American Alarms Blog

PotterNet wins Campus Safety BEST Award 2019!

by Adam Jacobs 8/19/2019

Campus Safety Magazine has awarded Potter with a Campus Safety BEST Award in the category of Fire/Life Safety Systems for the PotterNet Graphical Monitoring Control Software.

 

American Alarms is proud to provide Potter fire alarm systems, made in St. Louis, Missouri.  For more information on PotterNet and the award click the link below:

https://www.pottersignal.com/news/106/potternet-wins-campus-safety-best-award-2019

 

For more information on Potter for your next project, call American Alarms.

 

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Fire protection in restaurants

by Adam Jacobs 8/13/2019

Here's some good information from our insurance friends at Markel for restaurant owners and managers:

 

https://www.markelinsurance.com/resources/fire-protection-systems-in-restaurants

 

Restaurants have some special requirements for fire protection.  Be sure you know what they are for your area, and have your systems inspected regularly so they work when you need them!

Most insurance companies offer discounts for properly maintained fire protection systems - range hoods with fire suppression, portable fire extinguishers, fire alarm, wet fire sprinklers, etc.

 

 

 

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Sleep Safe - a little planning goes a long way

by Adam Jacobs 8/7/2019

Tuck has some great information on everything to do with sleep, including fire safety in the bedroom.  Here are a few tips for better safety:

 

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Fire Alarm Integrations and Special Applications

by Adam Jacobs 7/3/2019

Do you have a special application fire alarm project?  Most alarm companies can handle the simple system designs - retail store, small apartment building, small office building, etc.  But how about these integrations/applications:

Elevator primary/secondary recall

Smoke dampers

Elevator shaft smoke hatch with manual release

Explosion-proof devices

Hazardous area devices

Mass notification requirements

High-candela visual notification (hearing impaired)

Text/email secondary notification

HVAC control integration

Exhaust fan startup

Temp/water sensor integration (sprinkler monitoring)

Fire pump function monitoring

High-rise notification zoning

Smoke control panel integration

Large area/outdoor notification

Multi-building campus fiber-optic network

Access control integrations

Special hazard/agent releasing integrations

 

Now some of those sound like CIA mission names, but they are all part of fire alarm system design that we've encountered and designed over the years (almost 36).

 

When you need help with a special application, give us a call and make sure it gets designed correctly.

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National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

by Adam Jacobs 4/17/2019

When we think of safety, it's easy to think of the firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel that respond to emergencies every day.  But don't forget about all the other people that work to get those first-responders to the scene of an emergency quickly and safely.

Please take the time to thank 9-1-1 telecommunicators, communications staff trainers, supervisors and managers of communications centers, those that that maintain radio and emergency phone systems, and other public safety telecommunications staff across the country who work hard every day serving the public.

 

Thank you all!

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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!

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.  

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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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