American Alarms Blog

Recycle all of it (almost)

by Adam Jacobs 3/21/2019

At American Alarms, we do our part to reduce the amount of waste we put out into the world.  Here are just a few of the items we re-purpose or recycle:

- Batteries

- Wire and cable

- Circuit boards

- Old CCTV monitors (even CRT)

- Obsolete alarm parts (when a customer upgrades)

- Obsolete CCTV cameras (when a customer upgrades)

- Miscellaneous electronic components

- Office computers

- Office paper and plastics

 

Do YOUR part by making sure the companies you hire are doing their part!

 

 

 

| To the top |

Fire Alarm in Building Wasn't Working When Firefighters Arrived

by Adam Jacobs 3/20/2019

I just read a story of a fire in a Denton, TX apartment building.  The residents were evacuated in the middle of the night, taking what few belongings they could carry.  The firefighters were still cutting into walls to make sure the fire was completely out.  The apartment management company did not do much to help the residents, but local schools and the Red Cross help many families.  The thing that really stuck out, though, was they mentioned the building has a fire alarm system.  It didn't alarm.  It had been (supposedly) inspected, tested, and tagged less than a year earlier.  So what happened?  Did the fire alarm contractor actually do a functional test of all the devices?  Or did they just do a "drive-by" inspection and stick a tag on the panel?  Now the residents and the building owner are in a big predicament.

Are you just paying for a tag so you don't get harassed by the city, or is your system REALLY tested every year?

Does your insurance company pay for fire damage when the fire alarm doesn't work the way it should?

Is it worth saving a few bucks on the inspections each year to put lives in danger and risk a denied insurance claim?

 

Make sure your alarm contractor does a full functional test of your system.  Watch them do it some time.  

Or you can call us.  We will never skimp on safety.

 

| To the top |

What does it mean to have your alarms monitored?

by Adam Jacobs 3/18/2019

There are literally hundreds of central stations that receive alarm signals in our country.  So what sets them apart?  How do you know yours has what it takes when it really matters?  The Monitoring Association (TMA) is the oldest and most reputable gauge of central station overall performance and customer satisfaction in the industry.

How many times has your central station won TMA's Central Station of the Year?  Ours won last year.

Does your central station have multiple locations hundreds of miles apart, so that weather cannot affect BOTH stations at once?  Ours does.

Does your central station have dual backup servers, generators, and an emergency recovery plan?  Ours does.

If you have fire alarms, does your central station truly understand the difference between fire and burglar alarms?  Many don't, but ours does.

Do you wait for 10, 15, 20 minutes or more just to talk with an operator?  You'll never wait more than a minute or two when calling ours.

Does your station have customer web applications and smart phone apps if that's what you choose?  Ours does.

Do you have the option to NOT get awakened in the middle of the night for trouble and supervisory signals?  Ours does.

 

We spent over a year to figure out exactly what we would want in a central station.  We are confident that our central station does the best job of any in the industry.

Come experience what REAL customer service and professional alarm monitoring feels like!

 

| To the top |

Urbandale Requires Fire Alarm in Apartments

by Adam Jacobs 2/27/2019

If you own or manage an apartment building with 16 or more units, you've probably received the letter.  It was actually sent back on June 9, 2015.  It gives owners/managers 5 years to bring their buildings up to compliance with this letter.  These are only a portion of the requirements in a similar building constructed today, but it still could be a significant cost.  Installing anything AFTER construction is complete is more expensive.  But there are options to get a building into compliance, with minimal impact on residents and your budget.  This letter is really a "step in the right direction" rather than a full-blown all-in fire alarm system.  A pull station here, a horn/strobe there, not much really.  But better than having NO building notification in the event of fire.  These systems are also required to be remotely monitored at a UL-listed central station that will relay a dispatch call to Urbandale Fire Department when a general alarm is activated.  We are getting a lot more calls now, because it's nearing the first deadline - June 9, 2019 - when all letter recipients need to have a formal system plan in to Urbandale for review.  The system, if approved, will need to be installed and inspected by Urbandale FD by June 9, 2020.  There are a few other requirements not related to fire alarm in the letter, so if your didn't get one and you think you may fall under these new requirements, contact Urbandale Fire Department and talk to them.  Call American Alarms for a site survey and estimate on fire alarm to meet the new requirements.  Don't wait until June 8th to call.

| To the top |

Occupational Licensing - Alarm Contractors

by Adam Jacobs 2/13/2019

In the 1950's only 5% of workers in America needed a license to do their job.  Today it's estimated that 19% of all workers in the U.S. need an occupational license.  Workers who install, program, test/inspect, and service fire alarm systems are in that 19%.  For at least the last 10 years, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, State Fire Marshal's Division, has required anyone wanting to work on fire alarm systems to get a license first.  Here are the different levels (endorsements) of licensing required for fire alarm in Iowa:

#1 = Fire alarm system contractor or installer (all-inclusive, 2-7 not needed)

Allows the license holder to do anything related to fire alarm systems - install, test/inspect, service, and program.

#2 = Nurse call systems only

#3 = Security alarms only

#4 = Alarm system maintenance/inspection only

#5 = Dwelling unit alarm system only (Residential)

#6 = Alarm system component installer only

Allows license holder to hang devices, but not to program or test the system.

#7 = Alarm system assistant (must be supervised by #1 license holder)

 

In order to get each of these licenses, you need to be pre-certified using an approved training/testing course:

NICET II Fire Alarm Systems or ESA Certified Alarm Tech 2 = #1 State License

NICET I Fire Alarm Systems or ESA Certified Alarm Tech 1 = #2-#7 only

 

In addition to certification, before getting the Iowa license, we must also go through a complete criminal background check including fingerprinting.

To make sure you get a qualified alarm technician, ask to see the technician's State of Iowa license.  They should have a card with the state seal and a list of endorsements.  If their endorsements don't match what they have come to do for you, question them (or flog them) rigorously.  The state fire marshal doesn't have time to run around and check everyone's license, but you should.  Your safety and that of your co-workers, customers, and visitors are in their hands.  

| To the top |

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.

  

| To the top |

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

 

 

| To the top |

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.

 

 

 

 

| To the top |

How do you hide the fire alarm and still meet the codes?

by Adam Jacobs 12/10/2017

Where do you go when the owner and architect want one thing, but the fire codes require something else?  Well, Concealite has built a business around just that!  American Alarms is your local distributor for Concealite products that have helped architects and code officials find a reasonable compromise for years.  Imagine walking into a room where NONE of the fire alarm notification devices, emergency lighting, electrical wall outlets, security motion detectors, and even occupancy sensors are concealed in the wall.  Never before has it been this easy to design a space with a clean seamless look, but still meet all the electrical and life safety code requirements.  See the GIF and link below for more info on these incredible products.

 

http://www.concealite.com/emergency_fixtures.html

 

| To the top |

How do you hide the fire alarm and still meet the codes?

by Adam Jacobs 12/10/2017

Where do you go when the owner and architect want one thing, but the fire codes require something else?  Well, Concealite has built a business around just that!  American Alarms is your local distributor for Concealite products that have helped architects and code officials find a reasonable compromise for years.  Imagine walking into a room where NONE of the fire alarm notification devices, emergency lighting, electrical wall outlets, security motion detectors, and even occupancy sensors are concealed in the wall.  Never before has it been this easy to design a space with a clean seamless look, but still meet all the electrical and life safety code requirements.  Most devices can be painted or wallpapered to match any wall/ceiling.  See the GIF and link below for more info on these incredible products.

 

http://www.concealite.com/emergency_fixtures.html

 

| To the top |

Copyright © 2016 · American Alarms, division of American Electrical Sales Corp. All Rights Reserved.

Powered by Genesis Core 2.1.1.1 | Des Moines Iowa Web Design by Wolf Creek Technology

Click for the BBB Business Review of this Fire & Smoke Alarm Systems in Des Moines IA