What is a Fire Alarm

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A fire alarm is any device or system that is designed to alert people to the presence of a fire. This could be the familiar smoke detector that you find in most homes in a hallway. These are stand alone devices because they are powered by a battery and when they detect smoke they set off an internal sounder. The sounder is loud enough to wake you from sleeping so that you can get out of the house. This type of smoke detector will not alert anyone else such as the authorities or neighbors. If no one is home then there will be no one alerted to the fire. So you can see that this type of device is meant to save lives but not property.

Many residential homes will have a smoke detector connected to the security system. If this type of smoke detector goes into alarm it will trigger the alarm and sound the horn or siren that is connected to it. If the system is monitored the authorities will be notified. This type of device is designed to save lives and property because it can be set up to alert the occupants of the home and remote personnel.

Commercial Fire Alarm System

Fire alarm systems are required in most commercial buildings. The alarm devices that are required can vary from state to state and county to county. The National Fire Protection Association website can provide more information about the specific requirements for your building. The basic alarm system is composed of the following devices:

·         Alarm Control Panel

·         Smoke Detectors

·         Heat Detectors

·         Pull Stations

·         Duct Detector

·         Horns/Sirens

·         Alarm Annunciator


Fire Alarm Control Panel Fire Alarm Annunciator Fire Alarm Pull Station Fire Alarm Pull Station Fire Alarm Horn

Fire Alarm Code

In most cases the installation of a commercial alarm system is determined by specific code requirements. These codes determine where devices are placed and who can legally install or upgrade a alarm system. There are federal, state and local codes that must be complied with. Failing to comply fully with any of these codes can result in denial of occupancy permits, fines, legal and financial liability.

Fire Alarm Devices and Accessories

Alarm devices are divided into two groups. There are the initiating devices that are designed to manually or automatically trigger an alarm. The second group is the signaling devices that are designed to alert personnel to the presence of a fire condition.

1.       Alarm Control Panel

a.       The control panel is where all of the devices connect to. When an alarm is detected the control panel initiates an alarm to be sounded.

2.       Smoke Detectors

a.       In most alarm systems this is the most heavily used device. They are designed to detect a fire before it gets out of control. They do not require supervision by any personnel. They are supervised by the control panel.

3.       Heat Detectors

a.       There are locations where the placement of a smoke detector will not work. In these cases a heat detector will be used instead.

4.       Pull Station

a.       A pull station is an initiating device that is placed at the exits of a building or it can be placed at other locations when dictated by local code. This device is used by someone that has seen a fire and needs to alert all other personnel in the building.

5.       Duct Detector

a.       Commercial buildings use ducts in the ceiling for air conditioning. These ducts are efficient at two things. They supply heat and cool air for the comfort of people in the building. They also serve to spread fire and smoke quickly through a building. A duct detector is a device that has a smoke detector installed and a sampling tube in the duct to check for smoke. If smoke is detected it will trigger the alarm and it will also cause the duct to be closed.

6.       Horns and Sirens

a.       These devices are used to signal on site personnel to the presence of a fire condition. They are audible and visual devices.

7.       Fire Alarm Annunciator

a.       All alarm systems have a control panel but this panel and the associated keypad may not always be located in an accessible area. An Annunciator is a remote device that provides information about the location of the alarms. The can be a graphic Annunciator that is an actual representation of the building that has lights depicting the location of devices that have been triggered.

These are the basics of a commercial fire alarm system. There are other auxiliary devices that can be used and some that are required. A commercial fire alarm system is governed by strict codes where most residential fire alarm systems have very little code requirements.

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