Conventional vs addressable fire alarm systems
When it comes to fire alarm systems, the main concern that building owners and managers have is creating a safe environment, occupant safety, property protection and code compliance. When there is a fire breakout, the first thing that owners and managers want to know is the location of the fire so that they can take immediate action and ensure safe evacuation of occupants and reduce risks to assets.
Today, most conventional fire alarm systems fulfil these tasks to a degree, but are limited in terms of their flexibility, programmability and level of control provided. Generally, there are two parts to a fire detection system – initiation and notification. With regards to initiation functionality, conventional systems will only be able to indicate the zone or area of the fire, but not the exact location. This affects the ability of the firefighting team to quickly address the fire hazard and may hamper the evacuation process. Whereas an addressable initiation system is capable of detecting the exact location of the fire and notifying first responders. The latest innovations in addressable notification help with more efficient, effective and safer evacuation. Combined with addressable initiation, this enables system designers to design a detection solution that overcomes the specific requirements of each building.
An example of the latest innovations in addressable fire alarm notification systems is the Tyco SIMPLEX TrueAlert ES addressable speakers – the fire alarm industry’s first addressable notification appliance with on/off audio control. It allows users to select individual speakers to broadcast unique audio messages, providing unprecedented flexibility and control over emergency messaging and response. As part of the TrueAlert ES series of notification appliances, they also have revolutionary self-test capabilities that can help reduce business disruption, as well as be cost and time efficient. Additionally, the speakers have been redesigned with enhanced aesthetics to fit into modern office interiors, whilst providing clear and crisp sound quality, which makes it possible to be used for daily functions and background music.
Targeted messaging for enhanced emergency communications and response
Addressable speakers have the capability to deliver audio messages to specifically targeted areas within a building. Each audio unit has its own address on the fire alarm system and is supervised by a fire alarm panel. As a result, the fire alarm panel can be programmed to select the speaker, or group of speakers, for broadcasting – and what message will be played on them – during an emergency. This targeted audio paging capability enables the delivery of critical, event-specific information exactly where it’s needed.
In the case of a small isolated event, an individual speaker can be activated to deliver a message in that specific area, without potential disruption to the rest of the building. For example, if the smoke detector in the kitchen of an apartment in a multi-story residential tower activates, only the speaker in that apartment will be triggered. If additional smoke detectors activate then the speakers for the entire floor can be put into action.
In broader emergency situations, groups of speakers can be used to deliver evacuation instructions for specific parts of the building, based on the nature of the situation. Because audio messages are directed by programming rather than wire runs, addressable speakers are able to offer customers flexibility and total control over the area that they want the message to be broadcasted.
Making it easier and simpler for designers and electrical contractors
With conventional notification, wiring is restrictive and rather inflexible, making it difficult to design systems that are efficient, cost-effective and readily expandable. Addressable speakers (and other addressable notification appliances), in comparison, are far easier for designers to work with. When laying out a system with addressable devices, circuits can be T-Tapped and designed to go further and use wire more efficiently. This gives engineers more freedom and makes it less likely that they will encounter design roadblocks. When put together, addressable fire alarm speakers offer a solution that is flexible, reliable, cost-effective and highly scalable, enabling the system to grow and expand as buildings change and life-safety needs evolve.
Less disruptive fire alarm testing
Self-testing can reduce business disruption and provide significant time and cost savings, particularly in large buildings where notification appliance testing can be challenging and time consuming. With self-testing systems, work that used to take hours or even days can now be done in a fraction of the time. Addressable speakers offer appliance self-testing capability as well as advanced programming and reporting features. The self-test process takes just seconds to complete. Plus, it can be initiated manually or programmed via the fire alarm control panel to run automatically at a convenient time, eliminating the burden of after-hours testing. If a device fails the test, it will be specifically identified at the panel, simplifying service and repairs. This self-testing process meets the testing, inspection and maintenance requirements specified in NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
This type of notification appliance self-testing has especially big benefits in environments that are constantly occupied. For example, hospitals must adhere to the same fire protection codes as other buildings, while simultaneously minimising disruption to help ensure patient comfort and safety. Faster, less intrusive testing helps these facilities to maintain code compliance with minimal interruption to patients and staff.
Lower cost of system installation and ownership
Addressable notification technology can lower the cost of fire alarm system installation and the cost of ownership over the life of the system. The flexible wiring architecture, combined with greater power efficiency, means less wiring is needed and devices can be installed with smaller gauge, unshielded wire.
Addressable notification systems operate at lower current draws, meaning that they can significantly increase wiring distances and potentially allow more devices to be connected per circuit. Costs may also be reduced because fewer power supplies, notification appliance circuit cabinets and back-up batteries are typically needed over the lifetime of the system.
The future of fire alarm notification
While conventional fire alarm systems may alert you on the area of the fire outbreak, they don’t provide the advanced features of addressable fire alarm systems and can cause disruption to the occupants of a building. Home to some of the fastest growing cities in the world, building managers and owners in Asia Pacific should rely on the latest technology to provide next generation precision in locating fires, at the same time improving time and cost effectiveness from installation and operation to the maintenance of the system.
For more information, go to www.tyco.com