DID YOU KNOW?
Careless disposal of smoking materials and cigarettes are the leading cause of fires in Bend. Although only a small percentage of adults smoke, smoking remains the leading cause of fire deaths.
Disposing of Smoking Materials Properly
- Don’t extinguish cigarettes in landscaping or potted plants. Potting soil is an organic material and has the potential to ignite.
- Do not smoke within 25 feet of your house or building.
- The best option for complete extinguishment is to smother smoking materials with water in a metal container.
- Don't let cigarette butts pile up - the materials are combustible and may smolder for several hours before causing a fire.
- Before disposing of the materials, ensure they are cool to the touch.
- Do not leave ash trays or smoking materials on combustible surfaces including furniture, vegetation and combustible ground cover.
- Don't toss smoking materials out on the roadway or into landscaping.
- Don't smoke while drowsy or sleepy.
How to properly and safely dispose of oily rags:
- Use a container with a tight fitting lid. A metal can is preferable but a plastic can or zip lock bag can work if nothing else is available.
- Place soiled and used rags inside and then fill the rest the way with water, seal the top and do not open it. This will prevent the oils from oxidizing, and thus keeping the rags from heating up and igniting.
- Contact your local garbage disposal company for their policy on disposal of the can and contents. Some companies will permit disposal in regular household trash.
- The cause of most fire deaths is smoke - not flames
- Most fire deaths and injuries occur between midnight and 8 a.m. when people are asleep
- Seconds count! You will have less than five (5) minutes to escape your home in the event of a fire
- The earlier a smoke alarm alerts you to a fire, the more time you and your family have to escape
The Bend Fire & Rescue reminds everyone that a working smoke alarm can save your life in the event of a fire. Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly is a quick way to help ensure the safety of yourself and your family in the event of a fire.
What do I do if my smoke alarm goes off and there is a fire?
Get out and stay out!
Never go back inside for people, pets or belongings. Call 911 and ensure everyone has gotten out safely.
How do I keep my smoke alarm working?
- Test smoke alarms monthly. Replace batteries or the unit itself it if isn't working during testing.
- Replace the batteries in hardwired alarms annually. This will cut down on the chances chirping alarms and ensure your alarm will still work even if you lose power.
- Clean smoke alarms regularly to remove dust and cobwebs. You can use a vacuum or a can of compressed air to accomplish this.
- Never disconnect or remove smoke alarm batteries for other uses.
- Replace alarm or battery based on the alarm type. (Hardwired have a normal 9V battery in them, replace annually. Battery only units have a 10 year battery in them and don't need to be replaced)
What do I do if my smoke alarm goes off and it is a false alarm?
- Do not disable smoke alarms when activated by cooking or other non-fire causes.
- Use the smoke alarm’s hush feature if available.
- Open windows and doors to clear smoke from your home
- Call your local fire department for assistance if you cannot get the alarm to reset or need assistance in determining what to do next.
Here are some common questions asked about smoke alarms:
When is it required that I replace my alarms that are over 10 years old?
- When you sell your home, Oregon Law requires that all smoke alarms be in compliance with the manufactures guidelines or after 10 years of age and installed as per the laws at the time of construction. All manufactures suggest replacement after 10 years old. So before you put your home on the market, be sure to check the alarm for the manufacture date.
- Also when you rent your home own either as a long term rental, short term rental or VRBO, your smoke alarms need to comply with Oregon Law.
How do I know how old my alarm is?
- On the back of the alarm should be a stamped manufacture date. That is the date we compare against to determine how old the alarm is. If there is no date printed, the alarm is much older than 10 years and needs to be replaced.
If I own my home and aren't selling or renting, am I required to replace my alarms?
- No, the only requirement is when you sell or rent your home out. If you are living in the home you can do as you please but the Bend Fire & Rescue high recommends following the manufactures suggestion of replacing your alarms after 10 years. Working smoke alarms more than doubles your chances of surviving a house fire.
Whats the best way to replace the older hardwired alarms?
- If at all possible, get new hardwired alarms that come with adapters or get adapters when you purchase the new alarms. This way you won't need to do any rewiring when you go to install the new alarms. Most manufactures make a set that comes with adapters and this will be marked on the box. There are also adapter kits for sale at most retailers.
Can the fire department help me figure out my needs, guide me to what I need to get and help me install my alarms?
- Yes we can! We are more than happy to come out and meet you at your home and find out your best options for updating your alarms. We can guide you on different options for alarms, adapters, etc. And then we can assist installing your new alarms as long as we are either using the existing plug or using adapters. We are unable to do any wiring for customers, but we can usually resolve the installation without any wiring needs. Just give our main office a call 541-322-6300 and schedule an appointment.
Information for Home Owners and Occupants:
Smoke alarms save lives! Ensure you smoke alarm(s) are working properly at all times. If your smoke alarm goes off for unknown reasons, find the problem and a solution instead of just removing the alarm from service. A smoke alarm in a drawer does not protect your family from a fire. If your home is older and only has one smoke alarm in the home, consider adding more to better protect yourself and your family. Ensure everyone in the home knows what the smoke alarms sound like and what to do in the event they go off. Have an escape plan for your family. Practice that plan so everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
Information for Renters:
The owner/manager of the rental shall provide you with a working smoke alarm upon moving in and replace the smoke alarm if malfunctioning. It shall be the responsibility of the tenant of any rental dwelling unit to perform such tests on the smoke alarms or smoke detectors located in a part of the dwelling unit that the tenant is entitled to occupy to the exclusion of others as are recommended by the manufacturers instructions and immediately notify, in writing, the owner or authorized agent of any deficiencies. Testing intervals shall not exceed six months. It shall also be the responsibility of the tenant during the tenancy to replace any dead batteries, as needed. (ORS 475.270 and 475.275). No tenant or person shall remove or tamper with a properly functioning smoke alarm or smoke detector installed in conformance with ORS, which includes removing the batteries. (ORS 475.300) Landlords can charge up to a $250 fee for non-compliance of these sections as per (ORS 479.990). More tenant/landlord laws are found under Chapter 90 of the ORS.
Information for the Landlord:
The owner of any rental dwelling unit or the owners authorized agent shall be responsible for supplying, installing and maintaining the required smoke alarms or smoke detectors and shall provide a written notice containing instructions for testing of the devices. The notice shall be given to the tenant at the time the tenant first takes possession of the premises. The duty of the owner or authorized agent of the owner to maintain the required smoke alarms or smoke detectors, including providing working batteries, arises only: (a) Prior to the beginning of every new tenancy when the tenant first takes possession of the premises; and (b) During the tenancy upon written notice from the tenant of any deficiency. Supplying and maintaining a smoke alarm or smoke detector under ORS 479.250 to 479.305 shall be considered a habitable condition under ORS 90.320 (Landlord to maintain premises in habitable condition). Battery replacement is the tenants responsibility as per ORS 479.275. (ORS 475.270 and 475.275) Landlords can charge up to a $250 fee for none compliance of these sections as per (ORS 479.990). More tenant/landlord laws are found under Chapter 90 of the ORS.
Information for New Construction:
Homes built or remodeled since 1997 are required to have a smoke alarm on every floor of the home, in every sleeping room and outside of every sleeping room within 21 feet of the doorway. (OAR 837-045-0050) If you remodel, the area affected by the remodel shall meet this standard. These smoke alarms shall be hardwired with a battery backup and interconnected so when one detects smoke, they all alarm. Check with your local building department for more details on what is required.
Bend Fire & Rescue has several programs aimed directly at ensuring every home has at least one working smoke alarm and to provide education about smoke alarms:
CODE READY: a door to door campaign program aimed at talking to residents one on one about smoke alarms and providing smoke alarms FREE of charge if they can not afford one.
HOME CONSULTATIONS: if we don't come to your neighborhood on a door to door campaign, we can still come to your home and review your homes smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Free smoke alarms can be provided for those in need.
Please call our office at 541-322-6300 to arrange a free home consultation.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing - A FREE program to assist those with hearing limitations obtain the correct smoke alarms to ensure they have the means to be alerted to a fire in their home.
Safety Outreach for Seniors - A FREE safety program provided by the City of Bend Fire & Rescue helps you uncover harmful conditions in and around your home that may place you, your guests and pets at risk of injury or even death.
It’s a fact that smoke alarms save lives.
However, those who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to rely on a traditional smoke alarm to alert them to a fire.
A traditional smoke alarm sounds at a frequency of 3100 Hz – a very high pitch. Unfortunately, it is also the range at which age-related or occupational hearing loss first occurs. This means that even a person with a relatively mild degree of hearing loss may not be able to hear a smoke alarm, especially when asleep.
Special smoke alarms and alerting devices are commercially available to assist in alerting persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices typically have a flashing strobe light, a bed shaker device, a low-frequency alarm tone, or a combination of these alert types. Some equipment utilizes transmitters and receivers that operate using existing smoke alarms. Often, this equipment can be very easily installed without special tools.
Early warning in case of a fire is critical! Every year in the United States there are an average of 366,600 residential structure fires, resulting in 2,570 deaths and 13,210 injuries. Don’t become a statistic, ensure that the smoke alarms in your home will wake you up in case of fire!
Have questions or need help? We offer special smoke alarms and alerting devices for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as home consultation services. If you cannot afford to purchase a special smoke alarm or alerting device, we may even be able to provide them at no cost!
Bend Fire & Rescue actively works with the deaf community to promote smoke alarms that can be heard or seen by those with hearing disabilities. To request a consultation about smoke alarms for those with hearing loss, please contact the Bend Fire Department at 541-322-6300.
Install and maintain smoke alarms Deaf or hard of hearing persons cannot rely on the traditional audible smoke alarm, but can rely on smoke alarms equipped with alternative alerting devices.
- Install a strobe/flashing (visual) or shaker/vibrating (tactile) smoke alarm on every level of your home and in your sleeping area. Ideally, these smoke alarms would be interconnected so that if smoke is sensed in one area of the house, the person with hearing loss will be alerted in all areas of the house. Strobe/flashing smoke alarms are not recommended if you have a seizure disorder.
- Test all smoke alarms monthly. Your chances of surviving a home fire are far greater if you have the initial warning from a smoke alarm.
For those visiting hotels and motels throughout Oregon, not just Bend: Oregon law requires the hotel/motel provide some sort of alarm for those with hearing disabilities. You may have to ask the front desk for a specially equipped room or a device to be installed in the room you stay in. Either way, you can have the same protection in your hotel room as you do at your home.
From ORS 479.255:
- A hotel shall provide no fewer than one smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and one door knock device for each 75, or fraction thereof, rooms of the hotel that are regularly used for sleeping.
- If a person renting a room in a hotel requests a room with a smoke detector or a smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and a door knock device, the landlord shall:
- Install a portable smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and a door knock device; or
- Provide the person with a room in which a smoke detector or smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and a door knock device have been permanently installed.
- The landlord may require a guest to pay a refundable deposit if the landlord provides the smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing under this section.
- A hotel shall provide a printed notice of the requirements of this section, posted conspicuously at the place of registration or in each guest room.
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can be harmful or fatal after prolonged or high level exposures. This gas is present in nearly every home and building in the world. If you are exposed to high levels over time or a extreme levels for even just short while, you can be in danger.
If you would like a FREE home consultation about Carbon Monoxide Alarms call the Bend Fire & Rescue at 541-322-6309 to schedule your visit.
What is carbon monoxide?
It is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas, that is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of fuels such as gasoline, wood, charcoal, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, kerosene and methane
Why is carbon monoxide harmful?
It displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs
of oxygen. The molecules attach to your red blood cells more easily than oxygen molecules,
depriving oxygen from getting into the body. This may damage tissues and result in
death. Especially at risk are:
- Unborn babies
- Older adults
- People who smoke
- People with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
- Heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances and cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products, and other fuels
- Products and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine, such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers
- Car exhaust in an attached garage may leak carbon monoxide into the house even with the main garage door open, putting you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning
- Operating equipment inside an attached garage increases the risk of introducing of carbon monoxide into a living space
Why should my home have carbon monoxide alarms?
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 2,100 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year in the United States. There are more than 10,000 injuries annually from carbon monoxide
What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Initial symptoms are similar to the flu, but without the fever:
- Shortness of breath
- Skin may turn bright red
Severe symptoms include:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Loss of consciousness
What is a carbon monoxide alarm?
- Detects carbon monoxide
- Produces a distinctive audible alert when carbon monoxide is detected
- Complies with ANSI/UL 2034 or 2075 or other nationally recognized testing laboratory
- May be a separate stand alone unit or part of detection and alarm system
What types of carbon monoxide alarms are available?
- Hardwired Carbon monoxide alarm: Activated by carbon monoxide
- Battery operated Carbon monoxide alarm: Activated by carbon monoxide
- Plug in Carbon monoxide alarm: Activated by carbon monoxide
- Combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms: Activated by smoke or carbon monoxide
May I modify my hard-wired smoke alarm system for a combination carbon monoxide and smoke alarm?
- You may replace a hardwired smoke alarm for a hardwired battery back-up smoke/carbon monoxide combination alarm
- Switching from one manufacturer’s unit to another requires a power adapter plug.
- Manufacturers advise adapter plugs may be changed using wire nuts and may require a qualified electrician
Where do I install carbon monoxide alarms?
Install CO alarms on each level of your home with bedrooms (sleeping areas).
- A CO alarm must be located within each bedroom or within 15 feet outside of each bedroom door. Bedrooms on separate floors in a structure containing two or more stories require separate CO alarms.
- All CO alarms must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended instructions. (OAR 837-047-0130)
- Please note: this is required when selling or renting a home.
Do current rules require carbon monoxide alarm in all bedrooms?
- No, the law requires a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home with sleeping areas or within 15 feet of each sleeping area; however, ductwork from sources often goes directly to bedrooms, bypassing hallways outside of sleeping areas (OAR 837-047-0130)
- More CO alarms can be installed as you feel the need. We recommend at least one on every floor of your home, regardless of sleeping areas
Where should carbon monoxide alarms NOT be installed?
- Garages and kitchens
- Extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas
- In direct sunlight or areas prone to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawl spaces such as ventilated attics, basement, and crawl spaces, unfinished attics, insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches
- In electrical outlets covered by curtains or other obstructions
- In turbulent air such as near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh air returns, or open windows.(Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the sensors)
How often do I replace my carbon monoxide alarm?
- Most CO alarms have a 5-7 year limited warranty, depending on the manufacture
- Most brands of CO alarms will chirp when they are past their date of expiration
- Manufacturers recommend replacing alarms once past that date of production (NFPA 72)
How do I keep my carbon monoxide alarm working?
- Test alarms monthly
- Use canned air or vacuum alarms regularly to remove dust and cobwebs
- Never disconnect or remove alarm batteries for other use. For battery operated, replace the alarms’ battery(s) at least once per year
- Carbon monoxide alarms and carbon monoxide/smoke combination alarms are NOT required to have a 10-year battery (OAR 837-047-0150)
What should I do when the carbon monoxide alarm sounds?
- Don’t ignore the alarm! It is intended to warn household members before they experience symptoms
- Silence the alarm
- Move everyone outside to fresh air and call for help from a fresh air location:
- If anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, call 9-1-1
- If no one has symptoms, ventilate the building and contact a qualified service technician
- Have all home equipment powered by fuels such as gas, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, or methane inspected by a qualified technician.
- Have fuel-burning heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in
Carbon Monoxide Information for Realtors, Home Sellers, and Home Buyers
Are carbon monoxide (CO) alarms required when selling a home?
If you have a CO source, CO alarms are required to sell a home. Effective April 1, 2011, sellers of one- and two-family dwellings, manufactured dwellings, or multifamily housing containing a CO source must have one or more properly functioning CO alarms before conveying fee title or transferring possession of a dwelling. (OAR 837-047-0120) Homes built during or after 2011 require a CO alarm regardless of any CO source.
Are carbon monoxide alarms required in new home construction or remodels?
Yes. The CO alarm requirements for new construction, reconstruction, alteration and repair are applicable regardless of the presence of a CO source. (OSSC, Carbon Monoxide Alarms 908.7)
Can I have battery-operated CO alarms in new construction?
Yes. Section R315.4.1 of the 2011 ORSC states “Single station CO alarms shall be battery operated, or many receive their primary power from the building wiring system.” If a homeowner chooses to install the electrical plug-in type, those CO alarms will need to have a battery back-up feature.
Carbon Monoxide Information for Property Management, Landlords, and Tenants
Are carbon monoxide (CO) alarms required in rental dwelling units?
If you have a CO source, CO alarms are required in rental dwelling units. Effective April 1, 2011, landlords must provide properly functioning CO alarms for all rental dwelling units with or within a structure containing a CO source. (OAR 837-047-0120, 0160) The landlord shall provide a new tenant with alarm testing instructions. If a CO alarm is battery-operated or has a battery-operated backup system, the landlord shall supply working batteries for the alarm at the beginning of a new tenancy.
What are my obligations as a tenant?
Test at least once every six months and replace batteries as needed in any CO alarm provided by the landlord and notify the landlord in writing of any operating deficiencies. (OAR 837-047-0160) A tenant may not remove or tamper with a CO alarm. Tamper includes: Deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so. (OAR 837-047-0170)
As a tenant, can I be charged a fee for tampering with my CO alarm?
Yes. A landlord may charge a tenant a fee for removal or tampering with a properly functioning CO alarm. (ORS 90.302)
What do I do if I am renting and have a CO source, and my landlord has not provided a working CO alarm?
A tenant must notify the landlord in writing of any operating deficiencies. (837-047-0160)
If the landlord receives written notice from the tenant of a deficiency in a CO alarm, other than dead batteries, the landlord shall repair or replace the alarm. (ORS 90.317)
For more information about Carbon Monoxide Alarms, go to the Oregon State Fire Marshals website.
CPSC The "Invisible" Killer Brochure about CO
Cooking brings family and friends together and provides an outlet for creativity and can be relaxing. But did you know that cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries? By following a few safety tips you can prevent these fires.
Cook with Caution
- Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stove top.
- Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking. If you leave the kitchen for even a short time, turn off the stove and oven.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or broiling food, check it regularly; remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking. Unattended cooking is leading cause of cooking fires in America.
- Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mits, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains – away from the cook top.
If You Have a Cooking Fire…
- Get out and Stay out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Turn off the stove and oven when you leave if you can do it safely.
- Ensure everyone else in the home is evacuating as well.
- Call 911 immediately.
- If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and calling 911 for you. Ensure you have a clear way out too.
- Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stove top. Leave the pan covered until it’s completely cooled!
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Did you know?
- Falls are the leading cause of hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries among Oregon’s older adults.
- Falls are the leading cause of injury and death among those over 65.
- Most falls happen at home.
Bend Fire & Rescue offers FREE home consultations for seniors to help reduce the risk of falls through our Seniors Outreach for Seniors (SOS) program, click for more details. Call 541-322-6309 to schedule your FREE consultation.
What can you do to prevent falls?
Take care of yourself
- Talk to your doctor about your medications and their side effects.
- Poor vision increases your chance of falling. See an eye doctor once a year. Clean eyeglasses regularly.
- Regular exercise builds strength and improves balance and coordination. Ask your doctor about the best exercise for you.
Keep pathways clear
- Keep walking areas clear of loose rugs, cords, shoes, clothing, books, magazines, paper, and other clutter.
- Smooth out wrinkles and folds in loose rugs and carpeting.
- Wipe up spilled liquids immediately.
- Watch out for pets and children.
- When standing, get your balance before walking.
- Get out of chairs slowly.
- Sit up a moment before getting out of bed.
- Don’t rush to answer the phone or door bell.
- Use night lights in walkways.
- Stairways should be well lit from top to bottom.
Rugs & Non-slip Mats
- Use rugs that have rubber, non-skid backing.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
Handrails & Grab Bars
- Have easy to grip handrails installed along the full length of both sides of the stairs.
- Have grab bars installed on the wall in the tub and shower, and next to the toilet.
Shoes & Mobility Devices
- Wear sturdy, well-fitted, low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles.
- Use correct mobility devices: canes, walkers, or wheelchairs.
What if I fall?
If you fall at home
- Stay quiet for a moment–don’t panic.
- Decide if you want to try to get up.
If you decide to try to get up
- Use strong, stable furniture for support.
- After you get up, take time to recover.
- Tell someone you had a fall.
- Get medical help, if necessary.
If you cannot get up, or decide not to try
- Slide or crawl to get help if you can.
- Tell someone you need help.
- After calling for help, remain calm until help arrives.
- Keep warm and comfortable.
- Get medical help, if necessary
Activation by particulates in the air (steam, dust, fake smoke, etc)
Smoke detectors are checking for particulates in the air. Steam, dust and theatrical smoke or dry ice are all particulates. Any of these in the air can cause the fire alarm system to activate.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). Equipment operators should be aware of the fire alarm system and work to keep steam, dust or particulates from their operation from getting to the detectors. If a detector is near a steam, dust or fake smoke producing appliance that alarm could be covered to prevent the accidental activations. You can also contact your fire alarm company to have the system put into a “test mode” so that any accidental activation does not transmit to the fire department but still provides protection to the buildings occupants.
Alarm system components fail from time to time. Sometimes they fail and cause the alarm system to send a signal to the alarm monitoring company even when the bells and strobes don’t activate.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). Pay attention to abnormal conditions at your alarm panel. A beeping panel usually means something has failed and needs to be repaired. Indicator lights or messages indicating “trouble” or “supervisory” also need to be investigated and corrected. Annual maintenance by qualified personnel will help prevent many failures. But in the event it happens at your building, have your fire alarm service company out as soon as possible to find the problem and correct it to prevent future false alarms and to be assured that your system functions properly in an actual emergency.
Improper alarm type
Alarm systems sound 3 different alarm types: Trouble, Supervisory and Fire alarm. The only one that should come to the fire department is the Fire Alarm. The rest should go to the building owner or manager. If the alarm is not set up correctly or the monitoring company has it programmed incorrectly, trouble or supervisory alarms can come through to the fire department, causing a false alarm.
Prevention: Correct initial set up and good continued annual maintenance will help prevent this most of the time. But in the event it happens at your building, get with your alarm company to correct the programming to ensure the alarms go to the right place. Also be sure you alarm monitoring company has at least two up-to-date after-hours emergency contacts for your facility.
Pull station activation
Fire alarm pull stations are there to allow a quick activation of the fire alarm system in the event of an emergency. They also can be a great temptation for young children to pull out of curiosity or others to pull maliciously. There are also times that these can be bumped, broken or fail causing the alarm to sound.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). For accidental or intentional activations, protective covers can be installed over the pull stations to prevent or deter these activations. If they are needed in an emergency the cover can be quickly removed and the alarm pulled. The cover usually has a small buzzer in it to alert people nearby that the cover has been removed, preventing many accidental or intentional activations.
Smoke from burnt food activating a smoke detector
Burnt food such as toast and popcorn produce smoke, just what a smoke alarm and detector are looking for.
Prevention: Never leave cooking unattended, including your microwave, in order to prevent food from overcooking and starting to smoke. Many times the cooking appliance is just too close to the smoke detector. Moving the appliance further away can help. In break rooms and food bar areas, replacing the detector with a heat detector can reduce the false alarm chances and still provide the needed protection.
System not in Test Mode
When servicing a fire alarm or sprinkler system, an alarm system can be triggered unintentionally and cause a response one when is not warranted.
Prevention: Whenever any work is to be done on the buildings fire alarm, fire sprinkler, hood suppression or special extinguishing systems, the fire alarm system monitoring company should be contacted prior to the work to place the system into what is considered “test mode”. This allows the alarm system to still work in the building but will not transmit an alarm ot the fire department right away. Instead the alarm company will verify with the servicing company that the activation was not caused by their actions before having us respond. Other times when test mode can be used: when painting is occurring in fire alarm protected areas, after water damage that includes the fire alarm system or whenever an alarm could be caused accidentally by servicing or maintenance operations.
Unknown fire alarm causes
Fire alarm systems that activate due to unknown reasons can be very difficult to diagnose and fix.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). Having a fire alarm service tech examine the system as soon as possible after the unknown activation can increase the chances that the cause can be determined. Also, due to the unknown circumstances of the alarm activation, it is not known if the alarm system is actually working until a service person examines the system.
Note about permits
Changes made to a fire alarm system, such as replacing smoke detectors with heat detectors, or relocating detectors or other alarm components, may require the permission of the building or fire department. Consult with the building or fire department prior to making any changes.
Fire sprinkler systems activate accidentally for many different reasons. When they activate accidentally they can become a nuisance, can cause damage to the buildings and contents, desensitize people to the alarms and ultimately lead to a less effective suppression and warning system. They also tie up fire department resources, preventing them from responding to actual emergencies. Preventing these accidental activations is as varied as the different types of activations there are. Here are some of the common ways to help prevent them:
Broken sprinkler heads and pipes
Sprinkler heads can be broken by various objects or operations. Ladders, doors, forklifts, footballs and vehicles have all been known to damage sprinkler heads and piping and cause water to leak.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). Look for areas that may be prone to impact damage and look for ways to protect the piping and heads. This could be done by concealing the piping behind sheet rock, putting protective cages around sprinkler heads or moving piping out of harm’s way. All of these remedies should be done with the assistance of the fire sprinkler company to ensure no damage or obstruction to the system is done.
Dry system activations due to air compressor not working properly
A dry system works by keeping the piping throughout the system filled with air instead of water to prevent frozen sprinkler pipes. An air compressor is attached to all dry systems to keep the pipes filled with air at all times. The air compressor automatically fills the system with air when the air pressure drops.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). If the air compressor is not working properly or is broken, the air pressure can dropped too low and allow the system to activate. Proper maintenance and checking of the air compressor will help ensure it works properly and not cause other problems in the sprinkler system.
Dry system activations by high water pressure
A dry system works by keeping the piping throughout the system filled with air instead of water to prevent frozen sprinkler pipes. The valve that keeps the water back can be overrun if the water pressure gets too high for some reason.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). The air pressure in the dry system is set at a certain level depending on the water pressure in the system. If the water pressure changes, the air pressure may need to be adjusted. Rapid increases in water pressure due to water pumps or other natural causes can overrun the air pressure and cause the system to activate. If this happens to your system, work with your fire sprinkler service company to determine the cause and determine a way to prevent future activations. Over pressure gauges on the water side of the system or increasing the air pressure in the dry system are ways to protect against this.
Sprinkler system components fail from time to time. Sometimes they fail and cause the system to activate and sometimes they fail in a manner that keeps the sprinkler system from working properly when needed.
Prevention: Pay attention to abnormal conditions with your fire sprinkler system. Leaking water or air can be a sign of something wrong. If pressure gauges show zero (0) pressure that is a sign the system is not active. Annual maintenance by qualified personnel will help prevent many failures. But in the event it happens at your building, have your fire sprinkler system service company out as soon as possible to find the problem and correct it to ensure it is working properly.
Frozen sprinkler pipes
Wet fire sprinkler systems have water in the piping at all times. If the air temperature around the sprinkler piping gets too cold, the water inside can freeze. Freezing water expands and can damage the piping, leading to water leaks when the ice melts. This not only can damage the building but leave your sprinkler system out of service.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). All areas that have wet fire sprinkler piping in them shall be kept above 40 degrees (F) at all times. This can be done with the building HVAC system, local heaters or insulation. Heat tape is not recommended for sprinkler piping. If there are areas of concern, temperature monitors should be installed to monitor the area and react before any pipes freeze.
Lack of low air alarm or alarm not working on dry sprinkler systems
A dry system works by keeping the piping throughout the system filled with air instead of water to prevent frozen sprinkler pipes. The air pressure is about a 4 to 1 ratio to the water pressure below. The air pressure is usually set at least 10 PSI higher than the pressure at which it will let water past. Having a low air alarm that will warn you before the air pressure get close to the operation level will help stop accidental activations.
Prevention: Regular maintenance and cleaning by qualified personnel will help prevent many of these. Maintenance schedules are based on the type of system (alarms, sprinklers, kitchen hoods) and all are based on national standards (NFPA). The sprinkler company can determine the operation pressure of the valve and then set the normal air pressure that the system stays at. Once those are determined, the low air alarm switch is set between those two pressures. This way a warning will be sent to the alarm system if the pressure drops too low, but before it activates. Then if the air pressure drop is caused by something other than a fire, the system can be fixed prior to filling the system with water and causing expensive resetting after the unneeded activation.
Note about permits
Changes made to a fire sprinkler system, such as adding sprinkler heads, moving piping, or changing the designed occupancy may require the permission of the building or fire department. Consult with the building or fire department prior to making any changes.