American Alarms Blog

Thank you veterans!

by Adam Jacobs 11/12/2018

Here at American Alarms we don't take Veterans Day lightly.  Our founder (my father), Bill Jacobs, is a Vietnam War veteran.  The name he chose for the company was partly because of the great honor and respect he has for this country.  My mother's father served in the Navy in the Korean War.  My mom used to say he spoke fluent Japanese in his sleep sometimes.  My father's father served in the Army in WWII and received multiple purple hearts for battles in Europe.  The rest of our staff has a number of friends and relatives that served in the military, too.  We are thankful for all of them that served and returned to us, and especially those that made the ultimate sacrifice.  Thank you for contributing to the freedoms we enjoy every day (and usually take for granted).  Thank you for your strength and courage.

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Did the low bid really save you money?

by Adam Jacobs 11/7/2018

I can't even count how many times I've heard customers complain (after the fact) about all the costs that come from NOT having a fire alarm system installed correctly and professionally.  Here are some of those ADDED costs that show up down the road, long after the final punch-list is complete:

- Programming changes - $130 to $180/hour X 2 hours min = avg $300 per trip

- Service calls for issues that show up and none of the sub-contractors will claim = $300 min. per call

- False alarms caused by short circuits, incorrect programming, or other mistakes = second trip $200, increases from there

- Cost of being on the fire department's sh-- list = ?

- Upset tenants/residents from false alarms and service calls/testing = ?

- Extra work (maybe overtime) for maintenance workers/property managers = $50-$100/month avg.

- Parts that fail because they were not properly installed or properly surge-protected = easily 10% of total initial system cost/year

 

Now, you may think...most of this would be covered under my warranty.  Well, maybe you should read your fire alarm warranty.  We provide our warranty to any customer that asks, but not many ask.  Here are some things that aren't usually covered under a fire alarm warranty:

- Surge damage (including lightning)

- Other natural hazards

- Damage from people, animals, insects, etc.

- Water/ice/snow on outside horn/strobes or pull stations that eventually gets inside the device (very common in Iowa)

- Issue related to phone lines or internet connections (also very common)

 

Please make sure you work with a fire alarm contractor that know what they are doing.  From the site survey, to the estimate, to the installation, to the programming, to the monitoring, to the service after the sale, it ALL matters.  There's also a COST to all of these pieces.

Be safe.

  

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Remodeling may bring fire trucks

by Adam Jacobs 10/17/2018
I had a customer call today about this, so I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone.  If you are doing remodeling of any kind you should cover the smoke detectors and put your system on test while sawing, soldering, etc.  Here are some of the worst construction by-products that create false alarms:
 
- Soldering smoke
- Drywall dust (very fine)
- Hardwood dust (like oak, maple, cherry, etc.) used for trim/cabinets
- Final cleanup dust (which in commercial spaces usually includes drywall and concrete dust.)
 
Capping with the original dust covers will help some, but may not prevent all false alarms.  Bagging and taping is probably best, if the detector is very near the source of the dust/smoke.  Customer just needs to make sure these items are removed before a city official inspects for occupancy.

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In Memory - 17 years ago

by Adam Jacobs 9/11/2018

I still remember watching the news coverage on September 11, 2001 after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  My first thought was complete disbelief.  Then it changed to horror, as I watched people fleeing the scene covered in dust and blood.  I had a new respect for the first-responders that acted so bravely under pressure that day (and for days after).  I also had a new appreciation for the delicate balance of freedom and safety that we have in our country today.  How I felt that day is part of the reason I am SO proud to do my part in the life safety field.  I'm not comparing what I do (designing and servicing fire alarm systems) to what fire rescue and police personnel do every day.  But I do feel that our part is important, too.  I am also proud to assist these brave rescue personnel with a quicker response and better information once they get on scene.  I pray that nothing like that ever happens again.  If it does, my hope is that we can save even more lives with better technology, better procedures, and better communication.  

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In Memory - 17 years ago

by Adam Jacobs 9/11/2018

I still remember watching the news coverage on September 11, 2001 after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  My first thought was complete disbelief.  Then it changed to horror, as I watched people fleeing the scene covered in dust and blood.  I had a new respect for the first-responders that acted so bravely under pressure that day (and for days after).  I also had a new appreciation for the delicate balance of freedom and safety that we have in our country today.  How I felt that day is part of the reason I am SO proud to do my part in the life safety field.  I'm not comparing what I do (designing and servicing fire alarm systems) to what fire rescue and police personnel do every day.  But I do feel that our part is important, too.  I am also proud to assist these brave rescue personnel with a quicker response and better information once they get on scene.  I pray that nothing like that ever happens again.  If it does, my hope is that we can save even more lives with better technology, better procedures, and better communication.  

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Des Moines adopting new fire codes soon

by Adam Jacobs 8/15/2018
I went to the Des Moines Fire Dept this morning to see what will be coming down the road for new codes.  Here's summary of what they expect.
 
IFC and IBC 2018 - Central Iowa Code Consortium expects to receive all comments and requests for amendments by mid-August.  New codes, with local amendments will be sent to local governments for approval by December.  Early adopters (including Des Moines) will approve by March 2019
All CICC jurisdictions must approve by December 2019.
Pella is newest member of the CICC, which is now 18 communities.
 
Other sections with notable updates:
 
sec 510 - Emergency Responder Radio Coverage - Des Moines is still accepting fire fighter phones where their radios don't work, but may soon require RF boosters (DAS systems) in areas where they can't get 95% reliable coverage.
 
Sec 901 - Integrated systems must be tested TOGETHER at least once every 10 years.  Fire alarm plus suppression, wet sprinkler, HVAC, etc.
 
Spaces under grandstands/bleachers that are at least 1000 square feet and enclosed, must have full sprinkler coverage.
 
Sec 903.3.1.2.3 - Attics intended for living space or storage - sprinkler required. also where eave of roof is 55ft or more above egress level and made of combustible materials
 
Residential cooking appliances (see UL 300)
 
Sec 907.2.1 - Group A fire alarm requirements - 300 total occupancy OR if any level ABOVE the egress level has occupancy of 100 or more.
 
Sec 1010 - Locking arrangements in Group E and Group B occupancy, delayed egress
 
Chapter 11 - Existing buildings
Sec 1103 - Bars (drinking establishments) that hold more than 300 people
Sec 1103.9 - CO detection requirements
 
Call American Alarms if you have any questions about what is required in your building.

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Design Starts With Knowing Occupancy Type

by Adam Jacobs 1/17/2018

Whenever I sit down to design a fire alarm system, the first thing I have to remember is...what type of occupancy is this?  Some buildings are easy, like hotels.  Some mixed-use buildings can be very challenging to even know WHAT type of occupancy the building will be.  If I have complete architectural drawings (that's a big IF) sometimes there are enough clues.  But sometimes it takes lots of phone calls before I know how to start the fire alarm design, or if fire alarm will even be required.  Linked below is a handy reference that compares IBC and NFPA occupancy classifications.  

 

http://americanfirealarms.com/file.axd?file=%2f2018%2f01%2fNFPA+Occupancy+Types+vs+IBC+Occupancy+Groups.pdf

 

 

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2018 I-codes focus on CO, integrated testing, and mass notification

by Adam Jacobs 1/9/2018

Today Honeywell's industry affairs expert Richard Roberts presented a summary of the relevant changes in the new 2018 i-codes (IBC, IFC, IMC, IPMC, IEBC, and IRC).  Some of the focus areas are carbon monoxide detection, integrated systems testing, and mass notification systems.  Some quick notes of importance for fire alarm design:

Section 901

Integrated testing of fire protection systems tied to other life safety systems.  Fire alarm and HVAC, sprinkler and fire alarm, suppression systems and fire alarm, fire doors/smoke dampers and fire alarm, and other integrated systems gain clearer direction for testing.

Section 907

- Group A occupancy (assembly) requires a manual system when 100 or more people occupy levels above the discharge level.

- Multiple-channel voice evacuation is required for high-rises over 120' above fire department access level.

- Strobes are required in all habitable spaces (like LR with pull-out couch) in hotels and apartments designated hearing-impaired/ADA.

- Manufacturer's maintenance recommendations will be enforced on smoke alarms, with a max life of 10 years.

Section 915

Some of the ambiguous language on placement of CO detectors has been replaced with clearer language.  CO detector required on ceiling above fuel-burning appliances.  More thought and direction is given to existing buildings and CO detection. 

NFPA 101 and NFPA 1 also added some new language and sections regarding CO detection for almost every type of public occupancy class.

New language like "...spaces served by the first supply air register from a fuel-burning HVAC system..." has been added to clarify placement of CO detectors.

Section 917 

Requirements for mass notifications systems, particularly those defined by an NFPA 72 Risk Analysis.

 

FOR  THE FULL PRESENTATION, SEE THE ATTACHED LINK BELOW.

Changes_to_2018_Model_Codes.pdf (795.13 kb)

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Cold weather creates challenges for fire fighters.

by Adam Jacobs 1/5/2018

In recent Des Moines area fires, first responders have some extra challenges because of the sub-zero temperatures.  Here are links to some new stories recently:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2017/12/18/two-transported-hospital-following-river-bend-neighborhood-fire/960355001/

 

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2018/01/02/cause-urbandale-condo-fire-may-always-unknown-says-fire-chief/996721001/

 

http://whotv.com/2018/01/05/mother-three-kids-safe-after-fire-at-west-des-moines-hotel/

 

Be sure your fire alarm and other life safety systems are working properly, so fire departments and paramedics have as much time as possible to help occupants in the building.

 

 

 

 

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Iowa Passes Carbon Monoxide Legislation

by Adam Jacobs 12/15/2017

 

Iowa Senate File 2219 was approved by a 37-11 vote on Monday.  This legislation requires all apartment buildings and private homes to have carbon monoxide detectors if constructed after July 1, 2018.  The only exempt buildings are ones without any fuel-fired appliances (heaters, stoves, dryers, etc.) or attached garages.
 
Here are some highlights of the new code.
 
- New apartment buildings (built after July 1, 2018) will need to have some type of CO detection in each unit's sleeping areas.  Exact placement may vary slightly based on manufacturer's installation instructions.  The legislation does not specify that these detectors must be system-type detectors connected to a monitored panel.  They can be AC-powered, battery-powered, or part of a fire alarm system.
 
- Hearing-impaired tenants can request a CO detector with visual notification (strobe light).  The building owner must provide this accommodation within 30 days of the request.
 
- If owner fails to provide a detector, as specified in this new code, after 30 days the tenant has the right to purchase and install one on their own and deduct the cost from their next rent payment.  If they've rented for longer than 30 days, owner can make renter pay for the battery.  (interesting language in Sec. 6)
 
This new legislation appears to be state-wide adoption of language that has been in national codes for a while.  These codes already require CO detection with almost identical language:
 
International Residential Code (since 2009 version) - Section R315 in IRC 2015
International Building Code (since 2009 version) - Section 915 in IBC 2015 
International Fire Code (since 2009) - Section 915 in IFC 2015
ANSI/UL 2034
NFPA 720
 
The enforcement of these requirements will fall on the state and local fire marshals, similar to other fire/life safety codes.
 
Call American Alarms if you have questions about when and where carbon monoxide detectors are required.

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