MORE ON SMOKE DETECTORS AND FIRE ALARMS FROM AUGUST 29, 2015
Re: Marty Winger and John from New Jersey's comments on August 29, 2015.
First John. For brevity, my dispute to what you posit is based on what you do not appear to be taking into consideration and/or know. So please take a moment and see that others like me, who had dedicated themselves to the alarm industry for over 40 years, can teach you something.
The subject of focusing in on smoke detectors and smoke alarms is not just from the standpoint of keeping alarm contractors from being sued. To the contrary, it is based on doing it right the first time; helping save lives, helping minimize property loss, and being properly trained so that NFPA 72 and Nationally Recognized Industry Standards and Practices are consistently followed. What’s really sad is that oftentimes it takes an alarm contractor getting sued [or losing their business] to realize that he/she should have taken the time to learn NFPA 72; always apply it, and have the proper contract with each of its subscribers. Being sued is just the consequence when the aforementioned is not followed, and of course, even if you do everything properly, you could still be sued.
However, the salient point here is that many in the alarm industry do not comply and/or understand NFPA 72, [and they are not willing to take the time and effort to do so, or pay to learn] so I would rather proactively bring up these concerns now, then have to wait until a loss occurs and you call my offices looking to retain me as your expert. As to your deep pocket concerns, in my opinion, alarm contractors need to do everything they can do to ensure that if they are in compliance; deep pockets or not, it is the only place to land; or just do not sell fire alarms and life safety systems. Let’s not ever lose sight that we provide life safety products and services to the public. The concern about being sued, is not one of a potential defendant only having deep pockets, it has to be factually based; there has to be proximate cause; there needs to be damages; and there needs to be science to support expert opinions against each tortfeasor. Likewise, alarm contractors do not just get contracts from Ken because they are afraid of getting sued, they utilize them because you realistically cannot operate in the alarm industry without them; nor could you ever expect to be able to sell your company in the future unless and until each of your subscribers are under a written contract with your company. It’s never about a fire alarm system starting a fire; although I had one case where that was alleged by the other ; it’s that you may have failed to properly design and install the fire alarm system; it fails; and based on same, the smoke detector in the hallway that was supposed to detect either the invisible and/or visible particles of combustion, did not, and the reason why, is that you failed to connect it, you failed to test it, but it was still represented to be working, and was mounted on the ceiling when the fire started.
The case studies in my 339 page peer reviewed book, the Alarm Science Manual; available on Amazon; or you can purchase it directly from my company at a discount, for being on Ken’s forum, could really educate and show you, and others first hand; the “Why” of litigation against alarm companies, and how to minimize it. Doing both forensic plaintiff’s and defendant’s expert work nationally since 1980; and also concurrently having an active alarm contracting practice, I can tell you that my book will open up your eyes to the reality of what is actually happening, and has happened in courtrooms across the country, when there is an alarm and/or security related claim.
As to you opining that the word smoke alarm is a misnomer, it is clearly defined in NFPA 72, so I must conclude that you might need to read it again. With regards to you thinking that we should re-mane smoke alarms to; not so good flame detectors, remember there are four stages to a fire, and flame is too late to provide for early warning detection.
Statistically and undeniably, smoke alarms and smoke detectors saves lives; despite what some videos might show; but I agree that there are limitations to many of the detectors that we install in the alarm industry. The goal is to address those limitations to the extent that they exist, and use Alarm Science methodology to help accomplish this task. It is also important to note that not having enough detectors in the proper location, not maintaining the detectors in accordance with NFPA 72, and allowing detectors to be installed way beyond their functional and reliable life expectancy is much, much, more of a problem from my forensic experience, investigating property loss, serious personal injury and fire death cases where the alarm system is investigated after a fire occurred.
You also stated; If I'm adding protection, especially something that would likely sound the alarm many minutes if not hours before an ionization smoke alarm anyway, how can I be held accountable for damages that result from a fire? I know Mr. Zwirn will likely dispute this, but believe me when I tell you, I don't think he will like my response if he does.
Sure I would like your response, [what is it?] ask any one of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students who has come to my classes or read my book. Or any of the local and federal law enforcement officials who has come to my classes at the NYPD over the past 17 years.
That being said, your statement that your detector would likely sound the alarm anyway is a guess right now, and it can quickly go from a guess to something that is factually based; if the smoke detector does not sound at all. Be that as it may, this is the focus of where liability resides. Additionally, what if your smoke detector is scientifically determined to have sounded late during the fire; based on your actions and/or inactions? You do not believe that you can be held accountable? OK, well no one ever knows for certain if they can be held accountable, but what is the disadvantage of you doing it right from the get go? To help minimize loss of life, serious personal injury and/or property loss? To the extent that your “protection” activates many hours before an existing smoke alarm does, that would be terrific, but the issue that you need to focus on is if it never activates; or by way of example, if you install a non-supervised siren driver and no audible alarm sounds during the fire; [because one of the speakers on the loop shorted out and was not detected by the system for corrective action to be initiated before the fire ] and the occupants of the home are not warned, do not wake up, and you are left with a fact pattern where no one in the family survives the fire. What about protective loop supervision on a normally open 24 hour fire circuit? In that someone has egregiously strapped out the loop for supervision with an end of line resistor onto the control panel set terminals? You truly believe that this is safe and defensible, if it is determined that there was an open circuit on the subject loop, and the only reason why this serious system impairment was not identified automatically by the control panel set, was due to the improper methodology of failing to comply with the equipment manufacturers specifications, UL Standards, NFPA Standards and Nationally Recognized industry Standards and Practices?
As you know, if the loop is open, on a normally open circuit, [on the circuit side for four wire detectors and of course for two-wire detectors as well] all of the connected smoke detectors cannot technically function. In other words, none of the mounted smoke detectors are functional in an occupied home. Furthermore, it does not appear that you have ever attended any one of the 60+ different courses that I have developed and teach to alarm contractors and central station operators across the country, and in the State of New Jersey, in order for alarm contractors to renew their licenses.
In summary, my goal here is to educate and help alarm contractors to the extent that they are interested in learning about Alarm Science, in ways to better electronically help protect their subscribers, help thwart circumvention techniques utilized by the criminal element to bypass alarm systems, and in ways to help minimize their liability. I would be glad to help you if I can, but you must be willing to learn new things, that you likely do you know. At the same time, I am always willing to learn new things as well. Let’s all continue the dialog.
Marty I truly do not feel that you beat up on me. The goal here is to open up a debate to help others learn; and try to help those who do not care about what they do; do not know what they are doing, and most of all, should not be in the alarm industry; maybe recognize for the very first time that its time to change what they are doing wrong; because lives are at stake here!
Jeffrey D. Zwirn, President
IDS Research and Development, Inc.
Tenafly, New Jersey 07670