As mentioned in our last article, the simplest way to prevent false alarms and unwanted activations is to inspect your system regularly and perform the necessary maintenance.

Be sure to address any known mechanical issues quickly.  Make sure your staff is properly trained on how each system operates and how to identify issues with your system.

Here are 10 things you can do to prevent nuisance alarms and unwanted activations of your system

  1. Avoid accidental activation.
    1. Make sure manual pull stations are clearly labeled and are located where there is no chance they’ll be accidentally pulled. Install plastic covers to prevent tampering.
  2. Make sure exhaust fans are functioning and being used properly.
    1. Removing filters from exhaust fans can expose fusible links to heat and/or grease, causing false alarms.  Make sure fans are always running while you are cooking.
  3. Be sure the right people are inspecting and maintaining your system.
    1. Do the fire protection system technicians who perform inspections and maintenance in your building have the training required to service your system? An inexperienced tech may miss a critical issue in your system or even trigger it during a visit.
  4. Double check your system for potential issues.
    1. Is the smoke detector too close to returns on your HVAC system? 
    2. Are smoke detectors too close to the laundry room?
    3. Is a manual pull station located too close to a bay door that is open when it is raining?

While these components may have been properly installed, environmental factors can result in false alarms and cause unwanted fire suppression system activations.  Be proactive in identifying potential issues.

  1. Install surge protectors in your system.
    1. Power surges can trigger false activation and damage to electrical components.  While there is not a whole lot you can do about lightning strikes, if you are in a high-risk area, where lightning strikes are more likely, consider adding additional surge protection to your panel.
  2. Be proactive about preventing malicious activation.
    1. Installing security cameras and pull station covers will usually deter pranksters who might otherwise set off your system just for the thrill.
  3. Don’t let dust build up on detectors.
    1. While regular inspections should reveal if there is a buildup of dust or dirt on system components, especially dusty work can cause a system-triggering buildup quickly.
    2. There are temporary covers you can put on detectors while work is being done, but anyone working in the area will need to be briefed on how to activate the fire alarm system in the case of an emergency and a fire watch will need to be put in place and the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) should be notified of the impairment to the system.
  4. Only cook in designated areas with appropriate systems.
    1. Make sure these areas have operating exhaust systems and a fire suppression system, as required by code. Even a simple toaster can trigger false alarms, so think carefully about where any staff amenities that involve cooking are placed.
  5. Install adequate ventilation.
    1. Ventilate shower rooms and laundry rooms to make sure that industrial spaces where steam is a byproduct of manufacturing processes have the right kind of detectors installed.
  6. Hire a professional!
    1. Make sure all repairs, maintenance, and changes to your systems, as well as the installation of any new components, are handled by a qualified fire system professional.

Clearly, there are a lot of reasons for how systems can be triggered when there’s no fire emergency, but there are just as many simple steps you can take to prevent these unwanted alarms and system activations.

Again, regular inspections and maintenance are the most important things you can do to prevent your system from being triggered.

But if you’re still experiencing unwanted alarm and system activations, you need to contact a professional fire alarm system or fire suppression system professional to determine what’s causing the problem.

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