Commercial Integrator + Security Sales March 2024 - 42

FIRESIDE CHAT by Shane Clary
Congress Isn't Exempt From
False Fire Alarm Activation
THIS IS AN ARTICLE that should not have been
necessary to write. This is regarding the false activation
of an alarm system when a fi re is not present.
These types of activations typically occur from the activation
of a manual pull station. I have seen this occur on several
occasions during my time in elementary school back in the
1950s and '60s. I have also seen this occur from restless and/or
unsupervised children at a restaurant or store.
But I would never expect to see this occur from an elected
member of the United States House of
Representatives.
Manual stations or pull boxes have
been a part of fi re alarm systems for
a long time. Before the advancement
of automatic detection, the primary
means of notifi cation of a fi re within a
building was through the activation of
a manual station.
When used properly, these devices
can and do provide an early warning of
a fi re, allowing occupants to vacate the
premises before possibly becoming
trapped by smoke and/or fi re.
found himself in the Cannon House Offi ce Building. While
this could not possibly have been the fi rst vote that Bowman
was called for while in his offi ce, he for some reason sought to
leave for the Capitol via a marked emergency exit.
The exit in question is a delayed egress door. Signage on the
It is difficult for
me to comprehend
that any person
of average
door clearly states the following: " Emergency Exit Only -
Push Until Alarm Sounds (30 Seconds) - Door Will Open in
30 Seconds. "
Bowman stated that, with the door being locked, he
thought that, by pulling the manual
station, the door would open. He
stated that he had no idea that it
would activate the building's fire
alarm system. But it did, causing an
evacuation of the building and the
emergency response of the District
of Columbia Fire Department.
The perception among some is
NFPA on Unwanted Alarms
During the last several cycles of both
the International Code Council's
International Fire Code and the National
Fire Protection Association's NFPA 1 Fire Code, there have been
proposals to eliminate the use of manual stations due to the
possibility of unwanted alarms.
Although manual boxes have not been completely eliminated,
they have been reduced in occupancies that have a
complete fi re sprinkler suppression system installed within.
To reduce the possibility of unwanted alarms, NFPA 72 does
allow the use of covers, which can be placed over a pull station
to possibly prevent a malicious activation. In these cases, the
cover must be listed for use with a particular make and model
of pull station. To activate the manual station, the cover must be
liſt ed so as to gain access to the manual station.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, the House of Representatives was in
session to address a possible shutdown of the U.S. government.
This was a contiguous issue on both sides of the question. Various
votes were being taken on the matter within the House chamber.
A vote was called for, and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.)
intelligence would
not know that a
manual pull station
would activate the
fire alarm system.
that Rep. Bowman pulled the manual
station, fully knowing that it would
activate the alarm, possibly to cause a
delay in the vote that was occurring in
the House chamber. It is diffi cult for
me to comprehend that any person of
average intelligence would not know
that a manual pull station would activate
the fi re alarm system.
Congress Can't Make Its Own Rules on Fire Alarms
Aſt er the event, a number of " talking points " were made
available to try to defuse the incident. One statement was, " The
alarm going off didn't interrupt our business on the fl oor in the
slightest. "
This episode required the District of Columbia Fire Department
to respond Code 3 (lights and sirens) to the building,
placing in possible jeopardy both the responding fi refi ghters
and the public in the streets as the units responded.
Within both model fi re codes, there are provisions that
address the false activation of a fi re alarm system:
■ NFPA 1: 10.7.2 Persons shall not deliberately or maliciously
turn in an alarm of fi re when in fact that person knows that
no fi re exists.
■ International Fire Code: 401.5 A person shall not give, signal
or transmit a false alarm.
There is no congressional exemption to these provisions. SSI
SHANE CLARY, PH.D., is an SSI Industry Hall of Famer and has more than 45 years of security and fi re alarm industry experience. He serves
on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of codes and standards compliance for Concord, Calif.-headquartered Bay
Alarm Co. He can be reached at smclary@bayalarm.com.
42 Commercial Integrator+Security Sales & Integration | March 2024

Commercial Integrator + Security Sales March 2024

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