American Alarms Blog

What's the elevator got to do with it?

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

Again today we got to the end of a project and sure enough, the installing electricians had zero notice from the general contractor that there would need to be an elevator inspection for fire alarm function.  In the state of Iowa, there is a totally separate elevator inspection done by the state.  These inspectors focus only on the elevator function, elevator safety, and related safety issues.  This may not be the case in all states.  The fire alarm is supposed to control the following functions:

 

Primary Floor Recall

Secondary/Alternate Floor Recall

Shunt Trip

"Hat" light in car

Smoke Damper (many AHJs also want this to have manual override)

 

These may not all be required in all jurisdictions, but most want all 5.  These functions are only triggered by the elevator lobby smoke detectors, which are required to be within 21' of the elevator door (center) in the same smoke cavity/space.  So if there are fire doors that separate a corridor from the elevator lobby, you can't use the hallway smoke as your elevator lobby smoke because the header is likely more than 12".

 

Just remember, think about the elevator when you plan the project.  You'll need extra parts and extra time to make sure this important people transport is as safe as can be.

 

 

 

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Remodeling may bring fire trucks

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020
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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FireLite 9200UDLS and Notifier NFW2-100

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

There a TON of these panels in use in central Iowa.  Recently a few we service were damaged beyond repair by storms with lightning.  We found out that FireLite's new ES-200X panel can be installed and connect to the same detectors, modules, etc.  However, the boards are a different footprint (doesn't mount in 9200UDLS cabinet) and the program would have to be rebuilt.  So then we have to decide - do we scour the planet for old stock 9200UDLS/NFW2-100 boards and panels, or just buy the current model and take extra time to install and program?  Fortunately we have an extensive network of distributors that we talk to regularly and we were able to find some old stock panels as exact replacements.  

This kind of thing happens once in a while with fire alarm (and other products).  When products become obsolete you have to make a decision and consider the customer's budget as well.  In a world of unlimited funds, the choice is easy.  So for most of our customers, they have to weigh their options carefully and make a wise choice (quickly).

Call us if you have trouble finding obsolete parts.  We have a better stock than anyone in central Iowa of many different brands.

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What's above your ceiling?

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

Since 99% of our systems are in commercial buildings, we see a LOT of alarm wiring.  We also talk to a LOT of electricians and other people working on commercial projects.  After our projects are done, those same people thank us for the neat and orderly work that we leave them.  Sure, we could get in there and throw cables around, and make it work.  Once those ceiling tiles go in, the owner may never see our sloppy wiring again.  But we also do enough service on systems, that we make sure to leave wiring that the next person can understand.  Some of the multi-tenant buildings that we work in, are continuously being remodeled with new tenants.  These buildings are VERY difficult to keep neat and understandable.  I'm not bragging, but we've made this a passion.  If you own or manage multi-tenant buildings, let us take care of the fire alarm and other low-voltage changes.  We guarantee you'll be satisfied.

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

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

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

 

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Did the low bid really save you money?

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

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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Don't be afraid to get away from wires!

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

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Fire Alarm Integrations and Special Applications

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

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

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

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

 

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Recycle all of it (almost)

by Adam Jacobs 7/2/2020

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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