The life safety systems in every structure have several components, the most important of which is the fire alarm system. Not only do they prevent the loss of many lives each year, but they also frequently govern the operation of other systems within the building, which in turn helps property owners save a significant amount of money and prevent damage to their facilities. Let’s go through the many components of fire alarm systems and how each can impact the system’s overall performance and safety.
What exactly are the primary elements that make up a fire alarm system?
A fire alarm system is comprised of three primary elements: the fire alarm control panel (FACP), the input device or devices (also known as initiation devices) – such as a pull station, a smoke detector, or a water flow switch on a sprinkler system – and a notification device, such as a horn, speaker, bell, or siren. The FACP is the brain of the operation of the fire alarm system, while the input and notification devices are its eyes and ears.
The significance of control panels for fire alarm systems
Control panels for fire alarm systems serve as the “brain” of the fire alarm system, allowing staff to activate or deactivate the whole system at their discretion. FACPs can be made in many configurations, including forms, sizes, and formats, depending on the manufacturer and the panel’s anticipated range of applications. For example, the smallest panels are designed to cover tiny rooms or structures, whilst larger meetings may be intended to cover extensive networks of several different buildings.
Manual vs automated initiating devices
Manual devices, such as pull stations, require the involvement of a human to function. There are further variations such as single action, which requires the user to pull one handle to activate it; dual action, which requires the user to either push in and draw down a handle or raise and break glass before pulling the handle; and institutional action (must insert a key to activate; often used in settings like jails). In addition, Americans require people who use wheelchairs with Disabilities Act to have access to this equipment. In contrast to their manual equivalents, automatic gadgets do not require the participation of a human. For example, smoke detectors installed in HVAC ducts are intended to detect the presence of smoke and turn on after a certain threshold has been achieved. When the temperature near heat detectors climbs over a specific point within a predetermined time or when the total temperature exceeds a predetermined range, the sensors will activate on their own.
Other standard automated devices are smoke detectors with beams and switches that control the water flow in fire sprinklers. Water flow switches automatically detect water movement in the sprinkler pipes. In contrast, beam smoke detectors cover large areas such as atriums and activate automatically if the laser beam between the transmitter and receiver is obscured. Beam smoke detectors cover large areas such as atriums and can detect fires even if the laser beam is hidden. Other sensors include laser detectors, video detectors, flame detectors, line-type detectors, air sample detectors, gas detectors, spark/ember detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. Other sensors include video detectors, flame detectors, line-type detectors, and laser detectors.
The purpose of alerting building inhabitants to the presence of a fire and providing them with the opportunity to evacuate the building or take some other kind of emergency action is for notification devices. When the fire alarm control panel (FACP) receives a signal, it will either sound or beep locally, depending on its settings. The Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) will then activate the notification devices linked to it. These devices may include horns, sirens, bells, lights, warning signs, or pre-recorded messages on fire alarm speakers. Mass notification systems can also be incorporated into the system for use in more significant buildings or networks containing many buildings.
Control functions for the fire alarm system
Depending on the specific functions it performs, a fire alarm system is frequently the core of the overall life safety equipment installed in a building. The fire alarm is the most critical component of all emergency systems in large structures. It must be able to communicate with a variety of the building’s mechanical systems, such as the following:
- Maintaining control of the elevators while preventing anybody saves first responders from using them.
- Turning off the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning devices to stop the spread of smoke.
- Activating exit locks on security doors to allow people to leave the building (and access for first responders)
- Taking control of mechanical evacuation systems so that smoke may be vented
- Notifying people of the location of the fire and directing them to the appropriate exits to safely evacuate the building
- Putting a stop to the flow of natural gas to kitchens to prevent explosions
- Turning off sound systems to allow for the transmission of essential safety announcements
Different Categories of Fire Alarm Systems
According to the Handbook of the National Fire Protection Association, there are four primary categories of fire alarm systems, which are as follows:
- A local system is installed on a property’s premises and not overseen by a central station. Therefore, any alarm will only warn the tenants of the property, which means that in the event of an emergency, an individual will need to phone 911 for assistance.
- Specialized system is installed at a property, and the only people authorized to monitor it are the people who live there and the employees who work there, which includes a team of emergency personnel.
- A central station monitors a remote system situated on the site, but it is remote. A warning signal would be transmitted to the central station, which would contact the appropriate emergency personnel.
- A property has a central station placed on the property, a central station that monitors the property, and a service contract with a firm that covers all the property’s repairs, testing, and inspections.
Is your system truly an emergency alert system in the event of a fire? And does it have the right connections?
It is essential to remember that merely having a red box mounted on the wall of your building only sometimes indicates that the device functions as a genuine fire alarm. In specific structures, the installation of fire alarm system panels that do nothing more than monitor the sprinklers present in the building and a smoke detector is permitted. Some facilities may have an elevator recall panel, but considering its sole purpose is summoning the elevator back, this doesn’t count as a natural fire alarm system. It is easy to confuse the fire alarm systems in computer rooms with the extinguishing systems installed in those rooms.
In addition, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that your system can communicate with monitoring stations. This will ensure that it will continue to operate correctly even if telephone lines, Internet access, mobile phone towers, or radio networks are disrupted. Finally, it does not matter what kind of fire alarm you have installed; it is essential to ensure that it is correctly configured for your building and that it is routinely maintained, repaired, and inspected to keep your property and your people safe in the event of a fire. Contact Brazas Fire at 505-889-8999 or fill out our contact form to arrange for a free evaluation by our experienced team of specialists to be performed on your fire alarm system if you have any queries.