Article by Dale Grant – Marketing Specialist
Some exceptionally cool people collect comic books and action figures. Others collect coins and stamps. A man in New Jersey holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest Pez Dispenser collection with whopping 5,548 individual candy dispensers. Then there’s Alex Mann, who might have one of the coolest and most unique collections, Fire Alarm Equipment.
Mann, a 23-year-old volunteer for the Uwchlan Ambulance Corps in Chester County, PA has an impressive collection of Fire Alarm equipment. Mann, who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, visited Oliver Fire Protection and Security on December 5th to spend some time with our experts. We sat down with Alex to discuss his love of all things Fire Alarm as well as the projects that are close to his heart.
Oliver FPS: Tell me about your passion for Fire Alarms. What sparked your Interest?
Mann: My fire alarm interest started about 4 ½ years ago. At the time, it was a fear of mine. As I am diagnosed on the autism spectrum, I have a noise sensitivity issue. So, when we had something such as a false alarm or fire drill, I would either have to leave the building early, or know about the drill well in advance, so I could either know about the alarms going off, or not have to hear them at all. However, after going through all those years of fire drills, false alarms, you name it, I started to become curious. I began to research the different makes and models, wiring them up, the terminology, everything. After all the research, and even getting to pull a couple of alarms myself, I eventually came to the realization that these devices are there to save people’s lives, and not necessarily just to scare or annoy people.
Oliver FPS: That’s awesome. Can you tell me a little bit about your collection? Do you have a favorite piece?
Mann: Over the last 4 ½ years, I’ve amassed quite a collection of equipment. These devices, all commercial, are sitting on shelves in my bedroom. As of right now, I have exactly 730 devices, with styles ranging from an old Edwards Fire Bell from 1872 (my oldest piece) to brand new, pre-non-production samples that have been given to me as gifts. My favorite piece out of all of them is my Gamewell Masterbox. This was given to me by a friend of mine and was pulled out of the now shuttered Philadelphia Energy Solutions Oil Refinery on Passyunk Ave (yes, the one that exploded in 2019).
Oliver FPS: So, what was your favorite thing about your visit to Oliver Fire Protection & Security?
Mann: Being able to act with the brand-new Notifier N16 Inspire FACP. I like what they did with it to make it user friendly.
Oliver FPS: Can you tell me a little about your work with First Responders, Police Departments, etc.?
Mann: I love to support our first responders, specifically Law Enforcement. Over the past 5 years, I’ve been on a mission to not only visit and show my support for Local State and Federal Law Enforcement, but also educate them on best practices when interacting with autistic individuals. To date, I have visited 453 Police Departments spanning 5 different states. As they have become more aware of my programs, many departments have had full uniforms made up for me. My “collection” of uniforms now spans two full closets in my home. I’ve even gotten to “test drive” over a dozen active-duty police vehicles (with an officer in the passenger seat of course.)
Oliver FPS: Can you provide a little more detail on the training?
Mann: Over my journey with the Law Enforcement community, I have developed a training force for not just seasoned Police Officers, but also Fire, EMS and Dispatchers. It’s called “Autism and the First Responder, and I have taught it to 50-60 State and Municipal Emergency Services Agencies across the state of PA and NJ. I have also earned the privilege to teach this material at 3 Police Academies in Pennsylvania, and 2 in New Jersey.
Oliver FPS: You developed a “Disability Disclosure Card” to assist emergency responders when interacting with people on the Autism Spectrum, can you share a little bit more on that?
Mann: The “Disability Disclosure Card” or “DDC” is a card I created with the help of one of my teachers in high school. It basically serves as an identifier to emergency personnel on how they can help me in that very moment. It has my name, date of birth, emergency contact information, my documented disability and then what I call “Action Items” – things the officer or other personnel can do, such as talking to me 1 on 1, moving to a quiet place, etc.
Oliver FPS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Life Safety Community?
Mann: Please understand that the Autism Spectrum is very vast. No one on that spectrum is the same but that doesn’t make them weird or unusual, it makes them unique and special in their own way. Because of my diagnosis, I have had people in my personal life try to literally do everything in their power to try and turn me away from my interest in life safety because, in their eyes, they didn’t see it getting me anywhere in life and that is not the way it should be.
We are all special, we are all unique, we all have a gift. Let us be the amazing individuals we are instead of trying to limit us.
The sky is the limit.
It was such a pleasure having someone who is so positive and passionate about Fire Protection and Security walk through and share in some of the technical details about these systems. Alex is a very brilliant young man and we look forward to having him back again soon.