Fire Alarm

Ever heard of the phrase ‘nip it in the bud’; fire alarm systems are designed to do just that. They are designed to detect fire outbreaks early and give home owners valuable time to take appropriate action or evacuate. This may seem inconsequential; however, it may turn out to be the difference between life and death.

Don’t believe it. Here’s a fact:

‘An individual can lose consciousness in as little as 20 seconds from smoke inhalation’

It takes another 5 – 10 minutes for the brain cells to die, if fresh oxygen is unable to reach the brain.

In this case, a fire alarm system could be a God send and a smart investment. According to a report published by FEMA in April 2013, 35% of fire victims were asleep at the time of their death.  This unnecessary loss of life could’ve been avoided with the help of an effective alarm system.

What Goes into a Fire Alarm System?

This alarm system is a set of electronic equipment that functions together to alert in case of smoke or a fire.

Fire Alarm
Fire Alarm

It includes the following components:

  • Control panel - known as the control unit, this component monitors the system’s integrity, inputs, relays information and controls the output

  • Main power supply - This is the main electrical supply which powers the fire alarm system

  • Backup electrical supply - The system turns to this supply in case of a power outage

  • Initiating appliance - This provides input to the fire alarm control panel

  • Notification device - Makes use of strobe lights, speakers, bells or flashing lights to alert

  • Building safety interface -Assists safety personnel to contain fire and smoke by manipulating air movement, process control and evacuation

Types of Fire Alarm Systems

These systems come in different shapes and sizes and may be divided into two broad categories:

  1. Manual Fire Alarm Systems - These require hand activation. They are typically installed near doors and stairwells

  2. Automatic Fire Alarm Systems - Use sensors to detect smoke and fire.

There are three types of fire alarms:

  • Temperature Alarm

    These alarms go off when the internal temperature of a facility goes above a specific point. They are typically used in commercial facilities or industrial settings. Temperature or Thermal fire alarms alert the occupants of a facility in case of a rise in temperature. 

  • Ionization Smoke Alarms

    These alarms use risk-free radioactivity to ionize the air inside the detector.They ionize the air inside the plenum of the detector, thereby allowing a small electric current to flow through. If smoke enters the detector, the flow of this current starts falling. The alarm sets off when the current flow drops below a certain point.

  • Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

    These alarms use a ray of light and a light sensitive photocell. When smoke enters the alarm, it scatters the ray of light. The scattered ray then hits a light sensitive photocell, which sets off the alarm.

Still on the Fence!

Without stating the obvious benefits, here are a couple of statistics for you.  According to the report issued by theNational Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in March 2014:

  • Three out of five residential fire deaths took place in properties without operational smoke alarms

  • The risk of deaths is half in homes that have functional smoke alarms

When it comes to protecting your loved ones, It is better to be safe than sorry. Always make sure that your home and work place has the right equipment to protect you in case of a fire.



Q:What Do I Do With an Old Fire Alarm System

A:You can replace an old fire alarm system, upgrade it or reuse it. The decision to replace it should be based on the age of the fire alarm. It would be wise to replace the fire alarm system if you have been using it beyond its recommended lifespan or service life. On the other hand, you can upgrade your fire alarm system by checking its compatibility. For instance, if you have a fire alarm and you want to add strobe lights to it, check with your provider to see if they have compatible strobe lights. If not, then you might have to switch to another system. Reusing can be tricky. You might have some parts of an outdated system that you need in your new system. Reuse cautiously, and weigh the cost against benefits before going ahead with this idea.

Q:What to do in case of fire alarm goes off?

A:Don’t ignore it. It’s that simple. While there is a possibility that it might be a false alarm, there is always a chance that there might be an actual fire. Don’t take the risk of finding out the hard way. Follow these steps: • If you don’t smell smoke, the fire hasn’t probably spread. You can go and check why the alarm went off. But be very careful, especially when you are near the area with the possible fire. • If you do smell even the faintest hint of smoke, don’t try to figure out what went wrong. Just leave the house. • Go to a neighbor’s house, call the fire department and let them handle the situation. Word of advice: For dealing with false alarms, try changing the location of your fire alarm. Or contact your provider.

Q:Do we need an automatic fire alarm system or manual is good as well

A:An automatic fire alarm system relies on sensors to detect the presence of any fire and then either sound an alarm or notify the fire department, or both. This type of alarm is designed to cover a particular zone, but it could also be integrated together with other devices of its kind that cover different areas for wider coverage. It may also activate sprinkler systems to put out the fire. A manual fire alarm system on the other hand has to be manually activated by someone who has discovered the fire in the building to sound the alarm. These alarms may be activated at call points installed near doors or stairwells, and are usually used in commercial or industrial buildings. Therefore, an automatic fire alarm system may give you the assurance you need that your property is being covered. In the end however, depending on your security needs and the area requirements of your home, you should get a fire alarm system more suited to your needs.

Q:How Does A Fire Alarm System Work

A:Basically, a device that triggers an alarm when it is tripped by the presence of a fire (i.e., automatic) or by someone pulling a lever (i.e., manual) is a fire alarm system. An automatic fire alarm system typically consists of sensors that detect smoke or heat, for example, slow-burning fires which give off smoke or raging fires which produce little initial smoke. These sensors are wired to the main control panel either with a conventional or an addressable configuration. A conventional configuration allows a building to be divided into multiple zones which are then covered by various different sensors all connected to the control panel by way of an electrical cable, thus causing all the alarms (and sprinklers, if connected) to be set off if any one individual alarm is set off. However, an addressable configuration uses an electrical cable in such a way that alarm is assigned an address so that when any one detects fire, only the particular zone that alarm is covering will be triggered. This also helps firefighters pinpoint the exact location of a fire.

Q:Does the fire alarm work when power is out?

A:A fire alarm system usually comes with a built-in backup battery/power supply. This means the system will continue to function even if the power is out. However, it is important to remember that the battery will only function for a limited period of time. Some batteries can last up to 24 hours. You can ask your alarm company to find out what how long the backup battery will last.

Q:How fast is fire alarm and security response time?

A:Fire alarm and security response time varies from one place to another. Some events may be responded very quickly, while others may experience some wait. The response time can range from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of emergency. First, it is confirmed whether the emergency is legitimate and then the response is given.

Q:How often do the batteries need to be changed on my fire safety alarm?

A:Fire alarms are an important part of your home security system. Proper maintenance is necessary, with batteries being replaced regularly. A smoke alarm is typically powered by batteries, which can run out after a certain time period. The battery life can vary. Make sure you check your smoke alarm and batteries once a month.

Q:If we move, do we have to buy a new fire alarm system?

A:This depends on the fire alarm system you have in your home. If it is a wireless alarm system, it is easier to uninstall and take with you. On the other hand, if the fire alarm system is wired, you will have to remove the wiring which can be difficult. You can also call up your home security service provider to find out if they offer services in the city you plan to move to.

Q:What should I do if the fire alarm system is not working properly?

A:A fire alarm system may not be working properly due reasons such as: low battery power, damaged wires, obstruction between the alarm and receiver (for wireless alarm systems), or any other technical issue. You can check the manual to for troubleshooting tips. However, if you still can't figure out what the problem is, it is recommended you seek professional help by calling your security company.

Q:Does a fire alarm system need to be kept at a certain temperature?

A:Yes, fire alarms work properly only within a certain temperature range. They are not designed to work in extreme cold or heat, or where dust and smoke are common. They are generally not recommended for unheated attics or similar places. Your manufacturer's instruction manual will tell you the temperature range and the areas where you can place the fire alarm system.

Q:How long will fire alarm panel last on back up power?

A:The duration of backup power will depend on a number of factors. It varies depending on the age of battery, how hot is the battery, and how much power is being used by the fire alarm system due to the usage of different devices. In most systems, the battery is designed to last for four to eight hours, which is a manufacturing standard followed by most companies.

Q:What features should be built into a better fire alarm system?

A:A good fire alarm system comes with a number of features. Although, individual preferences can vary, some of the desirable features include technical support, back up battery in case of power cut, easy installation process, long warranty, and a loud alarm. You may also compare costs of the alarm and ask your family and friends to suggest a quality system that they have personally used.

Q:What type of fire alarm system should I install?

A:The two most common fire alarm technologies are ionization smoke detection and photoelectric smoke detection. Ionization fire alarms have a small amount of radioactive material in them and they are generally more responsive to flaming fires. On the other hand, photoelectric fire alarms make use of light sensors and they are more suitable for smoldering fires. Depending on your need, you may select either of the fire alarm system.

Q:Should fire or smoke alarm systems be installed kitchens?

A:There are all kinds of smoke and detectors available. You must be careful when deciding which detector to install in a certain area of the house. According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, smoke detectors should be avoided in areas such as the kitchen. It is recommended you install heat detectors in kitchen areas instead.

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