Types Of Fire Alarms

Fire alarms – what are the types and choices?

Offices, hotels, shops and other public buildings should all have a designated, ‘responsible person’ to ensure the building’s fire safety and security.

This responsible person – or group of people – will be accountable for a number of duties.

One key responsibility is to organise a regular risk assessment to be carried out. This will identify any weaknesses in the building’s current safety and security procedures and assess the need for any additional fire protection equipment.

For most buildings where people visit or work, fire alarm systems are a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005[i].

So, you know you need a fire alarm system, now what are your options.

Picking the right system for you

There is a wide variety of fire alarm systems available, each type is chosen and designed to best suit a particular type of building and requirements of the Fire Risk Assessment.

    1. Non-addressable fire alarm system

      A non-addressable fire – or four-wire – alarm system is designed to detect any signs of fire (eg smoke or heat) within your building and alert you to these.With this system, your building is divided up into ‘zones’. Each zone will have at least one fire detection device which will be individually connected, using wires, to the control panel.

      When the devices detect any sign of fire, they send a signal to the control panel to set off the alarm. The control panel will then show details as to where the fire is located.

      Non-addressable fire alarm systems are typically less expensive and are often used in smaller properties such as shops or restaurants.

    2. Two-wire fire alarm system

      Also referred to as Bi-Wire and Sav-Wire, similar to non-addressable fire alarm systems, two-wire fire alarm systems are designed to identify and detect fires within smaller buildings or premises.

      Two-wire fire alarm systems are different because the audible and visual alarm devices are connected to the control panel using the same wires as the detection devices. This means the system uses a single circuit per zone as opposed to separate dedicated sounder circuits therefore using less cable and labour.

      Depending on the size and configuration of a building, a Two-wire fire alarm can be installed quicker and less expensive to install than standard non-addressable systems.

    3. Addressable fire alarm system

      Addressable fire alarm systems may appear similar to non-addressable systems but are in fact very different. Both are designed to detect and alert you to signs of fire within your building, but the systems are not connected in the same way, and addressable system can offer far more in terms of capabilities interfacing with third party systems. However, within an addressable fire alarm system, all fire detection devices have a specific, unique ‘address’ or location. This means that in the event of an alarm sounding, the control panel will show exactly which device sent the alert and specifically where it is located within the zone.

      Addressable fire alarm systems are typically used in much larger, commercial premises with a more complex network of systems. Their precision renders them more expensive than non-addressable fire alarm systems, however it also increases the speed and accuracy of fire identification and the ability to control the fire quickly and limit damage to your building.

    4. Wireless fire alarm systems

      Wireless fire alarm systems are connected wirelessly, without the need for cables between different components of the system. This works in the same way as other fire alarm systems, with individual detection devices sending signals to the control panel to sound the alarm in the event of a fire.

      Wireless fire alarm systems are a safe alternative when it is not possible to install a wired system – eg in listed properties. As there are no cables between the devices and the control panel, installation is far quicker and much less intrusive.

      Today, wireless systems are recognised as a viable technology as they are fully compliant with British Standards (BS:5839) and European Standards for fire alarms (EN54).

    Still not sure which system is right for you? Are you based close to the West Midlands? Get in touch – we’d love to help you to choose the perfect solution.

    [i] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/contents/made

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