First off, this may or may not be legal, but seeing as this is in my own place of residence and it's bothering me a lot, I figured I'd ask.

I live in an apartment complex near my college. I have 2 smoke detectors in the living room/kitchen area and 1 in each of the 3 bedrooms.

In addition, there is a Simplex TrueAlert horn/strobe device on the living room wall. It is one of the loudest alarms I have ever heard, and it is completely unnecessary considering the smoke detectors are plenty loud on their own.

I have bad anxiety when it comes to anticipation of loud, unexpected noises and it's at the point where I'm not completely relaxed when I'm sitting in my own apartment living room anymore, because it could go off literally any time and the noise is god awful.

here's a picture of the alarm on the wall for reference:

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Anyways I was wondering if there's anything I can put over the speaker grille to muffle the noise a little bit. My living room is pretty small so the noise has nowhere to go and is awfully loud.

  • 7
    Having lived in student accommodation with extremely loud fire alarms that had a habit of going off in the middle of the night, I certainly sympathize. However, I strongly suggest seeking counselling for the anxiety, rather than tampering with the alarms. The alarms should, obviously, only sound when there's a fire. If they are going off frequently, either there are frequent fires or frequent false alarms. Either of those is a problem that needs to be fixed and can be fixed at their respective root causes. Feb 8, 2015 at 16:05
  • I know,I need to see someone for the anxiety because it's not right that I have to live like this. I do have smoke detectors in my apartment though, there is one in my bedroom that is also very loud and wakes me up just fine when it goes off. The signal in the living room is completely unnecessary, because the smoke detectors are perfectly able to alert me on their own.
    – user32538
    Feb 8, 2015 at 18:11
  • 3
    The point of the one in the living room is to wake up up if somebody else's apartment is on fire. Best wishes for the counselling and getting all of this sorted out. Feb 9, 2015 at 8:06
  • Wear ear plugs until the anxiety subsides. Feb 22, 2015 at 14:01
  • If that is an alarm (and not a detector) you should be able to place tape over it the speaker. It'll still be plenty loud, but hopefully at a saner level.
    – DA01
    Jul 29, 2016 at 4:36

7 Answers 7


I am a NICET Level IV Fire Alarm System & Life Safety Professional.

It is unlawful to taper with a life safety system! The horn/strobe in the living room to alert you when another section of the building outside of your apartment is on fire.!!!!

NFPA 72 Fire Alarm Code states that the horn should be 15 db above the ambient sound level of the space. The horn strobes come out of the box set to HIGH. It can legally be set to LOW by the fire alarm service company.

Removing the horn/strobe may cause a supervisory alarm on the fire alarm system. Many horn/strobes are connected to the same circuit. If you tamper with the device in your apartment, you could unknowingly open the circuit and render the remaining downstream horn/strobes useless and endangering the lives of your neighbors.

Ask the building management team to have it set to LOW. If its already on LOW then be thankful there are codes and technicians trying to save your life. If you can't deal with the potential loud life saving noise, then move to a low rise building with exterior entrances to units that doesn't require the same level of life safety systems.

Don't be the selfish person that tampered with a fire alarm system that 1. made the building less safe for other people living there 2. caused an expensive nuisance service issue for building management and the service company.

  • Althow I agree it should not be tampered with I would pull it and set it to low, I don't remember the annunciators having the closed loop feed back that the detectors have.
    – Ed Beal
    Jan 26, 2018 at 7:16
  • This is ridiculous. This "safety" system can cause hearing loss for newborns, especially in properties with frequent false alarms. I can rely on my ability to detect fire and my hearing ability to hear soft sounds (like the fire alarms in the hallways). Not everyone needs alarms on full blast. Nov 29, 2023 at 1:01

No. Your safety is worth more than you feeling anxiety. You have smoke alarms for your apartment but this one looks like it is hooked up to the building. Meaning if there were a fire somewhere else in the building you would be notified via this alarm.

You may think that this alarm is extremely loud if you are standing next to it but what if you are in the shower with a radio on? In college I had a similar alarm and showered right through a drill and had no idea. Also these alarms should go off maybe a couple of times a year so your anxiety should be only messed with for a few minutes a year at most.

If this doesn't convince you, then maybe saying that tampering with fire alarms is illegal and could be grounds to have you evicted.

  • No, the smoke detectors and the alarm sigmal are all connected. If someone else sets the building alarm off, the smoke detectors go off too, which is what wakes me up in the first place. the signal in the living room is not enough when I'm not in the living room. Edit: however it is still unnecessary because there are 2 smoke alarms in the living room.
    – user32538
    Feb 8, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    And just thinking about muffling this... You could probably put a concrete box around it and it would be loud. I had a smoke alarm chirping last year and hid it under 30 blankets and still heard it. Don't think putting anything on it would help or be legal.
    – DMoore
    Feb 8, 2015 at 19:07
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    I disagree. Quality of life can be more important than safety. Yes, there is a tiny chance this fire alarm could save his life, but the OP says it's causing him a lot of anxiety. You don't get to say it "shouldn't" cause him undue anxiety, because "should" is is irrelevant. Yeah, this is an old and dead question, but I think it's important to keep the real world in mind rather than ideals.
    – piojo
    Mar 22, 2017 at 8:00
  • How about build with concrete instead of wood? Nov 29, 2023 at 1:02

I know this is really old. But I'm in an apartment with TWO of these alarms. One bedroom, one living room. It's unbearable. And there's the same alarms in the hallways and fire stairs. There's no way to miss any of them. There's trying to lower the volume so your ears aren't bleeding and there's tampering. Tampering imho would be doing something bad! like getting the cover off and messing with the works. Don't do that. Covering the speaker box to just muffle it a bit? I don't see that as tampering, I see it as trying to keep sanity, at least some. I've put foam board over the speakers in mine with duct tape. Easily removed, tape is not on the actual speakers, can definitely still hear them but my ptsd isn't set off quite as bad or as long with just quieting them down a bit.


The OP mentioned that there are smoke detectors tied to the system in both the living room and bedrooms, which will all sound at once if the building alarm is activated. I know what types of sounders they are, and I can say that they would definitely be loud enough on their own to wake anyone up. So I honestly can't see what great harm it would do muffle the horn with some duct tape or something - it's not like it would be rendered completely inaudible anyhow. I suppose it might technically be illegal, but are the powers that be really going to be so heartless as to fine or arrest you over this? At the most you could get a warning, and you could always try to appeal based on your condition.

  • 1
    Seriously, people: if your life-safety fire alarm system is bothering you, there may be official and approved ways to have it adjusted or reconfigured, while still meeting the requirements of the codes. Muffling an alarm is de facto tampering, unless it has been officially approved.
    – Upnorth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 6:12

Remember, the whole purpose of this alarm is to be heard through closed doors, earplugs, and sleeping pills, and to actively drive people out of the building before they are trapped by the fire and killed.

It is supposed to be too painful to ignore.

Let it do its job.

  • (I lost a friend to fire. It is not a good way to go.)
    – keshlam
    Jul 26, 2016 at 17:45
  • Too painful to ignore ==> I cover my ears and wait instead of putting on my shoes and coat to go outside. Yes, really. I did it today. Painfully loud fire alarms will surely hamper escape if people are covering their ears. (And if you wouldn't do the same, I may be more interested in keeping my hearing than you are.)
    – piojo
    Mar 22, 2017 at 8:07
  • Anyone not exiting a building during a fire alarm, unless otherwise instructed, is risking a very nasty end-of-life story. Fire alarms are not generally permitted to sound at dangerously loud levels -- generally only 15 db more than the estimated peak ambient noise.
    – Upnorth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 6:16
  • 3 db above ambient is a doubling of the volume 3 db more is doubling again were doing this 5 times I cannot raise my voice 15db over normal levels this is very loud and if going off for basic smoke alarms is ridiculous.
    – Ed Beal
    Jan 26, 2018 at 7:23

Maybe you can unscrew the face and unplug the speakers. I have a similar issue with my apartment complex - they've been "testing" them twice daily for the last 3 weeks and I'm starting to lose my mind as I've been on nights and need to sleep in my apartment. You know, the one I live in. I've called and complained and they don't care to move their testing to the mid afternoon, and as I have a high stress job and need all my faculties at work (I'm an anesthesiologist covering emergencies all night long with people on the verge of dying all the time), I need sleep, more than I want to be alerted if my apartment were on fire. In fact, if I got burned, maybe I would finally get a day off. Anyway, aside from that, I am considering putting some play dough or soft putty that's removable from the speaker. Mine doesn't have lights but you could probably tape over the strobe, or cover it with nail polish (and remove it later with nail polish remover. hehe). Good luck! Stay sane!

  • Professional fire alarm systems, like the one illustrated, would typically have "tamper" or "fault" circuits to detect removal of any covers. The system may be adjusted by proper technicians, to some extent. If your landlord is bothering you excessively, ask for a refund for the rent.
    – Upnorth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 6:10
  • Play dough won't remove a cover, I may be wrong but only remember the detectors being on "watched" line maybe the annunciators are I just don't remember that and I did the programming for an entire hospital 6 floors with at 3 zones per floor and installed several zones on on several floors.
    – Ed Beal
    Jan 26, 2018 at 7:30

You could try squirting a little GREAT STUFF in there.

Because its illegal to do this, you'll have to make sure its not noticed by the super. Maybe paint the great stuff red afterward?

  • 3
    And when the asker moves out and the next person in the flat burns to death because somebody tampered with the alarms...? Feb 8, 2015 at 15:57
  • 5
    Terrible advice, risking both life and censure.
    – bib
    Feb 8, 2015 at 17:41
  • 1
    The statute of limitations for negligent homicide, resulting from your tampering with a safety device, probably doesn't start to run until the death occurs, which could be many years after you have set this trap.
    – Upnorth
    Jan 26, 2018 at 6:17

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