Addressable Fire Alarm Systems

Integral Ingredients In The Future Of Fire Detection

The goal of the fire alarm industry is to increase the efficiency of fire alarm technology for early and pinpointed response. In the area of fire detection and annunciation, incredible maintenance and operation advances are continuously being introduced. A constant vigil is kept over advancements in life safety and fire detection to guarantee their legitimacy, functionality and reliability.

Addressable alarms is an area which has grown in stature in recent years. It provides many advantages over conventional methods and offers new features not possible before. Addressable fire alarms were for many years hardwired, and now recently have gone wireless. Supervised wireless technology is now at a point where it achieves the requisite levels of reliability and performance that the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) requires.

The strongest demand for advanced fire alarm panels comes from the commercial and industrial markets, driven by local, state and federal building codes. Building codes dictate that all commercial buildings must have fire detection and prevention systems. According to Frost & Sullivan, the fire panel market as a whole, comprised of conventional, addressable and voice-evacuation panels, generated revenues of $356 million in 2000. Frost & Sullivan projects that number to top $520 million by 2007.

Quick and Accurate
The NFPA, a preeminent code writing authority in the fire alarm industry, writes the rules to which all fire detection equipment is measured. The NFPA is a consensus driven code making organization. The codes produced are the result of both the study of forensic evidence gathered from past fire disasters and the opinions of experts. A huge body of fire professionals, including engineers, architects, manufacturers, firefighters, EMT's, installers, etc., reviews every element of the code. This group cherishes the value of human life, and will only approve a code or amendment after those involved can agree that it will provide an improvement over the current technology. The NFPA is open to suggestions from any inter-ested party.

Richard Roux, senior electrical engineer for the NFPA, comments on the role addressable fire alarms play in the improvement of life safety and fire alarm operation. "A properly designed, installed, tested and maintained addressable fire alarm system enables responding personnel to identify the location of a fire quickly and accurately," says Roux.

"Also, an addressable system indicates the status of emergency equipment or fire safety functions that might affect the safety of occupants in a fire situation," he continues. "The location of an operated initiating device is visibly indicated by building, floor, fire zone, or other approved subdivision by annunciation, printout, or other approved means. It identifies not only the zone of origin of the alarm initiation but specifically by individual detector or alarm initiating device."

Building codes, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code and local ordinances often require each floor of a building to be zoned separately for smoke detectors, waterflow switches, manual fire alarm boxes, and other initiating devices. "Addressable systems easily provide individual device status on the fire alarm system control unit," Roux states. "Addressable multiplex devices often satisfy those requirements and are a significant improvement over non-addressable technologies."

Once the NFPA determines a technology can perform, then the rest of the industry and the public decide if they will accept it. Addressable fire alarm technology has proven itself in regards to both performance and value, and is the standard in new fire alarm installations. It is frequently applied to upgrades of older installations as well.

Installation of an addressable system can be less expensive because it is less complex than conventional wiring and, therefore, can be installed faster. The addressable fire alarms technologies used are proprietary from manufacturer to manufacturer but all must be approved by NFPA.

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