Leaders in Fire Alarm Systems

An Exclusive Security Dealer Roundtable

Hendrickson: Discuss the overall cost of the installation and maintenance of the system; explain the unique capability of the addressable fire system. Look at the issues that the older system has had and show how the addressable system can better serve their needs.

Frankenberg: Determine the needs of the facility. What is the age of the current system? Are parts readily available and can that system be added to? Are there troubles that cannot be cleared or, worse yet, does the system have unnecessary alarms? What is the condition of the peripherals connected to the system and cable to those devices?
If the system is near or over ten years old, seriously consider replacing it. Technology is making it difficult for manufacturers to continue to supply the older parts. As the parts become less available the price increases to the point that a new system is the only option. If the system is not working or has constant unwanted alarms, then it is time for a new system.

Consult your local AHJ for the specific requirements. He will know if the system is required for full updating or can be added to. This is basically determined on the amount of renovation work being done.

Brady: Concerns over proper alarm management and false dispatches is a hot topic on the burg alarm side of the business. Why is fire different—or not?

Roberts: There are two reasons. The National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) requires fire alarm systems to be tested and maintained. Many AHJs do an excellent job enforcing these requirements. Also, the quality of fire alarm products has greatly improved. For example, most smoke detectors have integral smoothing algorithms that smooth out any spikes due to moisture, dust, steam that may cause nuisance alarms. They also have the ability to generate a maintenance signal to the control panel when a detector is dirty and requires cleaning. This allows the dealer to schedule a regular, non-emergency service call to clean the detector before it goes into alarm.

Hendrickson: Fire is not different; perhaps we are only because it has been recognized as an issue in the fire industry for a much longer period of time. It is well understood in the fire community that if an alarm goes off and the fire trucks roll that there is a tremendous strain on the firefighting resources.

Frankenberg: There are still a large number of fire alarms that are either unnecessary (unintentional pulling of a manual station or dry cooking) or system malfunctions (dirty detectors, construction that shorts a zone). However, the fire alarm industry is different than intrusion. The fire alarm has more stringent installation standards and a set of “checks and balances.” There are engineered design and sign off, plan reviews, and inspection by independent third parties for the fire alarm systems. These systems are given a higher life safety value than the intrusion systems.

Both sides of the industry have training opportunities and the latest in technology. However, there are not many local authorities that review the installation of an intrusion system. The industry is more self regulated. Unfortunately, many times both installations are given the lowest priority in the construction cycle and this forces the installer to come up with creative means to accomplish an acceptable installation.

McNamara: I think fire is different as most of the systems are commercial, and not residential. Commercial systems have an installation code such as NFPA 72. NFPA 72 has improved the installation, maintenance and testing criteria for commercial and household fire warning systems. And, commercial fire alarm systems are operated and monitored by regular users of the system.

Brady: What new technologies are available to: (1) Help dealers be more efficient when installing fire systems; and (2) Make for faster and accurate fire notification.