Fire systems are integral to any building, helping provide safety for all occupants, protecting valuable equipment and to help minimize any damage to the structure of the building itself. Whether in a commercial facility or a residence, it is crucial that all the components of a fire alarm system work together effectively to protect people's lives and to alert emergency responders as quickly as possible so they can take action.
The key components of a fire system include:
- Fire alarm control panel
- Fire alarm initiating devices
- Fire notification devices
- Primary power supply and backup power supply
Fire alarm control panel
As the central hub or the brain of the fire alarm system, the fire alarm control panel monitors and manages the initiation devices. If an initiation device is triggered, it sends a signal to the control panel and the control panel activates the notification devices.
The fire alarm control panel also displays the status of the system, allows the user to see when an issue is detected, allows users to control the system manually, and it serves as the source for retrieving troubleshooting codes that communicate when the system requires attention.
Fire alarm initiating devices
Alarm initiating devices in a fire alarm system activate the system when a fire occurs. There are two types of fire alarm initiating devices:
1. Manual initiating device – These types of devices must be manually activated by a person in the building when they identify a fire emergency —they include pull stations, break glass stations or buttons. Manual initiating devices should be well marked so that they are easy to identify and use.
2. Automatic initiating devices – Through heat, flame and smoke detection, these devices trigger the alarm system automatically when a fire is detected. They send a signal to a central control panel that activates the system. Automatic initiating devices include:
Fire notification devices
When a fire alarm system receives an alert, the system needs to notify building occupants that a fire has been detected. Fire alarm notification devices include strobes, chimes, horns, signaling bells, lights, emergency message boards and speakers.
Power supply and backup power supply
With direct wiring to the building's power supply as the main source of power, a fire alarm system also needs a backup power supply to prevent any disruption in case of a power outage. Backup power supplies are usually either 6V or 12V batteries that are linked to the control panel.
They may be located either within the control panel itself or in a separate enclosure that is mounted adjacent to the control panel. The control panel charges the backup power supply when needed and monitors its status.
Additional important components
Other key components that are important to a fire system include the following:
Emergency lighting and signs – In the event of a fire, people need to know exactly where to go to get out safely. Emergency lighting and signs that clearly indicate to people how to leave the premises quickly and efficiently are crucial.
Sprinkler systems – When the system detects a fire, it activates the sprinkler system to suppress or extinguish the fire.
Voice communication systems – A voice communication system gives occupants verbal commands telling them where to go and what to do during an emergency. This type of system is especially helpful in convention centers, high-rise buildings, hospitals and other high-occupancy buildings.
A fire alarm system is designed to help protect a building's infrastructure, the equipment that is housed within the building, and most importantly, to help save occupants' lives. The key components that make up a fire system all work together to help the system perform its function efficiently and effectively.