What the Beep?

by Katie Lee

Your fire alarm panel is beeping — now what?

By Ben McCurdy

It’s a Monday morning and you are opening your store. You are immediately greeted with a high pitched beeping from the fire alarm panel. This ear piercing noise has you wondering whether you should close and send customers home, get to safety, or brush it off as a malfunction. When you contact your fire protection service provider, you become increasingly frantic as you try to gather all the information they are asking for.

Many business owners and employees find themselves in this situation while confronting a beeping fire alarm. It is not uncommon to feel frustrated by the disruption to your day and your business. A complication with your fire alarm system takes time and patience to resolve. Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to know the steps to take when your fire alarm panel is behaving strangely.

PHOTO 1Although it may be bothersome to hear your fire alarm system beeping, it’s important to remember the purpose behind the noise. Your system is providing you with a helpful signal that something isn’t right. Now that you recognize there is a problem, it is time to take action. Your fire and life safety service provider should be able to walk you through what needs to be done, however, the stress of this situation can be significantly reduced by having a general understanding of your fire alarm system.

First and foremost, it’s important to know the difference between your fire alarms “going off” which means the horns are sounding and strobes are flashing, and your fire alarm panel beeping. These are very different situations. If your fire alarm system has been activated (full blown alarms going off), exit the building immediately and follow your established evacuation plan and fire safety procedures. Your safety and the safety of your customers is the Number 1 priority. Then, let the fire department determine whether or not there is a fire. If it has been determined there is no fire, or if the noise you hear is your fire alarm panel beeping, follow the steps outlined below:

• Look to see what is displayed on the screen of your fire alarm panel.

The following supervisory or trouble messages are commonly displayed and should be relayed to your fire sprinkler company:

– Low Air

– Sprinkler Control Valve Tamper (OS&Y Valve, PIV Tamper, Sprinkler Tamper Switch)

– Low Water Level for a Tank

– Fire Pump Phase Reversal

– Fire Pump Power Loss

– Fire Pump Running

The following supervisory or trouble messages are also common, but should be relayed to your fire alarm company:

– A/C Fail

– Communication Failure Trouble

• Communication Trouble

• Communication Fault

• DACT Trouble

• Network Failure

Phone Line 1 Fail

Phone Line 2 Fail

– Device Missing Trouble

– Duct Detector/RTU Smoke

– Elevator Recall Smoke Detector

– Low Battery/Battery Missing

– Power Supply Trouble/NAC Panel Trouble

• After you identify what the panel says, you can contact your fire sprinkler service provider or fire alarm service provider, depending on what the panel says. It is recommended to make the call from a mobile phone while in close proximity to the main panel or annunciator panel. This will put you in the right position to answer any questions about the panel so they can quickly determine the next steps.

• At this point if you wish to silence the beeping, press the silence or acknowledge button. Doing so will not erase any history on your panel, and will help lessen the annoyance of your alarm panel beeping. Do not press the reset button.

• Once you have your service provider on the phone, be prepared to answer questions about the panel such as:

– What does the lighted display say?

– Are there any lights flashing on the panel? What color are they?

– Has your monitoring company called? What information did they provide?

– What does the beeping sound like and how often is it beeping?

This is a general reference guide; however, it is recommended that you take pointers from your service provider. Chaos can be decreased by remembering a few of the key things about fire alarms mentioned above. Instead of calling in a panic to say “My fire alarm is going off, what now?” you could be calling with confidence to say, “My fire alarm panel is signaling an issue with zone 3 RTU 14, can someone come check that out for me?” Not only will you impress your service provider, but you will reduce your own stress, while saving yourself a lot of time.


Ben McCurdy is the technical advisor at APi National Service Group (APi NSG). Based out of New Brighton, Minnesota, APi NSG provides fire and life safety inspections and service for businesses with a national portfolio of properties. Email the author at [email protected].

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