the use of this product and its potential negative impact on the safety of responding police officers or fire fighters. As you know, the IAFC has come out against the fog products, and CSAA has issued a statement against the use of the product as well.

Given all of this expressed concern about a product that, at best, has a very marginal market penetration, we deemed it prudent to advise our membership to consult with their local police and fire officials before employing the product in their jurisdictions. It is important that the alarm industry work in concert with fire and law enforcement officials whenever possible -- and if they are concerned about the safety of a product as it affects their responding officers, we need to heed that concern.

We do not know that this product represents a real threat to responding fire fighters or police officers, but fire and police officials have concerns and those concerns need to be addressed. I would think it incumbent upon those who attempt to market such products to educate and inform officials in the areas in which they work.

As a security solutions provider, do you worry about liability in delivering products that if not installed properly, could potentially impede egress?

As security solutions providers we are always concerned about potential liabilities in general. We need to be concerned about the potential negative impact on the safety of any individuals who may come into contact with that product. This is certainly particularly true for police officers or fire fighters who are responding to our alarms.

Should security solutions installers who have delivered these types of solutions be advising their clients to consider removing such systems?

They certainly should know what, if any, are the real and potential risks of using the product, and at the very least, consult with their local police and fire officials about continuing its use. There are burglar alarm ordinances currently in effect that ban the use of "protective/reactive" devices. See the excerpt below from the City of Olympia, WA ordinance. This provision clearly bans the use of a smoke barrier system in Olympia: "Protective/reactive alarm system means an alarm system that is rigged to produce any temporary disability or sensory deprivation through the use of chemical, electrical or sonic defense, or by any other means, including use of vision obscuring/disabling devices."

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