Fire Alarm Monitoring Concerns

May 8, 2014
The 2013 version of NFPA has added or changed several rules dealing with central stations

For fire alarm dealers, concerns with code regulations usually refer to equipment or wiring associated with installations. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that our supervising station operators are an important part of the fire alarm system process — start to finish. Without them, the work we do would not provide the protection our customers require.

In the 2013 Edition of NFPA 72, some rules regarding the operators who dispatch on the calls our systems originate have been added or changed. Here’s a look at two rules that could change how operators interact with our customers in Q&A format:

Can our monitoring company still verify alarm signals coming from a private home?

Yes, your remote station operators are permitted “to verify alarm signals prior to reporting them to the fire service, provided that the verification process does not delay the reporting by more than 90 seconds.” The “reporting” time limit is satisfied when the operators dial the first digit of the phone number of the emergency responders, not when the fire department is actually contacted.

Can operators now call our commercial customers to verify fire alarm signals?

The basic answer is still the same, which requires all fire alarm signals received by a supervising station to begin to immediately re-transmit the alarm to the emergency responders, taking no more than 90 seconds upon receipt (and display) of the alarm signal by the supervising station operator. This is still going to be the typical procedure, and if verification is not required, then that is basically the end of the call.

However, revised wording was placed into the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 that allows for an optional verification procedure to be used. If alarm verification is a local requirement, then the remote station will inform the emergency responders that they will attempt to contact the protected premises and seek to verify the emergency. After a maximum of 90 seconds, the operator must then call the fire department back and inform them whether they were successful in contacting “authorized personnel within the protected premises.” If the operator was successful in talking to an identified, authorized and responsible party on site, then they hopefully were able verify the signal was either an actual emergency, or update the fire department as the signal being an unwanted alarm. If the alarm was verified as false, then the fire department will probably not roll any trucks; on the other hand, it is expected that a verified alarm will bring a full response of all available emergency responders to the protected premises ASAP.

The new option for verification of emergency signals by the remote station operator does not seem to allow for a blanket alarm verification policy to be adopted by a responding municipality/fire department. The first of eight conditions listed for “Alarm Signal Verification” only seems to allow alarm verification to be granted “for a specific protected premises” — not an entire jurisdiction.

The alarm verification procedure (NFPA 72 section 26.2.3) lists the following eight components:

1.Alarm signal verification is required by the responsible fire department for a specific protected premises.

2.Documentation of the requirement for alarm signal verification is provided by the responsible fire department to the supervising station and the protected premises.

3.If the requirement for verification changes, the responsible fire department shall notify the supervising station and the protected premises.

4.The verification process does not take longer than 90 seconds from the time the alarm signal is received at the supervising station until the time that retransmission of the verified alarm signal is initiated.

5.Verification of the alarm signal is received only from authorized personnel within the protected premises.

6.Verified alarm signals are immediately retransmitted to the communications center and include information that the signal was verified at the protected premises to be an emergency.

7.Alarm signals where verification is not conclusive are immediately retransmitted to the communications center.

8.Alarm signals that are verified as nuisance alarms are not dispatched and are handled in accordance with

Section states that “Alarm signals not reported to the communications center shall be reported to the responsible fire department in a manner and at a frequency specified by the responsible fire department.” This rule allows the fire departments to set up a reporting method where unwanted alarm signals caused by the owner’s fire alarm system may be identified for possible corrective action. Any system that is routinely generating alarm signals that are being canceled by someone on site, need to be investigated to determine if a re-design or maintenance solution is needed.

Greg Kessinger is SD&I’s fire alarm and codes expert and a regular contributor. Please email him your fire & life safety questions at [email protected].