Be prepared when firefighters respond to an alarm |

Be prepared when firefighters respond to an alarm

Fire departments are responsible for responding when called to many different types of alarms. Besides the usual calls such as medicals, vehicle accidents or hazardous materials, there are also different types of fire-alarm activations. Some of the more common ones besides a basic fire alarm are carbon-monoxide alarms, low-temperature alarms and water-flow alarms.

Each alarm requires a response by at least one fire engine with a full complement of firefighters. In order to respond and investigate each alarm efficiently, firefighters typically have a form called a “preplan” of all the homes and buildings in their response area.

It contains important information regarding each address. This information, which is gathered prior to the call, will assist the firefighters in obtaining quick access to the building.

In larger occupancies, the preplan will also list location of utility shut-offs, the owner or other responsible party for the home, the type of construction, and if there are any accessory systems such as sprinklers or elevators.

Firefighters have a responsibility to fully investigate any alarm when they are summoned. That includes entering the occupancy to determine the nature of the alarm. In order to do their job, they rely on the preplan information. By town code, each building with a monitored alarm is required to have a “Knox box” installed, and have a preplan on file with the fire department.

A Knox box is a type of lock box mounted on the exterior of the home that allows firefighters to access the home without forcing entry and potentially doing damage. Firefighters use a key that is unique to each municipality in order to access the box and gain entry in to the home.

With this system in place, the alarm can be quickly and easily, investigated, the alarm reset, and the home resecured, all without causing unnecessary inconvenience or damage to gain entry. If a problem is encountered, the preplan lets firefighters know who to contact so the incident can be mitigated efficiently with minimal damage.

If you are a homeowner or property manager and have an alarm system in your home, contact the fire department so you can get the necessary forms for a preplan and Knox box.

Even if your home doesn’t have an alarm system and you want to have a preplan on file, one can be sent to you. The forms are only an email away. Remember what you mother told you – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Al Bosworth is a fire engineer with Vail Fire and Emergency Services.

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