…building alarm box…


The alarm machine called us, so this isn’t a funny call story, but a notice to other firefighters to think about WHY alarms go off.

And to let you know that one person actually evacuated when the alarm went off a the 10 story apartment building. A clear sign people are learning what that loud buzzing means.

THE EMERGENCY

Automatic alarm activation in 10 story multi-residential type 1. Alarm panel indicates single smoke detector on the third floor.

THE ACTION

We’re the first engine in and up to the third floor we go. There is only one person standing out in the cold, wrapped in a blanket, asking if she can go back in yet. Clearly she’s from out of town, likely a new student at the nearby college.

Roaming the hallways we see no signs of smoke or fire, only the flashing strobes and blaring buzzer. We can barely communicate it is so loud.
Looking from detector to detector for the indicator light showing it is the one tripped, we see nothing. The ladder company finally silences the alarm but the system will not reset.
Assuming the alarm is confused, we search the floor above and below finding nothing. There has been some wall refinishing in one area of the third floor, but the areas smell of paint instead of dust.

Downstairs, the alarm will not reset and the Chief wants us back up to take another look around just to be sure. No one will answer their door, but all the doors on the floor are cool to touch and have no odor coming from them.

I decided to slowly walk looking for anything out of the ordinary, not just signs of fire.

It was on this walk I noticed a faint over spray near one of the detectors. Looking closer and reaching up I felt the reason…wet paint. Someone spray painted only the sensor part of the detector, including the light that indicates it is faulty. We called up the building engineer who said he’d get to it whenever.

After picking our jaws back up off the floor we explained that the giant building’s alarm system was not working and he doesn’t want to wait on this repair, but get to it immediately.

On the ride down (elevator down of course) we could only think of 2 reasons to spray paint a smoke detector:

  1. You like to smoke in the hallway.
  2. You plan on burning the building down and are testing response times.

We’re hoping for the former.
Although when it really is a fire, more folks might leave the building when the alarm sounds.

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