Fire Detection Systems
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FIRE DETECTION SYSTEMS
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A fire alarm system consists of various electronic devices that work together to detect a fire or other emergency and notify people. Over the years, fire alarm systems have become increasingly complex, so we’ve put together a guide to help you understand all the components of a fire detection alarm system and get the most out of this essential technology.
How Do Fire Alarm Systems Work?
The main purpose of a fire alarm system is to detect fires and quickly notify both building occupants and emergency services from a centrally controlled and monitored location. These systems also monitor themselves, identifying the location and source of alarms and detecting connection and wiring problems that may prevent the system from functioning properly. Essentially, fire detection systems have four basic functions.
These highly sophisticated systems utilise a network of devices, appliances and control panels to perform these four functions. We will discuss each component in detail below to help you better understand the operation of an alarm system.
Components of the Alarm System
A fire alarm system consists of many components, including
- Fire alarm control panel
- Initialisation devices
- Towing stations
- Smoke detectors
- channel detectors
- Heat detectors
- Beam detectors
- Smoke detectors with air suction or air sampling
- Water flow switches
- External intervention switches
- Notification devices
- Audio devices
- Translators or communicators
- NAC power supplies
How Do Fire Alarm Systems Integrate with Other Life Safety Technologies?
Sometimes building codes require integration between fire alarm systems and other technologies. But in other cases, such as integration with lighting systems, HVAC systems, door locks and security systems, integration is optional and voluntary. While these systems may have needed independent network communications in the past, they now work on a shared infrastructure, saving you money and streamlining processes.
Some examples of functions and systems used in common with fire alarm systems are:
- Extinguishing systems such as automatic sprinkler systems
- Power outage and lift recall
- Smoke management
- HVAC fan and damper controls
- Door unlocking and door opening
- Security system
- Mass notification systems
- Monitoring of fire extinguishers
According to the National Fire Alarm and Signalling Code, some of the above are “fire safety functions” intended to improve the life safety of building occupants or control the spread of fire. You may choose to integrate other functions or systems for a variety of reasons, including operational benefits, information sharing and cost savings.
How often do you need to check fire alarms?
According to the schedule in table 14.3.1 of NFPA 72, you should have the components of your fire alarm visually inspected weekly, monthly, semi-annually or annually. However, these schedules may vary depending on your local codes as well as the competent jurisdiction. Standard visual inspections include the following.
Inspection equipment: Check this every week to verify that the system is operating correctly. This includes inspecting the LEDs, power supply, fuses, and seeing if there are any signals of trouble.
Batteries: Depending on the type of batteries you have, you should check for leaks and corrosion once or twice a month.
Heat detectors, duct detectors and smoke detectors: Check them every six months.
You should inspect all equipment annually to verify that there are no changes that affect its performance.
Control equipment: You should test this once a year to verify that alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals are being received properly.
Control unit fault signals: You must check and verify both visual and audible trouble signals annually.
Secondary power supply: Test this by unplugging all of your primary power sources.
Initialisation devices: You should test these to ensure that they work as intended and transmit the signal to your control unit. This means you should test your smoke detectors with smoke or an acceptable smoke simulator and your heat detectors should pass a heat test.
Alarm notification devices: You should test and verify their correct operation visually and audibly.
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