How should I make a fire alarm panel toy?
December 1, 2017 10:21 AM   Subscribe

My 5yo son is very interested in fire alarm pull stations and we would like to build him one that he could play with. What specific items should we purchase to do this?

It would look something like what this guy did. I could just buy the things he bought, but I would ideally like the pull linked to an alarm that doesn't makes an actual, loud, real, alarm. What are some other options? I can't seem to find a light-only alarm, but that would work. Or a different kind of alarm that made a cute, quiet sound? Ideas and specific product links appreciated. Thanks! (Also, if anyone is concerned, he likes to point out fire alarms and pull stations, but is very good about not touching them in real life. He watches a lot of youtube videos featuring kids with fire alarm collections, so I think the real/toy distinction is not a problem here.)
posted by LKWorking to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
No idea where you are located, but industrial/electronic surplus places are usually chock-a-block full of buttons, switches and knobs, including fire alarm pulls that could be configured to your liking. many of them frequently have whole panels pulled out of machines ready to be modified for your little one's button mashing pleasure.
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:35 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you pick up some wire, knife switches, battery cases, and a piezo buzzer, you can teach your guy to wire them all up into an alarm himself. My guys have always enjoyed pulling out the box of "components" and wiring together a little motor or buzzer circuit or what have you.

If the look of the thing is crucial, then never mind and good luck and I'll trust you on your kid not eating the laundry pellets.
posted by turkeybrain at 10:35 AM on December 1, 2017

You can get all manner of fire alarm gear through distributors like ADI. I haven't looked but I'd guess that you can find strobe lights that are separate from sounders, but if not, that's what wire cutters are for. Pull stations are easy to find. New components will tend to be a bit expensive and if you have an industrial surplus store near you, you should reach out. Also check with local fire control companies. You may be able to get something for free that was removed from a building being updated.

The components are usually meant to be attached to a full fire alarm control panel, but for play purposes I'd expect that you could find a 12VDC wall wart power supply and it is fairly straightforward to wire up. You need normally open contacts on the pull station, so that when the alarm is pulled the circuit closes. Hook that up to your alerter. Make sure you pay attention to polarity if the alerter is polarity-sensitive. Power the whole thing from the power supply.

Real gear is generally made to fit on electrical boxes, and you might make your job easier by looking for a bit of plywood and then also some low voltage wiring brackets to frame openings and provide screw tie-down points. You could also do this with 4" box mud rings or a bunch of other ways.
posted by jgreco at 11:03 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are either of these (silent!) items from American Science and Surplus like what you're looking for?
posted by teditrix at 11:14 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think that the product you link to is just, basically, a switch in a fancy box. There's nothing saying that you have to link the pull box to a loud siren. You could, for example, link the switch to a bank of LED lights. If I were doing this and didn't want the loud siren, I would just get the "KKMoon" siren he mentions in the review and just disconnect the speaker. You'd then have something that looked real, but would only have the flashing strobe light. There are also other (more expensive) strobe lights that Amazon suggests on the "KKMoon" page that may have quieter alerts.

But, for me, the takeaway is that the box is just a switch that can be plugged into any electronic component you want.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:42 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can buy the actual thing for less than 20 bucks. Obviously you'd need to mount it in a board and connect a battery and a ringer to the back.
posted by w0mbat at 11:43 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

For realism have the toy call your cell phone in the middle of the night to report a low battery trouble signal.
posted by vespabelle at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

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