Why is our fire alarm in Japanese?


As you probably know I’m a fire alarm engineer by trade. I did an installation on a building in a town nearby as part of a big refit project working with all the other trades. It was a full gut and rebuild project, stripping the building back to the shell, moving some walls and doors, and making it back up like new.

The fire alarm was to be a really fancy system because the tenants of the five suites to be created were considered high risk.

I’d already done two installations for this company, and in the time between these previous ones and the latest install I’d had to switch brands due to COVID making my regular go to brand “Apollo XP95” very difficult to get hold of.

Not to worry though, “Hochiki ESP” is an equally capable system and I am qualified to install that too – so on this particular task I picked that system instead, complete with a suitable fire alarm control panel (an Advanced MX-Pro 4)

Just after I finished the fire alarm install in the new building the previous manager left and a new one was recruited. The new manager was an absolute Karen.

Nothing was ever right, she criticised everything on this install, although thankfully from my point of view there was nothing she could pull my install up on. Muggles don’t generally understand or notice fire alarms so they’ll leave well alone.

About 4 weeks after I installed and commissioned I got a phone call from the Karen asking “why is there Japanese writing on the fire alarm” and demanding I come down and make it right. Ah the wild Karen finally finds something to complain about.

Well thinking the display on the panel had failed (a known issue with some fire alarms, although not this particular brand) I headed down there expecting to find the screen full of corruption – sometimes when it does corrupt you get Japanese letters.

I went to the panel – nothing wrong there. Checked the system log. Nothing.

So what the hell was wrong?

I decided to go and see the wild Karen and ask her if she could tell me what she had seen. She took me to a nearby call point and said “it’s this. Why does it say Press in Japanese?”

Written across the bottom of the break glass is the alarm system protocol “Hochiki”

“That’s the brand” I told her.

“Well the ones next door say PRESS” she responded.

“Oh do they? Can we go and look? I enquired, hoping to actually shut this horrible woman up and show her up for the idiot she was.

So we went in next door and looked at the Apollo XP95 ones. Those with “XP95” proudly emblazoned across the bottom of the call points.

Karen didn’t apologise for calling me out for this, and I never billed them for the call out; although shortly after I received a call saying they’d decided not to use my services anymore. Wild thick Karen fear those more intelligent than them.

Ironically 5 months after they decided to stop using my services I received a call to a fault on the system I’d fitted – under “warranty”. There was another companies name on the fire panel screen, thus invalidating the warranty.

Fire alarms work under the principle of “you touched it last, it’s yours”. She wasn’t happy. She was even less happy when I told her that verdigris on the bottom of a detector is an indicator of a water leak, and that wouldn’t be a warranty claim anyway, and I was going to have to charge them for both the call out and the new detector, but I can’t actually do anything because as I said “last person to touch it owns it”. I wasn’t willing to resume working for them.

I did charge them for this call out. I usually always charge for my time. The bill was never paid. It knew it wouldn’t be, but I did it because it now means they’re on stop with my business and I can legally deny them service.