Prevention of False Alarms

Non-emergency and needless activation of the fire alarm system is disruptive to the teaching and research mission of the University and contributes to a dangerous complacency in occupants, who do not evacuate when the alarm sounds. New fire alarm technology at the UW provides a safer work place with more detectors that are less prone to nuisance activation. However, the new systems will still alarm unnecessarily if smoke sensors are exposed to significant amounts of contaminants, such as dust or steam. Campus-wide fire alarm statistics indicate that dust, steam, and other airborne particles are the leading cause of nuisance alarms.

There are a number of safeguards that can prevent or lessen the risk of a nuisance alarm.

During Construction

Contractors and construction managers can help prevent nuisance alarms by taking the following measures prior to and during construction. A pre-construction meeting specifically for nuisance alarms should be conducted to discuss the following preventative measures:

Temporary fire partitions and dust barriers - Review bid documents and specifications to establish what types of temporary fire partition and dust barrier measures are necessary for the specific job site. Barriers should be erected and inspected prior to any demolition.

Temporary impairment/removal of fire alarm devices - Confer with the University Fire Protection Engineer (206.616.3775) to identify which devices could be removed, bagged or otherwise disabled. Duct detectors and other devices that may be hidden can be identified through review of record drawings. For the Seattle campus, the removal, bagging or disabling of fire alarm devices shall only be completed by the University Fire Alarm Shop.

Fire watch requirements - Confer with the University Fire Protection Engineer (206.616.3775) to determine if a fire watch will be required by the Fire Department while the fire alarm devices are impaired. The contractor may serve as fire watch in some cases.

Discuss project related nuisance alarms - If the project has caused a nuisance alarm, the incident must be reviewed and measures taken to prevent reoccurrence. This discussion should take place at the regular project construction meeting.

Placing system in service - The fire alarm system should not be placed in service until the building is cleaned (contractual “final clean”). Once the fire alarm system has been accepted by the Fire Department, all smoke detector covers should be removed. Dust producing activities should not be permitted.

If a dust or steam producing activity cannot be avoided, please assess the proximity of fire detection in the area and call Facilities Services at (206) 685-1900 and request that detectors be temporarily bypassed or covered to avoid a nuisance alarm. Do not attempt to cover the detectors yourself.

Office, Residential, and Teaching Environments

  • Monitor cooking -- do not leaving cooking food unattended, even in a microwave
  • Keep cooking equipment clean
  • Use ventilation when provided
  • No smoking
  • Avoid producing large amounts of dust (such as when cleaning)