Smoke alarms meant to be sensitive

Brian Smith, Contributing Writer

The number of fire alarm incidents on campus may have some questioning the quality of Pitt-Johnstown’s smoke detectors.

Pitt-Johnstown senior Stefano Lannachione has had experiences with campus housing smoke alarms.

“People used to always cover them when smoking or using candles,” Lannachione said.

“They would go off from popcorn, and aerosol sprays would also set them off.”

Pitt-Johnstown Physical Plant employee John McKnight said campus fire alarms are provided be SimplexGrinnell Co. of Boca Raton, Fla.

“Each building has a Simplex 4100 Fire Control Panel, and all of the smoke detectors in a building are linked to that control panel. It’s set up so if a smoke detector goes off, we know which room to check out,” said McKnight.

McKnight said the detector’s sensitivity keeps the system clean and in order.

“They do go off pretty easily, but that’s also a good thing,” he said.

“When the smoke head gets too dirty it will show up on the control panel. (That) helps us keep the systems clean and operational.”

It seems the idea behind Pitt-Johnstown’s alarm system may be “better safe than sorry.”

SimplexGrennell employee Eli Gearhart said smoke detectors work in a specific way.

“Most people believe the smoke detector is triggered by how much light is blocked out by smoke. Our smoke detectors work off of the reflection from particles in the air,”

“This leaves the smoke head more susceptible to being set off by aerosols and other things like burnt popcorn. However, this also allows us to catch serious problems more quickly.”

Gearhart said smoke detectors aren’t cheap.

“The 4100 panel that is installed in each building is roughly $3,500,” he said. “It’s $100 a piece.”