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How Fire Alarm Systems Work

Jun 8, 2008
The fire alarm system has been an essential part of society since the 1800s. With the advent of electrical power, boxes wired to fire departments became the fire alarm system, giving a warning from city streets and such institutional buildings as schools, taking over a task formerly done by watchmen.

Most modern alarm systems are automatic, though some of the fire signal boxes remain in use.

Global events have caused the industry to reassess fire alarm planning, design, installation, testing and maintenance during the past 5 years. Most systems are similar in type and function, though there are several alarm manufacturers today.

In the late 1980s the addressable fire alarm system was introduced and had incredible benefits including lower cost of installation and maintenance, ease of compliance testing, and the ability to quickly diagnose and resolve problems.

Fire alarms offer a dependable safety presence for your workplace, giving critical advance notice during aa emergency. These systems are linked to a central monitoring station, which supplies 24/7/365 surveillance of your fire alarm.

Here are some of the most common components of an alarm system:
a. Control panel: connected to all other components, as well as the central monitoring station, this is the main component
b. Detectors: heat detectors send the control panel a signal when the temperature gets too high; smoke detectors indicate when the smoke levels reach a certain point
c. Manual call point: people can pull a handle or break a glass to signal a potential fire outbreak in the area
d. Audible and Visual Alerts: strategically placed bells, horns and flashing beacons to warn people to leave the premises
e. Transmitter: optional portable device for the elderly and those with health problems to get immediate medical attention in the case of fire or smoke

How It Works
An effective fire alarm system detects fire or the effects of fire, and it should do one or more of the following: it should alert the occupants of a building and any persons nearby, its should summon the fire brigade, and control all the fire alarm components in the building.

The components of a fire alarm can be categorized into the following groupings:
1. Initiating Devices - workers can physically set off these devices, or they can automatically sense the presence of a fire, resulting in a signal to the panel
2. Main Control Panel - synchronizes the signals and resultant actions of the system, and is the central brain

You'll need to warn people in your workplace that they may be in danger. In the case of larger places of employment, such as factories and warehouses, the fire alarm can be used in conjunction with the public address system. The building can be split into different "zones" if it is very large.

Fire Detection
The most important place to have smoke detection in any building is along exit routes. Smoke detectors must not be placed within 3 metres of a kitchen, because of the risk of false alarms but this will not affect the speed with which a fire will be picked up.

Stand-alone Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms differ from smoke detectors in that they are self-contained detection and alarm systems in their own right. They are best powered from the mains, should include a backup battery, and they ought to be interconnected so that every unit will sound if one identifies a fire.
About the Author
Information on fire alarm equipment and fire extinguishers for home or commercial use
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