Today’s correspondent is:
… an Emergency Trainer (based on AS 3745-2010) we instruct people on a regular basis on the process of silencing EWIS [Emergency Warning and Intercommunication System] Panels to facilitate a coordinated investigation of the cause of a fire alarm sounding and then to coordinate an evacuation as required. Recently I was advised that this was illegal under Division 5, Section 34 of the Fire and Rescue NSW Act 1989 which makes it an offence to tamper with any fire alarm or signalling apparatus.
My Question: Is it considered tampering to silence the EWIS panel in order to complete an investigation or would this be considered as normal use of the EWIS system? The key word seems to be ‘tamper’, silencing the EWIS technically stops the fire alarm going off which would interfere with it but it’s one of the normal functions of the system
Interested in your thoughts on the matter.
The relevant section of the Act (s 34) says:
A person who tampers with any fire alarm or signalling apparatus for giving notice of fire or who intentionally or recklessly gives any false alarm of fire is guilty of an offence.
‘Tamper’ is defined by Lexico (from Oxford, see https://www.lexico.com/definition/tamper) as ‘Interfere with (something) in order to cause damage or make unauthorized alterations’. Clearly silencing an alarm by using a function of the panel in a way that it was intended to be used by a person authorised to do it is not to ‘tamper’ with the panel. If that were not the case no-one could ever turn off a fire alarm once started no matter the circumstances.
The authorised floor warden or fire fighter turns the alarm off after been alerted to the potential fire by the alarm, so it’s done its job. That person who acts in accordance with industry standards is not doing anything ‘in order to cause damage or make unauthorized alterations’.
An unauthorised person who deliberately turns off an alarm in order to stop it warning people of an actual fire in the hope that people will die would be ‘tampering’ with the alarm but that’s a very different circumstance.
I don’t see how anyone could think that turning off the alarm by an authorised person if done in accordance with appropriate training and procedures, was ‘tampering’ with the alarm.
Unfortunately with the number of keyboard and google experts (googlesperts), misinformation and personal belief ( ie fake news) are spread and it is easy for people to become confused.
I always recommend that if in doubt consult the relevant standards, codes, legislation, guidance notes or other doctrine.
I was in a previous life a Head Fire Warden for a 45 story building in Sydney. FRNSW didn’t want us to isolate the panel until they had had a chance to inspect the reason for the alarm. We could recall all lifts, but as to silencing the alarm, we allowed it to continue until advised otherwise.
Thanks Kris and that all makes perfect sense, but do recall that my answer was that if a person was authorised and acting in accordance with industry training and the local emergency plan, it cannot be ‘tampering’ with the alarm to turn it off.
I am retired fulltime Firefighter, over 30 years experience. Most EWIS and FIPs are not turned off by simply silencing the alarm. I just turns off the usual deafening bells, that’s all. It just turns off the screeching and distracting noise while you are trying to ascertain the active sprinkler head/call point or seat of the issue. It can in some models, but not all, acts as an acknowledgement the response team has arrived and are attending. The signal for original activation is still recorded back at the Fire control or operations centre.
Silencing an alarm in most instances is not turning it off.
With most brigades it is one of the first thing we do on arrival.
If you are a building warden, duty manager or similar and stay in attendance to liaise and advise, which you should, it is not an such an issue.
It is a different story if it is a non-connected or stand alone alarm. The bells or electronic siren sound is obviously designed to attract attention. Someone has to take responsibility to silence the thing eventually. Once a responsible person is in attendance the bells have done their job.
All modern FIPs and virtually all EWIS record all data, times and inputs.