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How to Operate Your Fire Panel: Alarm Signals (Video)

Lee Kaiser posted this on January 26, 2017

During our 2016 Seminar, titled Causes and Cures for the Top 7 Fire Protection Challenges, expert Lee Kaiser talked through the most common issues with fire protection systems. In the video below, watch as Lee speaks about alarm signals and the different buttons used to address them.

 
 
 
 
 
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Wistia video thumbnail - 2016 Seminar Series "Vlog" - Part 1
 

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Video Transcript

Lee: "So let's start with problem number one: 'I don't know how to operate my fire alarm panel.' This is more common than you think. It can be intimidating for people that have never stood in front of a fire alarm panel, and figured out what buttons that need to push when the panel's screaming at you. So, let's talk about how fire alarm panels work. There are three signals that come from any fire alarm panel as it's installed in a building. One is alarm signal, the trouble signal, or the supervisory signal coming from the panel. There's really a fourth condition that's not listed up there and that's normal. So, it's not making any noise, no extra lights are flashing.  And we hope that most of your panels or your panels are in normal condition all the time. We in the business like to call that clean and green. Mr. Green Light next to normal. 

But when that's not happening and we're in one of these other conditions. So let's talk about alarm. That basically means that there's a fire in the building or it's detected, there's been some sort of detection of a fire through the system in the building.  Now, is it pretty easy to tell that your system is in alarm in a building?

Yeah, cause what's happening? We've got the light noise show going on. We've got the horns going off and the strobes flashing lights. So it's very obvious when the system is alarmed. At the panel, there's a couple things that are also happening that are a little less obvious. In our example here we've made an example of an addressable fire alarm panel. And up here this green box is the indication of a LCD display. In this case it says alarms, so we know the system is in alarm. And it's due to a pull station in the ICU west wing visitor's lounge. So this is a hospital-type example. Someone's pulled the pull station there. At the fire alarm panel we have a buzzer going off, a little piezo horn. That's an annoying little sound in addition to the horn strobes going off, as well as a light next to the word alarm. So that's what's happening there.

Acknowledge Button

Now we've got a number of buttons that we can also push to address what's going on in the building. Let's talk about those buttons and what they do. The first one is the acknowledge button. When an event occurs on the panel and I go to press the acknowledge button, especially on an addressable fire alarm panel, an intelligent panel, it registers that I acknowledge that the event has occurred. So, it'll put a little time stamp on there. It'll also stop that little horn in the panel from buzzing.

Let's say my panel is in a maintenance office and I'm trying to figure out with one of my maintenance technicians what's going on and we wanna have a conversation. I'm gonna press that acknowledge button to silence the panel right there. Now the light flashers and noisemakers are still going off in the building, but at least we can have a conversation. That can also happen, with the fire marshals in the room. There's responders here. You know, when you're standing at an enunciator at the entrance to a building and press that acknowledge button and then you guys can talk and figure out what the game plan is. 

Silence Button

The silence button is another button. And this sometimes gets confused. Basically the silence button will stop the evacuation sequence by stopping the noisemakers and the light flashers. We like to teach this in this respect. Building owners, building users, facility people shouldn't be too quick to press that silence button. They really should work with the fire department and see what they would have them do.

We know that there's gonna be problem buildings where those alarms go off frequently. And the owners will be used to just pressing the silence button because they believe there's not a fire. But sometimes in some jurisdictions the fire department will get upset when they do that. So we temper teaching that button in that way. Effectively if people are evacuating the building and you press the silence button, it's gonna stop the evacuation of the building. So you need to know what that does. 

Reset Button

In an alarm after everything's clear and you've investigated what made the system go off, the last thing you need to do is reset the panel and put it in normal condition. You press the reset button to do that. That's kinda like a reboot on your computer. And so that reset button will reboot the panel, put it back into normal condition unless some other fire criteria that you have found persists and it puts the system back into alarm. That can happen, but a lot of time it'll stay in normal condition.

Now from an investigation standpoint we also wanna caution you from being too eager to press the reset on a panel because there's smoke detectors above our heads in the conference room today. There are little red LEDs on the smoke detectors. Now they're not lit normally while the system is in normal operation, but if this detector would go off because of smoke those red lights would stay lit. When we're doing an investigation and we can walk around, we're looking for lights.

We see those red lights on and we know that's the device that put it into alarm. We can do a little kinda after action on why did that go off. Well those red lights go away when we reset the panel. I would caution you from being too eager to reset the panels, so that you are able to find out which device put it into alarm. Either help yourself if you're the building owner or if you're from a fire department there, help the owner figure out why the system is going into alarm."


Thank you for watching this video blog from our 2016 Seminar. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more clips from last year's seminar, and don't forget to register for this year by clicking the button below!

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