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Real Emergencies vs False Alarms: When Your Fire Alarm System Cries Wolf

The fire alarm system has a simple job. When a fire alarm goes off, it increases emergency preparedness by alerting inhabitants that a fire is occurring in order to begin an evacuation process and ultimately save lives. 

Fire alarms have gotten a “boy who cried wolf” reputation since they tend to go off in non-emergency situations, falsely alerting people to a fire that is not actually taking place. 

These alarm system cries can, understandably, cause people to distrust the fire alarm and perhaps not take future alerts as seriously — even when they aren’t false.

What happens when a fire alarm goes off in my building?

Fire alarms “cry wolf” more often than one might think, and it happens for various reasons. Obviously, there are intentional events, like when someone pulls the fire alarm or a fire drill or maintenance check is scheduled. 

But most times are unintentional events — and are often due to system failures, which are caused by a range of simple things (like excessive dirt or dust in a smoke detector) or more severe issues like control system panel malfunction. 

How do I know if it’s a false alarm?

The best answer is to treat each and every fire alarm alert as if it is real because you just never truly know. 

Take All Fire Alarms Seriously

Overall, it is always better to follow the procedures that are in place to save lives and property.

  • The fire could be occurring in a different part of the building or home.
  • It’s nearly impossible to tell for sure if a fire could logically be occurring. 
  • Small house or building fires likely won’t create enough smoke to reach remote areas of the structure. 

We all learn in grade school –  when the fire alarm goes off, you should be sure to evacuate the structure immediately and safely. When you hear the alarm, you should always believe that a fire is happening and treat the situation accordingly.

What do I do when the fire alarm goes off?

Half of ensuring you respond to a fire alarm appropriately is in your mentality when you hear the alarm. 

When the fire alarm goes off:

  • Take the fire alarm seriously every time
  • Treat all alarms as real alarms
  • Evacuate the building
  • Wait for instruction from the local fire department

We tend to take emergency preparedness for granted, but remember that fire alarms often mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. Try to take them seriously, no matter how many false alarms you’ve experienced in the recent past.

When the Local Fire Department Arrives

Once you’ve evacuated the building, wait until the local fire department responds to the scene. If the fire alarm is indeed false they will let inhabitants know. 

What should I do about false alarms?

If you notice these false alarms are occurring regularly, it could be caused by a number of issues. Most importantly, schedule a time to look into the cause when the alarm is not going off.

Homeowners and Property Managers Should:

  • Get a routine fire alarm inspection
  • Check for routine maintenance issues
  • Call a fire alarm inspector to ensure proper maintenance

If a fire alarm system hasn’t been properly maintained, that can also serve as the root cause of a total system failure. Calling in a fire alarm inspector can help ensure false alarms occur less often.

Safety First

We cannot stress enough how important it is to treat every fire alarm alert like a “real emergency.” While it may be annoying to evacuate your desk or home when the fire alarm ends up being false, it is only a minor inconvenience – whereas the alternative is a major tragedy.

About Allegiant Fire Protection

Allegiant Fire Protection LLC, delivers exceptional fire protection services to businesses throughout the greater Chicago area. Services include the design, installation, and service of fire alarm systems, as well as offsite alarm monitoring. The firm’s NICET-certified technicians also inspect and test all fire protection systems. Allegiant Fire Protection is a privately held firm located in Aurora, IL.

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