CSAA, IAFC battle false alarms, falsehoods

The groups fight misinformation as they work together in an effort to reduce false alarms
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

VIENNA, Va.— To combat the problem of frequent false alarms in commercial facilities, the Central Station Alarm Association has been working with the International Association of Fire Chiefs for the past year to come up with some proposed NFPA 72 code changes. Now the groups say they’re fighting a misinformation campaign about the changes, battling such claims that they’re “in bed” together and that the proposals are dangerous.

“Nothing is further from the truth,” Steve Doyle, executive VP and CEO of CSAA, which is based here, told Security Systems News in late February. “The IAFC has been absolutely terrific … working with us with all the best of intentions in the world to just try and reduce false alarms and we’re working in the same way and nobody stands to gain a penny out of this, other than the fire services will save some lives and maybe a whole lot of unnecessary runs if we can get this thing worked out.”

Since the IAFC submitted the proposed changes to NFPA 72 in the fall, there has been “considerable misinformation and distortion of the facts at issue,” according to a statement issued by the CSAA earlier this year. That’s why the CSAA is referring the industry to a fact sheet produced by the IAFC to counteract what that group describes as “myths” regarding the proposals.

The approximately 30 proposed changes are undergoing review and public comment and would be added to the 2013 version of the code if any of them win approval in the summer of 2012, according to Shane Clary of California-based Bay Alarm, a member of CSAA’s codes and standards committee and the NFPA standards council.

The IAFC fact sheet, which can be found at www.IAFC.org, says that among the untruths about the proposals are claims that a proposed change for a 90-second verification delay is dangerous.

The IAFC says the validation delay, for which an AHJ can opt out if it determines it cannot accept such a wait, actually would add to the safety of the public and responders if implemented properly.

The group says such a change would be identical to existing alarm codes for residential properties, where the majority of fire deaths actually occur.

Also, the IAFC says, the 90-second notification delay to avoid sending responders out to chase a false commercial fire alarm is safer because then they can attend to actual emergencies.

As for being “in bed” together, the IAFC strongly refutes that claim in its fact sheet.

“There are no requirements in these proposals that would directly benefit central station alarm providers over the fire service.  In fact, the proposals would put additional burden and responsibility on those monitoring and maintaining commercial alarm systems,” the group’s fact sheet said.

Doyle concurred. Reducing false alarms helps the industry’s “overall image,” he said, but “as a matter of fact it’s going to cost central stations more money” with increased expenses for additional verification.

“They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Clary believes some of the proposed changes will gain approval but said they may be amended to address concerns. For example, he said, “the 90-second delay still may survive, but I think it will have to have some further modifications.”