Concerns Arise over Security Fog Systems

June 19, 2007
WBFAA cites concerns about meeting life safety codes and safe building egress

In the last few years, if you've attended big industry tradeshows like ISC West, you've undoubtedly seen the introduction of "smoke" or "fog" systems that emit an odorless cloak of haze into a facility to prevent escape of a would-be thief.

The systems are typically tied into intrusion alarm systems, and in seconds start billowing out a fog which clouds the room. It's just as one vendor claims: "You cannot steal what you can not see!" The systems became an adjunct security element, popular for retailers who were prone to smash-and-grab escapes, such as jewelers, and such systems gained national attention when one of the vendors was featured on the Discovery Channel's "It Takes a Thief" television show.

But a leading burglar and fire alarm association says users and installing dealers may want to pause before recommending such systems. At issue is whether such systems pass local codes.

The Washington Burglar and Fire Alarm Association's board of directors isn't so sure that such systems are code-approved. It sent a note to its members a week ago notifying them about concerns of these fog and smoke solutions. Despite those system's effectiveness in confusing thieves on where merchandise and building exits, there's a side effect in that public safety officers such as fire-fighters could be affected as well.

In its memo to WBFAA members, the board wrote, "Be aware that the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Central Station Alarm Association, as well as Law Enforcement Officials, are strongly opposed to the use of this product. Their opposition is based on Safety Concerns for Fire Fighters and Law Enforcement Officers responding to a premise in which this product has been emitted."

Additionally, noted the WBFAA, "According to IAFC President Chief Jim Harmes, 'The International Fire Code specifically prohibits these types of systems, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 Safety to Life standard has provisions that prohibit anything from impeding egress from a building.'"

The association is taking the prudent step of suggesting that security installing firms create a dialogue with law enforcement and public safety responders before continuing to deliver such systems, and you're wisely recommended to do the same in your area.