Fire is arguably the most destructive force of nature. It can consume thousands of hectares of forests or an entire street in less than an hour. For commercial buildings, fire poses the threat of completely destroying businesses. Not only does it destroy your entire business premise and inventory worth millions, but also puts your employees’ lives at risk. That’s why every building needs to have measures in place to curb fire outbreaks. Luckily commercial fire alarm systems are designed to address this very challenge.
What Are Commercial Fire Alarm Systems?
These are systems designed to curb fire outbreaks in commercial buildings. Just like a normal fire alarm system, they are made of 3 components:
- Detection devices – these simply serve to identify a fire. They include smoke detectors, heat sensors, and even video surveillance in some systems.
- Alarm and notification devices – these serve to notify the occupants of the building that there’s a fire. They include speakers, monitors, and lights.
- Suppression devices – This covers all the equipment put in place to try to arrest the fire or put it out completely. Simple fire systems, such as residential ones, rely on fire extinguishers as the sole device in this category. But commercial fire alarm systems rely on sprinklers and deoxygenating systems that use gases and chemicals. The three components need to be linked up and integrated. This is achieved using a fire alarm control panel. It seamlessly integrates all these components to form commercial fire alarm systems that detect, notify, and try to contain fires.
Recommended For You
- OMG! Brinks Home Security Systems Makes Your Home More Safe
- The 10 Best Wifi Hidden Home Security Cameras Under $100
- Five Explanation Why Digital Security Systems Is Important For Building
Types Of Commercial Fire Alarm Systems
The field of fire safety has benefited a lot from technological advancement. It has graduated from simple fire alarm systems that simply sound alarms to automated systems that can fully contain fires and contact fire alarm monitoring services. The simplest way to look at commercial fire alarm systems is by classifying them into manual and automatic systems.
Manual vs Automatic Commercial Fire Alarm Systems
These are the two broad types of commercial fire alarm systems. Manual systems, just as the name suggests, need to be manually operated in every stage. Its detection system relies on human beings to notice a fire. Alarm and notification systems need to be initiated every time a fire breaks. This is commonly done using a fire alarm pull station that sets off the building’s alarm. Additionally, someone has to make a call to the fire emergency department to inform them of a fire. Lastly, it requires human action to intervene in the situation, such as the use of fire extinguishers.
Manual commercial fire alarm systems are still quite effective but are slowly being phased out by automatic commercial fire alarm systems that offer better protection. This is largely because manual systems are useless in the absence of human intervention.
So, What Happens When There’s No One To Get To The Fire Alarm Pull Station?
The reliance on human monitoring poses a grave danger to commercial buildings which are often vacant at night. Fire outbreaks during such hours take a while before being detected. That’s why fire outbreaks that occurring during the weekends and at night, cause major damage.
On the other hand, automatic commercial fire alarm systems operate independently and need no monitoring. Detection is handled by smoke detectors and thermal sensors. The alarm goes off automatically, and a notification is sent to the fire alarm monitoring services. At the same time, suppression devices automatically kick n to contain the fire while waiting for the response team to arrive. All this is handled by a digital fire control panel that mans this commercial fire alarm system.
The other way to look at commercial fire alarm systems is by focusing on the layout of the monitoring devices and how they are managed by the fire control panel. This places the systems into 3 groups:
- Conventional systems
- Addressable systems
- Hybrid systems
Conventional Commercial Fire Alarm Systems
In this system, the building is divided into zones; let’s say in floors, or blocks, or eastern zone, western zone etc. Fire detectors are then marked by zones and connected to the control panel. When a fire breaks out, the system will indicate the zone in which is affected. Most commercial buildings have such alarm systems.
Addressable Commercial Fire Alarm Systems
Every fire detecting device and alarm is allocated a distinct address, unique from all the rest. This way, you can be able to detect the exact location of the fire outbreak. This addressing system also allows you to monitor the state of every individual device in the system. You can detect faulty detectors and alarms on the control panel, and fix them. These commercial fire alarm systems also allow you to switch specific alarms from automation to manual management. This enables you to reduce false alarms. It is all these features that have made this system to be commonly referred to as the intelligent system.
Hybrid Commercial Fire Alarm Systems
This is a system that borrows elements from both the conventional and addressable systems. It maintains the zoning system where the building is divided into different fire zones, while at the same time having an addressable system to pinpoint the exact location of the fire. This is a more customized system that is often built to suit the specific needs of a building.
Apart from these basic designs, commercial fire alarm systems are packed with enhanced features that make it easier to detect fires and evacuate people from the building. The new features utilize new innovations and current networking technology to provide buildings with the protection they need. Below are some of the features included in commercial fire alarm systems:
Air Sampling-type Smoke Detection
This is a new technology that is at the frontline of early fire detection. This detector continuously samples room air and scans it for small particles that are produced as a result of combustion. It is almost a thousand more times sensitive than the classic smoke detector. It can detect a match lit in the next room. Unlike the usual smoke detectors that will only detect a fire after its already smoking, these detectors in the modern commercial fire alarm systems pick up a fire in its earliest stages before it is established. This way it is easier to contain it.
Network Integrated Fire Detectors
The world is going wireless, and so are commercial fire alarm systems. Wireless beam detectors are currently the preferred detection devices for modern architectural designs. These detectors require no wiring and can be easily placed in any spot of the building. The beam detectors are all integrated into one control panel using a wireless network. From this panel, you can monitor the state of every beam detector and receive alarms and notifications of any fire.
Video surveillance is more than a security feature. Some commercial fire alarm systems use cameras placed strategically to detect fires. The video footage is used to monitor any fire outbreak, and help the managers decide on which step to take next.
Emergency Evacuation System
Classic alarms included a one-way address system that only sends out an evacuation message. Current commercial fire alarm systems have several features in place to help evacuate the building:
- Multisensory evacuation signals – incorporation of an audio message, with light signals and video screening to warn the occupants of the fire. This way, even
the blind and the deaf are aware of the fire.
- Automated unlocking of emergency doors
- 2-way communication system – every alarm speaker also has an inbuilt microphone. This way, a stranded occupant can communicate with individuals at the
control room and be guided on the appropriate way out.
- Elevator recall capability – this is a system that is designed to help evacuate the building in the shortest time possible. Elevators are automatically recalled to the floor in which the alarm signal went off. This prioritization system enables the building occupants who are most likely to be affected first to evacuate safely.
Notifications To Emergency Response Systems
Current commercial fire alarm systems come with a protocol for notifying all emergency services of a fire. The fire system control panel is connected to the fire alarm monitoring service station. They receive a notification when an alarm goes off. Additionally, the system sends a mobile call notification to the fire station.
Control Of Fire Suppression Methods
All commercial fire alarm systems come with various devices for containing fires. The most common are overhead sprinklers. Other suppressor methods involve the release of gas and chemicals to put out the fire or sealing off a section that s affected by the fire.
Modern commercial fire alarm systems have both automated suppression devices, and others that are subject to your control. The water sprinklers automatically go off in the affected section. Additionally, the control panel gives you further options on how to contain the fire, such as sealing off that section. All this is managed on the networked control panel that is connected to all the suppressor devices. From the control room, you can release various gases, or take any appropriate measure to contain the fire while awaiting emergency response services.
Commercial buildings constantly face the threat of a fire outbreak. Commercial fire alarm systems are designed to contain such situations. By providing early detection of the fire, the systems enable us to contain at an early stage and prevent major damages. The integrated evacuation and communication systems further make it easier to mobilize the occupants and notify get response teams in the shortest time possible. So if you care for your building’s safety, get a commercial fire alarm system installed.