...without setting off the sprinklers? I'm not sure wired detectors (on 3 floors of a condo) are connected to the in-ceiling fire sprinklers, so... How do I determine the detectors are all working/inter-connected SAFELY? (as in, no sprinkler action)?

thanks!

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  • The sprinklers usually have a thermal bulb in industrial locations I haven't worked on residential so I don't know if they work the same way. Could you turn off the water to the system? Or isolate any automatic valves? – Ed Beal Dec 6 at 16:59
  • 2
    home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-safety/…. Googling around provides lots of info. Smoke detector testing may cause all interconnected noise makers to activate and if monitored bring the fire department to your building. But activating the sprinkler system requires heat and just because one head is activated does not mean all are activated. Ask your local fire department to come and advise you on best testing protocols for your situation – Kris Dec 6 at 17:16

These are normally two separate systems, with different issues relating to testing.

Sprinkler System

A sprinkler system is normally heat activated. This is for a few reasons, including:

  • Only activate the sprinkler heads that are needed. This limits water damage (water damage can be a huge cost, but is worth it when it puts out a fire) and maximizes the pressure/flow rate in the areas where it is actually needed.
  • About as fail-safe a system as you can get. As long as there is good water pressure (which in most, though not all, places is provided by the municipal water system so it is quite reliable and works even if the power is out), the sprinkler will activate even if power, electronic systems, etc. are not working - which can easily happen in a fire.

A sprinkler system will often (I don't know when/where this is a code requirement - it may be related to commercial vs. residential and/or the size of the building) often trigger a flow sensor (passive relative to the actual sprinkler system, so sensor failure will not prevent the sprinkler from pumping out water on the fire) which can automatically call a monitoring service and/or the fire department.

There are ways to test sprinkler systems - e.g., measure pressure, check valves, etc. - which typically require professional knowledge & equipment.

Wired Smoke Detectors

Wired smoke detectors may be simply wired for power and to trigger as a group (which is a good thing, unlike sprinklers where that would be a bad thing). However, they may be also wired to active in other units in your building and, if so, to automatically call a monitoring service and/or the fire department.

Since you are in a condo and not a single family home, you need to find out what kind of system you have. If it is independent - only your condo and no external connections (monitoring or other condo units or common area) then you can test the smoke detectors locally. If your system is linked to monitoring and/or to other units/common area then DO NOT TEST IT YOURSELF. Systems in commercial and other large buildings (like a multi-unit condo) will typically have monitoring in place - often required by law - and those systems will also have legal requirements for professional testing/certification on a regular basis (e.g., quarterly in my area).

  • +1, if the alarms are inter-connected throughout the complex there should be a central Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP), often in a marked utility closet. Operation of these is not always intuitive. – Jimmy Fix-it Dec 7 at 6:22
  • @JimmyFix-it Actually, the FACP is often quite intuitive and easy to use, for example to turn off a false alarm. Which of course will have already called the monitoring company which will have already called the fire department. Which then shows up. Which is then quite unhappy to find that some "helpful" person turned off the alarm. Don't ask how I know... – manassehkatz Dec 7 at 15:02
  • I disagree, having dealt with more than a few FACPs. For a layperson, especially with older systems, the passcodes, device address codes, bypass and reset and silence protocols, etc. can be difficult to understand. I would recommend a pro deal with it. – Jimmy Fix-it Dec 7 at 18:55
  • I'm referring specifically to a simple reset. Not testing and configuration. Though I suppose a geek who considers the FACP just a simple text only small computer might find the interface easier to use than a typical layperson. – manassehkatz Dec 7 at 19:05

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