Fire Alarm

What are Addressable Fire Alarm Systems?

An addressable fire alarm system is made up of a series of fire detectors and devices that are connected back to a central control panel.
With addressable systems, each device has an address or location, enabling the exact detector that was triggered to be quickly identified. This makes addressable alarm systems ideal for large buildings, particularly commercial premises spread over a wide area.

Advantages of addressable fire alarms

  • Quickly determine the location of a fire
  • Specific actions can be programmed by the user
  • Reduced likelihood and better handling of false alarms
  • More reliability, less likely to lose connection
  • Lower overall cost of wiring
  • Ability to monitor integrity of the system, with detector health checks

Fire alarm systems that can be programmed

One of the biggest advantages of addressable fire alarm systems is that they can be configured so that a specific action triggers a specific response.
For example, cause and effect programming can be used to say that a particular ‘cause’ such as activation of a fire detector, has the effect of alarms sounding in a specified area and the system being put on alert mode in another. This means that phased evacuation can take place, with priority areas evacuated first. Each area of a building can then be evacuated one at a time, which allows safer fire evacuation procedures in large buildings.

Reduce false fire alarms

False alarms cause disruption and can be costly, so it’s in any business’s interests to minimise their impact and reduce the likeliness of them occurring in the first place, One of the advantages of addressable fire alarms is that they can allow air to be monitored through the detectors, so if air is contaminated for example with dust (which can activate some fire alarm systems) then a ‘pre-fire’ warning is triggered. This allows investigation to take place, so any issues can be rectified before a full scale false activation of the system takes place.

Addressable fire alarms are more reliable than conventional

Due to the way that addressable alarm systems are connected, any breaks in the circuit caused by damage are less likely to result in devices being disconnected. Unlike conventional systems, all devices are wired up on a loop and are connected to the panel unit at both ends. Therefore if connection breaks at one end, devices will still be connected.

Cost of wiring up alarm system is cheaper

Addressable fire alarms are wired on a loop, which is basically a circuit that connects the system to other devices such as sprinkler systems, call points and detectors. With conventional fire systems each zone and sounder circuit has its own wire, so the cost of wiring can potentially be higher, depending on how many devices need connecting up.

Monitoring and checking all individual fire detectors for faults

Fire alarms are arguably one of the most critical aspects of fire safety on your premises. Another benefit of addressable fire alarm systems is that all devices can be individually monitored and checked for faults, which makes maintenance easier. If an issue is found with a particular detector for example, then a notification will be received by the central control panel.

Having an addressable system therefore means that any problems can be discovered immediately so that they can be rectified, ensuring that everything is in good working order should an incident occur.

 

Do you need an addressable fire alarm?

This will depend on the requirements of your premises. Usually addressable fire alarms are more suited to larger commercial premises, as they provide accurate and detailed information as to the location of a fire, which isn’t necessary in smaller buildings.

These systems provide sophisticated fire protection, so therefore they do tend to be more expensive than conventional alarms overall. However if having a reliable method of alerting you to danger, that cuts down false alarms and allows for smooth evacuation is critical to your business, then it’s a worthwhile investment.

Of course, the type of fire alarm system installed is important to get right and we’d strongly advise talking to a fire protection expert before making a decision.

CONVENTIONAL

Conventional panels have been around ever since electronics became small enough to make them viable. They are no longer used frequently in large buildings, but are still used on smaller sites such as small schools, stores, restaurants, and apartments

A conventional system employs one or more initiating circuits, connected to sensors (initiating devices) wired in parallel. These sensors are devised to decrease the circuits resistance when the environmental influence on any sensor exceeds a predetermined threshold. In a conventional system the information density is limited to the number of such circuits used. At times, a floor plan of the building is often placed near the main entrance with the defined zones drawn up, and LEDs indicating whether a particular circuit/zone has been activated. Another common method is to have the different zones listed in a column, with an LED to the left of each zone name.

The main drawback with conventional panels is that one cannot tell which device has been activated within a circuit. The fire may be in one small room, but as far as emergency responders can tell, a fire could exist anywhere within a zone. The same applies to coded panels, which nowadays are no longer made, but can be found in old systems. These, if the decision is made to keep them, are “grandfathered” in under NFPA regulations.

Advantages

  • Cost effective for small applications.

(Note: The larger the system the less competitive the price mainly due to higher installation costs.)

Disadvantages

  • Cost, not competitively priced for larger systems.
  • Detection of smoke or a fire is done by zone, which could be multiple areas rather than specifying a specific location. This could delay emergency responders from locating the fire.
  • Conventional panels are often called “dumb” panels because of the inability to provide detail information, such as…
    • Device locations.
    • No details on event history.
    • No internet connection for notification of alarm/trouble/supervisory events.

Wireless fire alarm systems

Wireless fire alarm systems might sound a bit new-fangled but they actually first appeared in the 1980s.

Because the early technology experienced a few issues (mainly with battery life and radio transmission), wireless fire alarm systems gained a reputation for unreliability. However, this is no longer true today.

In the same way that 21st century mobile phones and computers are light years ahead of their 1980’s ancestors, so are wireless fire alarms.

Today’s systems are generally fully compliant to British Standards (BS5839) and European Standards for fire alarms (EN54), and there are many reputable wireless fire alarm manufacturers to choose from.

If you decide that a wireless fire alarm system is right for your business, our expert team is able to fit, test and commission all types of wireless fire alarm system, in London, Surrey and throughout the South-East.

How do wireless fire alarm systems work ?

There’s no prizes for guessing that a wireless fire alarm system has no wires.  Instead, a radio signal is transmitted from the call points and smoke or heat detectors to the fire alarm control panel (the call point is the box on the wall where you can raise the alarm if you spot a fire).
From the point of view of anyone using a building fitted with a wireless system,  it works in exactly the same way as a ‘normal’ hard-wired system – you spot a fire, you break a call point; a call point breaks, the alarm sounds.
There’s no special training required and you’re protected in exactly the same way.

Should I get a wireless fire alarm system?

There are many benefits to installing a wireless fire alarm system, but there are some downsides too.  It’s important to weigh these up carefully. Here’s some pros and cons for you to think about:

The benefits of wireless fire alarm systems

–   As reliable as a wired system and tested to British and European standards
–   Quick to install and can be fitted with minimum disruption to your business
–   No need to shut down areas of the building or be open out of hours for the installation to take place
–   No ugly cables or damage to your walls – the only cable is from the control panel to the mains power
–   Can be easily installed in buildings where there is limited access e.g. due to high ceilings
–   Layout is easily modified if something in your building changes e.g. you extend
–   Will save you money on labour, making good, and decorating costs
–   Will still work even if the power goes out as they are battery operated
–   Can be used as a temporary system in locations where a wired one can’t be installed e.g. building sites
–   Can be used to extend existing wired systems

The downsides of wireless fire alarm systems

–   Even though you save money on labour & making good with a wireless alarm, the cost of the hardware is higher than a wired system so the initial set-up may be pricier
–   Wireless fire alarms run on batteries which need to be frequently checked and replaced,
–   Some wireless fire alarm systems use bespoke batteries which are more expensive

So, should you get a wireless fire alarm?

Basically, what you’re getting with a wireless fire alarm system is a quick, hassle-free installation that is easy on the eye and gives you maximum flexibility in the future, but with a slightly higher initial set-up cost and the slight inconvenience and expense of ongoing, regular battery replacement.

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