Fire Alarm systems are not only a necessity to ensure the safety of an organisation’s people, premises and property, but are; in almost all buildings (except domestic premises); a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

There are numerous ways of detecting and alerting others to the presence of a fire, whether through smoke detectors, heat detectors, combined smoke and heat detectors, aspirating smoke detectors (ASD or air sampling systems), beam detectors, flame detection or smoke detection using CCTV cameras, sounders, beacons, manual call points or other methods; but they will all be connected back to a fire alarm control panel which acts as the ‘command centre’ of the system.

The fire alarm control panel

Notifier Pearl fire alarm system panelThe fire alarm control panel continually monitors the state of all of the detectors and interfaces connected to it, to ensure the safety of the building occupants; and there are three main conditions that you will find the fire alarm control panel in:

1. The fire alarm system will be in its normal working state with no issues detected (which is how you will want it to be)

2. If there is an issue with any of the connected devices, then the fire alarm system will show a fault on the fire alarm control panel (depending upon the type of system installed, this may just show that there is a fault within one of the zones or it could identify exactly which device needs attention)

3. If the presence of a fire is detected or notified, then it will activate the appropriate sounders, beacons and alarms to provide the quickest alert possible to the building occupants and / or managers

Types of fire alarm system

The type and size of the building, its use, the number and ability of its occupants to quickly and safely evacuate the premises and several other factors will affect the type and capabilities of the fire alarm panel chosen to protect the building when the system is designed.

There are 3 main types of fire alarm system:

1. Conventional fire alarm systems

With this type of alarm system the premises being protected are divided into zones of protection which allow fire fighters to identify the area where the potential fire is likely to be – but depending upon the size of each zone it could still take some time to identify the seat of the fire and / or the exact detector which has been activated.

2. Analogue addressable fire alarm systems

With this type of alarm system each connected device has its own individual ‘address’ so the location of the exact detector or call point which has been activated will be known immediately. This provides much greater accuracy in locating the fire or fault, whilst also providing a much greater level of analysis within the connected device itself – allowing the device to make a better informed decision as to whether there is a fire, fault, pre-alarm or maybe whether the detector head needs cleaning.

3. Wireless fire alarm systems

There are different types (and functionality) of wireless fire alarm systems, with the most advanced of them being as intelligent as an analogue addressable fire alarm system – but their primary difference is that the system is not connected by fire rated cables (instead relying on secure radio signals to maintain the connection between the devices and the panel).

Fire Risk AssessmentsFire Risk Assessments

The installation and use of the appropriate type of fire alarm system will also be checked during the periodic Fire Risk Assessments undertaken by, or on behalf of, the ‘Responsible Person’ (who is appointed by the building owners or the occupant’s senior management team, to maintain the safety of the building, its occupants and any others who may be affected by the building or the operations or activities undertaken within or around it).

Alarm monitoring

In many cases, the fire alarm system can be connected to a professional alarm monitoring or alarm receiving centre (ARC), who constantly monitor the state of many thousands of fire (and other) alarm systems across the country or even the World, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and who will immediately notify the building’s key holders upon activation of the fire alarm system.

If it is a confirmed event (identified through either the physical activation of a Manual Call Point (MCP) or physical confirmation of a fire through other means (i.e. visual confirmation via the site CCTV cameras) or a connected fire alarm system device being activated), then the Alarm Receiving Centre will immediately contact the appropriate fire brigade – providing details of the alarm, the address and any other available details to ensure a fast and efficient response.