Trends in Fire Panels

What’s new?
Jay Levy, western regional sales manager, Hochiki America Corp., Buena Park, Calif., said the biggest technological advancement in fire alarm control panels in the past few years has been in the intelligence of addressable systems. “Looking at it from a firefighter’s point of view, when they are dispatched they know where they’re going and what it is that happened,” he said. “They know there is a fire alarm in the building and exactly where in the building and what triggered it–whether it was a smoke detector, pull station, water flow, etc.”

Jayson Kneen, communications manager, Notifier, Northford, Conn., said that the most notable change he’s seen with fire panels has been the integration of digital voice evacuation. “For a long time voice evacuation had been a part of fire alarm systems, or at least an available option,” he noted. “But digital audio evacuation has allowed for larger systems and more efficient designs.”

Last year Fire-Lite Alarms, Northford, Conn., introduced its IP fire alarm control panel, the IPDACT; and since that time more and more central stations are acquiring the capability to monitor fire alarm control panels via the Internet. Nick Martello, marketing director, Fire-Lite, sees the move toward IP as another big change in fire systems.

“Newer panels can communicate faster over existing conventional system wiring allowing easy retrofit with huge savings by not having to replace the copper wire,” said Martello.

So where are things headed?
“We already have started to see it now,” said Kneen. “Mass notification is a big buzzword in the market and Notifier already has the ability to integrate mass notification as part of the fire alarm system; and I think that as time goes on that need will increase, and you’ll see more fire alarm manufacturers offering that ability.”

Steve Rossi, vice president, Communications, Honeywell Fire Systems, sees the future of fire systems continuing down the path of being simpler to use, easier to program and commission and, ultimately, plug and play.
Levy predicted that fire detection will move toward video. “That’s an emerging technology at this point; and it kind of makes sense,” he explained. “The more you can do with a camera, the greater the savings is all around.”

Greg McConnell is the former associate editor of SD&I magazine.