How to silence a fire alarm with no power due to sandy?
November 4, 2012 4:08 PM   Subscribe

How to silence a fire alarm with no power due to sandy?

I'm in Hoboken and have no power since Sandy hit. Our apartment has four units with a fire alarm in the entryway to monitor all 4 units. I can only assume it runs on power and has a battery backup. The smoke detectors are wired into it, rather than running on 9volts batteries. There are also sprinklers in the ceilings. Before Sandy it had some sort of fault and would chirp / beep about once a minute. The silence code on the unit seemingly had no effect.

About 2 days into sandy it switched from once a minute beep to constant high pitched whine 24/7, possibly because it's own battery ran out? The display on it is now blank and the silence code still does nothing.

I don't have access to the basement. How can I silence it, and of course I don't want to activate the sprinklers.

Help!
posted by ridogi to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
 
I think your guess is correct and the batteries have died. Can you contact the apt manager/owner? Do you know who monitors the alarm? Their tech department can probably advise you on how to silence it.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:18 PM on November 4, 2012


Also, even though you say you don't have access to the basement, if the landlord can't fix this for you I'd be tempted to um, create access.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:19 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with PorcineWithMe.

My apartment building has ongoing issues with this (huge complex, so there's always a dead battery somewhere) and usually a call to Maintenance or the management company fixes it when it gets annoying.
posted by Sara C. at 4:26 PM on November 4, 2012


You can't activate the sprinklers-- short of physically damaging them, they literally can't be triggered by anything except heat applied directly at the sprinklerhead.

They don't work in real life like they do in the movies; instead of all going off at once (which would kill the system pressure in real life), they go off only as tripped by physical heat. The sprinklers are effectively turned on at all times, but there's a metal alloy plug blocking each one-- the alloy is made to melt at a specific temperature, one that it won't encounter without big flames very close. Alloy plug melts, sprinkler emits water.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:34 PM on November 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


The sprinklers aren't connected to the alarms. Per the above. Wrench the alarms from the ceiling and go all Michael Bolton from Office Space on them. Tell the building manager rats did it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:40 PM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd be too afraid of dying in a future, ironically timed fire to start ripping shit out of the ceiling.

Try calling the non-emergency line of your fire department. They might be able to fix it for you. At the very least getting them involved will help prod the management company into action.
posted by Tha Race Card at 4:54 PM on November 4, 2012


the alloy is made to melt at a specific temperature, one that it won't encounter without big flames very close

nb: not entirely true, as any intense heat source will do, including steam emergencies.
posted by elizardbits at 5:02 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you get it off the wall? Although, in principle, I am loathe to disable fire alarms, this one is sounds like it's already disabled. Are the detectors in the units beeping, or is it the thing in the hall?
posted by mskyle at 5:08 PM on November 4, 2012


In my house, the fire alarms start beeping after 10 years, so that you never accidentally have an expired alarm (they do expire). My guess is that's what the initial beeping was. Why not just put in a new alarm? I know it's not your responsibility, but it is super-easy. Here are my instructions on how to do it, complete with photos.
posted by Houstonian at 5:08 PM on November 4, 2012


Ruthless Bunny writes "The sprinklers aren't connected to the alarms. Per the above. Wrench the alarms from the ceiling and go all Michael Bolton from Office Space on them. Tell the building manager rats did it."

Exercise Caution; many fire alarm systems have individual components at line potential. Power returning could create a hazard.

Also, and I mention this in the spirit of thoroughness rather than any comment on the likelyhood or prosecution, tampering with fire alarm systems is generally illegal and often severely so.
posted by Mitheral at 5:22 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there's a big physical alarm with a clapper, you can dampen the sound by wedging something between its casing and a solid surface. I did this once with a series of hard cardboard tubes between the alarm and a sidewalk, and it didn't totally fix it but it did take the edge off quite nicely. If it's entirely digital and you don't want to destroy it (if you don't care: expanding foam?), maybe something pressed on it and braced against a nearby wall would still work to muffle the noise.
posted by teremala at 5:36 PM on November 4, 2012


I don't know if this would work, but a strong enough magnet may suppress or stop any built-in speaker. Something I always wanted to try but never had the chance.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 5:56 PM on November 4, 2012


Does it have enough identifying information on it that you can google to find a manual?
posted by yarrow at 7:21 PM on November 4, 2012


It sounds extremely annoying, we had similar issues with our smoke alarms this week while the power was out - they are usually hard wired and were chewing through 9 volt batteries that they use as backup. But I felt like if there was any time we really needed smoke alarms, it was while the power was out and people were potentially doing dumb things with candles and gas stoves. So I would try to figure out how to get it a working battery backup if you possibly can.
posted by yarrow at 7:26 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tell the building manager that it's driving you crazy and you're thinking of calling the fire department and/or city about it. Note: they are probably too busy, but it's a useful bluff because no apartment manager ever wants the FD/city on his back.
posted by dhartung at 1:02 AM on November 5, 2012


I'm basically with Bunny on this, but you might want to consider the alternative, if practical, of merely wrapping the thing in layers of rubber foam or blanket until the noise is reduced to tolerable levels.
posted by Segundus at 1:45 AM on November 5, 2012


Duct tape over the speaker - and/or then an added layer of foam over the duct tape and then more duct tape. Nice thing is the tape can be removed when they sort out why it was going off.

I do like blaming the ripping it out of the wall on rats, but the chance of it running on line voltage is high and getting shocked sucks.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:11 AM on November 5, 2012


Power came back shortly after this, and now it's making a different type of beeping from someplace in the apartment that we can't identify the source of (after it full on went into alarm mode right when power came back). Landlord has been notified. Hopefully maintenance arrives soon. Thanks for all the answers.
posted by ridogi at 8:42 PM on November 5, 2012


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