Article by Dale Grant – Marketing Specialist
“You NEVER pull the Fire Alarm unless there is an emergency!”
This message is drilled into us during the earliest stages of our formal education and because we are told not to, we spend the rest of our lives wanting to pull it.
So, what actually does happen when a Fire Alarm is pulled?
Let’s say you’re a temporary employee at a mid-level paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. You have a hankering for a cheesy pita, so you pop it in the toaster oven and run back to your desk to send a quick email while you wait. Unbeknownst to you, you accidentally set the device to oven instead of toast. Distracted by your emails, you don’t notice your lunch turned from potential nourishment to charcoal briquette. Soon, smoke begins to emerge from the office kitchen. Noticing the smoke, your coworker pulls the fire alarm.
The first thing that will happen is the activation of both audible and visual alarms. Loud sirens and flashing lights will alert building occupants of the emergency, signaling the need for an evacuation. Depending on the system, automated announcements may announce the need for evacuation. Depending on the facility, fire doors held open by magnetic locks will automatically close to help stop the potential spread of fire. In many modern buildings, elevators will automatically be recalled to the ground floor, providing egress to anyone currently in the elevator and preventing anyone else from endangering themselves by using them for evacuation.
Upon hearing the alarm, building occupants should begin to evacuate the building according to the building’s emergency plan.
In most cases, Fire Alarms are connected to central monitoring stations. Upon the activation of a Fire Alarm, local fire departments and other emergency responders will be dispatched to the location. Upon arrival, firefighters will investigate the building, searching for the source of the fire and will respond accordingly, extinguishing the fire and removing any remaining occupants from the building. If it is a false alarm, they will reset the alarm system and allow occupants to return once the building is deemed safe.
It is important to note the things that do not happen when a Fire Alarm is pulled.
First, despite what you may have seen in movies, pulling a Fire Alarm does not activate a building’s automatic Fire Sprinkler system. Fire Sprinklers are triggered individually when the heat from a fire causes the liquid inside a glass ampule to break inside each sprinkler head, activating only that individual unit. In most cases, small fires are extinguished or contained by a single sprinkler head.
Secondly, and it doesn’t take being a member of Congress to know this, pulling a Fire Alarm will not open closed doors. Pulling a Fire Alarm is designed to trigger a swift, coordinated response to protect people and property in the event of a fire or emergency. Pulling a Fire Alarm in the United States is a serious offense. Depending on the jurisdiction, it can lead to criminal charges, fines, penalties, and potentially civil liability. It is essential to understand that false alarms not only waste valuable resources but can also put lives at risk by diverting emergency personnel from real emergencies.
As is the case with so many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So take an extra moment to ensure that your toaster oven is set to the proper setting and do not use a Fire Alarm pull station to open doors, as this is an unlawful act.