Fire Alarm Signal Verification

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R) and, effective Feb. 1, 2021, Clackamas Fire District 1 (CFD#1) and Lake Oswego Fire Department (LOFD) require supervising stations to attempt to verify fire alarm signals at the protected premises prior to retransmitting to the 9-1-1 center. While this is commonly done by fire alarm companies (supervising stations) for residential (household) alarm systems, TVF&R, CFD#1 and LOFD require verification of all alarms, including commercial fire alarm signals as authorized under the Oregon Fire Code, NFPA 72: 26.2.2 and NFPA 72: 29.7.8.2. (A copy of the LOFD Requirement is available at: https://tinyurl.com/yc8gy928 ). 

Supervising stations that receive a fire alarm signal from a protected premise anywhere within the jurisdictions served by TVF&R, CFD#1 and LOFD shall first attempt to verify the fire alarm signal before retransmitting to the 9-1-1 center.  If the Protected Premises is contacted and onsite personnel can confirm that no fire or emergency condition exists, then the alarm signal shall not be retransmitted.  In all other situations, the alarm signal shall be immediately retransmitted. The requirement for Alarm Signal Verification under NFPA 72 allows 90 seconds to attempt the verification.                   

Verification of alarm signals allows fire departments to ensure maximum public safety by reducing nuisance alarms as well as ensuring faster and larger responses on confirmed structure fires. 

TVF&R, CFD#1 and LOFD are notifying supervising stations so that they can program the correct call order for protected premises within our service areas. Building owners and/or supervising stations may be cited where monitoring services do not comply with these requirements.     

We want to thank the business community and the fire alarm industry for their strong support in helping reduce the large number of false fire alarm dispatches.  If you have any questions about alarm verification in TVF&R service area please contact Fire Marshal Steve Forster at (503) 259-1429; questions in LOFD’s service area can be directed to Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk at (503) 635-0275; and questions for CFD#1 please contact Fire Marshal Shawn Olson at 503-742-2600. 

TVF&R, CCFD1 & LOFD Fire Alarm Verification FAQ                                  

Q: Why is verification required on all automatic fire alarms?  

A: Because Alarm Verification has been proven to significantly reduce false alarms, which are a major problem in the fire service. From 2012 to 2018, TVFR responded to more than 10,000 automatic commercial fire alarms – yet only two of those responses were to an actual working fire (and both were very small and extinguished with a portable fire extinguisher).  LOFD responded to more than 800 fire alarms between 01/2019 and 12/2020, with NO responses to an actual working fire.  This resulted in substantial unnecessary costs and risk.  Fire crews on a false alarm call are not available for true emergencies, and false alarms put fire apparatus on the road unnecessarily adding risk to our community.             

Q: Is Alarm Verification effective?  

A: Yes, data from TVFR showed an approximate 30% reduction in commercial false alarms after verification was implemented in 2011. Alarm verification is also used extensively in the United States for burglar alarms, in which jurisdictions have reported 25-60% reductions when adopted. 

Q: Why not just charge Repeat Offender Alarm Fees?  

A: Fees or other disincentives for multiple alarms are an important tool for dealing with false alarms.  However, based on our data less than 15% of alarms are repeated at a single location within a calendar year.  To significantly impact false alarms, single alarm locations must be addressed. 

Q: Why not require more maintenance of alarm systems?  

A: Maintenance and inspection of alarm systems is critical.  However, unintentional human-caused false alarms (from burnt toast, welding, etc.) is a much larger problem than alarms due to a lack of maintenance (system malfunction). Based on the NFPA report, False Alarm Activity in the U.S., 2008, out of the 2.2 million alarms in 2008, 34% were attributed to System Malfunction, while nearly 44% were classified as Unintentional alarms.  Further, the number of human caused alarms has been rapidly increasing while system malfunction alarms have actually been decreasing.                 

Q: Does this mean that buildings will be less safe?  

A: No. Verification simply means that an emergency response could potentially be delayed up to 90 seconds.  However, in the case of an unverified automatic alarms, our response is a single unit driving Code 1 (no lights or sirens, traveling with regular traffic).  In contrast, if the signal is verified – then it would receive a 6-10 fire apparatus driving Code 3 (lights, sirens, etc.).  So, in most cases Verification will dramatically increase both the speed and size of an automatic alarm response for actual fire events. 

 Q: Does this mean that occupants won’t evacuate a building during an alarm?  

A: No. The requirement only applies to the silent alarm signal going to a Supervising Station.  Buildings with full fire alarm systems (alarms, horns, strobes, etc.) will activate and evacuation will occur per site protocols.  

Q: Does Verification need to occur at all hours of the day or if there is not an on-site contact person?  

A: Yes.  Although some businesses may not be occupied 24 hours/day, Verification is still required. This is because it would be very difficult to track business hours and responsible party availability for every alarmed site.  Additionally, a Responsible Party (RP) will need to be contacted for every alarm any way; this simply changes the order in which it occurs.  Furthermore, the RP may be able to inform the monitoring company of important information related to the alarm, whether or not they are on site, which can then be conveyed to the 9-1-1 center. 

Q: What cities and unincorporated areas are within TVF&R jurisdiction? 

A:  The following cities are entirely within TVFR’s service area: Beaverton, Tigard, Durham, King City, Rivergrove, Tualatin, Wilsonville, West Linn, Sherwood, Newberg and North Plains.  Any alarm installed within one of these cities will be covered under this Ordinance.  TVF&R also serves unincorporated portions of Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Yamhill County.  However, TVF&R does not serve the entire unincorporated area of these 3 counties, so it is more difficult to determine affected addresses in the unincorporated areas.   

Q: What cities and unincorporated areas are within CFD#1 jurisdiction? 

A:  The following cities are entirely within CFD#1 service area: Happy Valley, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Johnson City, and Oregon City.  CFD#1 provides service to the following unincorporated communities of: Barton, Beavercreek, Boring, Carus, Carver, Central Point, Clackamas, Clarkes, Damascus, Eagle Creek, Holcomb, Oak Lodge, South End, Sunnyside and Westwood.  CFD#1 also serves unincorporated portions of Clackamas County.  However, CFD#1 does not serve the entire unincorporated county area.   See that attached map and list of Zip Codes below for more information.  Any alarm installed within one of these cities will be covered under this Ordinance. 

Q: What cities and unincorporated areas are within LOFD Jurisdiction? 

A:  City of Lake Oswego, and the areas of the Lake Grove Rural Fire District, Riverdale / Dunthorpe Fire District, and the Alto Park Water District. See that attached list of Zip Codes below for more information.

Q:  Can we search for TVF&R served properties by zip code? 

A:  Yes, but only partially.  The following 12 zip codes are entirely within TVFR area:  97005, 97007, 97008, 97062, 97068, 97075, 97076, 97077, 97140, 97224, 97281, 97298.  There are 23 more zip codes that are only partially within TVFR area: 97003, 97006, 97034, 97035, 97036, 97056, 97070, 97078, 97106, 97113, 97114, 97115, 97123, 97132, 97133, 97148, 97210, 97221, 97223, 97224, 97225, 97229, 97231 

Q:  Can we search for LOFD served properties by zip code? 

A:  Yes, but only partially.  The following three zip codes are entirely within LOFD area:  97034, 97035, 97036.  However, these zip codes only partially within LOFD area: 97219 

Q:  Can we search for CFD#1 served properties by zip code? 

A:  Yes, but only partially.  The following seven zip codes are entirely within CFD#1 area: 97222, 97086, 97045, 97004, 97089, 97267 and 97015. However, these zip codes are only partially within CFD#1 response area: 97009, 97055, 97023, 97004, and 97042. 

Q: Is there a simple way of identifying properties covered by TVF&R, CFD#1 and LOFD? 

A:  Most addressees will be easy to determine if they are within city limits.  (For Lake Oswego, see http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/maps/lomap).  However, the boundaries of TVF&R, CFD#1 and LOFD do not line up with commonly searchable boundaries such as zip codes or county boundaries.  There are numerous GIS websites through Clackamas, Washington, Multnomah and Yamhill Counties where the fire provider can be identified on a per parcel basis.  Additionally, websites such as Portlandmaps.com can be used to determine the fire provider (look under “Assessor” tab).

Q:  Is this a new requirement for TVF&R? 

A:  No, TVF&R has required Alarm Signal Verification since March 1, 2011. 

Q:  Is this a new requirement for CFD#1 & LOFD? 

A:  Yes, this is a new requirement for all protected premises served by LOFD and CFD#1 effective February 1, 2021. Because reprogramming monitored premises will take monitoring companies some time to complete, there is a grace period for full compliance which will not be enforced until May 1, 2021.  

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