Fire is one of the most deadly events that may occur; one occurs every minute of every day somewhere on the planet. While fire can be our ally in some situations, it can also be our deadliest enemy if it is uncontrolled and allowed to spread throughout a structure. Of course, fire is destructive, and smoke from a fire creates a toxic, deadly environment. Each year, early identification and management of a fire can save thousands of lives, thousands of injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage.
Smoke detectors and alarm devices have been coupled to form life-safety systems in the field of fire detection. An automatic fire alarm system’s goal is to detect a fire, notify the control panel and appropriate authorities, and alert the inhabitants to take action.
Fire-detection systems in use today
Like any other asset, the automatic fire-detection system has a 10- to 15-year lifespan. It is no longer deemed reliable after 15 years, and components to repair it may be unavailable. The brain of today’s fire-detection systems is the FACP (fire alarm control panel) — this is the system’s brain, and it can make quick judgments. Detection devices range from smoke and heat detectors to multi-capability detectors, which combine multiple functions into a single instrument. Many modern detectors contain addressable switches that allow the detector to tell the FACP exactly where the fire is located. The detecting devices detect the presence of smoke or combustion particles and notify the FACP; the FACP then selects what action to take.
In addition, your fire-detection system can:
- In computer rooms or clean rooms, turn on clean agent fire suppression systems.
- In airplane hangars or other risky environments, activate deluge fire systems.
- For a pre-action suppression system, open a dry pipe sprinkler system.
- Other events, such as extreme weather, terrorism, bomb threats, hazardous chemical incidents, evacuation, and so on, could be used to send out alerts. Speaker systems may be used to offer voice directions for action or to protect in place during these circumstances. For two-way communication with trapped persons, modern FACPs may have telephone handsets in stairwells and elevators.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be monitored.
Keep in mind that there are a variety of specialized detecting devices available that are designed to improve life safety while reducing the risk of undesired or nuisance alarms. There are also skilled professionals that can aid you in assessing the circumstances of your organization and making recommendations based on your requirements.
The FACP may double-check the results with other area detectors, lowering the risk of nuisance or false alarms. The FACP may activate the building’s auditory and visual notification devices, prompting residents to take action. A loud horn, a flashing strobe light, a bell, a gong, or a loud speaker that gives vocal instructions to the occupants are examples of notification devices. It may only work on particular floors of a structure. It’s usual in high-rise buildings to issue alerts on the fire floor, the floor above, and the floor below. This eliminates the need to evacuate the entire structure. In a hospital or long-term care institution, the FACP may only alert a limited number of people to allow professionals to assess the situation and determine whether or not a general evacuation is necessary.
It’s crucial to remember that all fire alarm and detection systems need to be serviced and maintained on a regular basis. Annual, semi-annual, or monthly system testing may be required depending on the local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction). Competent, well-trained staff must conduct the testing. A system that is properly installed and maintained saves lives and minimizes property damage.