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 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.