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Brain teaser: What’s the difference between a smoke detector and smoke alarm?
September 1, 2018
Brain teaser: What’s the difference between a smoke detector and smoke alarm?
       Is this about semantics or do fire alarm experts recognize the distinction clearly and immediately?  How about an alarm dealer that doesn’t specialize in fire but has a license to install fire alarm, or detection, systems?  Here’s how this question came to my attention, and I didn’t know the difference, but I’m not an alarm dealer.
       New York State amended its Alarm Installer license.  Alan Glasser, Executive Director of Metropolitan Burglar and Fire Alarm Association of New York brought this to my attention.  Allan, by the way, offers the required course to get the NY alarm license.  His next class is noted below.  
       Alan sent the updated changes in the law and marked it up, or more precisely, colored it up.  The red words come out, green go in, and the blue is Alan’s analysis.
(c) Installation of an alarm system includes, but is not limited to, the placing and connection of equipment and devices such as, control panels, batteries, smoke or heat detectors (excluding single station battery operated smoke [detectors]alarms), motion detectors, switches, annunciators, sensors, sirens, horns, bells, networksmicroprocessors (controls, logic key pads), other communication equipment and similar devices. Installation also includes programming the client's control panel to include but not limited to programming or reprogramming for access codes, system protocol, bypass features, and hours of operation. Single station battery operated smoke alarms. Like to ones you buy in the hardware store. You should know the difference between a smoke detector and a smoke alarm!
Installation of an alarm system includes, but is not limited to networks! NETWORKS! I thought computer people did networks. Well if you are installing any sort of a network for IP cameras, fire alarm systems, burglar alarms, access control, you need to be licensed! Networks are the future and the licensing law addresses the fact that alarm guys that install networks for the aforementioned devices have to be licensed and/or HIRE LICENSED SUBCONTRACTORS to do the work. We are talking about security here.

       As part of his comment Alan mentions, “You should know the difference between a smoke detector and a smoke alarm!”  it occurred to me that I really didn’t know the difference.  The amendment changes a single station battery operated smoke detector to smoke alarm.  When I asked Alan what the difference was he responded with his results from an Internet search:
       “What is the difference between smoke alarms and smoke detectors?
Smoke alarms are self-contained, single or multiple-station smoke-sensing devices typically found in homes.
Smoke detectors are smoke-sensing devices that are not self-contained. They operate as an interconnected system and are sometimes monitored remotely. Smoke detectors are commonly found in hotels, hospitals and in other commercial or industrial applications.”

       Apparently a smoke alarm includes “multiple-station smoke-sensing devices”.  Smoke detectors are “not self-contained” and “operate as an interconnected system”.
       I’m sorry.  I still don’t know the difference.  If I buy a stand-alone smoke device that emits a noise if it senses smoke, I would not notice if it was called a smoke detector or smoke alarm.  I would know it’s battery operated and doesn’t do anything other than emit a noise.  
       I have a fire alarm in my house.  I thought I have smoke alarms.  I guess I have smoke detectors [which I know are different from other fire alarm devices, such as heat detectors].  
       Is the real difference that smoke alarms don’t send a signal to anyone and smoke detectors send a signal?
       Any advice would be appreciated; I don’t want to have to take Alan’s classes.
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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
516 747 6700