The Big Payoff
The installation cost savings of wireless technology enable dealers to protect more people that formerly couldn't be protected, comments Joel Christianson, director of commercial marketing, GE Interlogix. "Those instances include low-income housing and installations where asbestos abatement would cause delays and drive up costs," he says.
The benefit of addressable fire alarms, according to Roux, are the enhanced performance and life safety characteristics. "Address-able detectors and devices communicate individually with the fire alarm control unit via a signaling line circuit," he explains.
"In NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, 1-5.8," says Roux, "you'll find the requirements pertaining to monitoring for integrity. An addressable device is a fire alarm system component with discrete identification that can have its status individually identified or that is used to individually control other functions. These may be either initiating devices or control appliances. An initiating device provides the fire alarm system control panel with its status and actual location. The control appliance receives operating commands from the fire alarm system control panel. Digital addresses for each device or appliance can be assigned by the system hardware or software."
Addressable technology makes possible the pinpointing of a fire and therefore accelerates the speed of response. Addressable systems are mapped: every detection device has its own ID; and the location of each ID is displayed or otherwise annunciated locally and almost always digitally communicated in great detail to the central station or fire department. Where to respond and perhaps a foreknowledge of the particular scenario (storage room, sleeping area, etc.) of the event helps firefighters and responders.
Scott Larson, product manager for Faraday Fire Alarm Systems, feels the two loop addressable panels are as easy to install. "They are versatile systems that will work in a variety of applications," he states. "You can put more and more devices on a single addressable loop and integrate that loop with a variety of other functions such as security and signaling devices."
"The most significant developments in addressable fire alarm technology is in the field of networking," says Jim Kimpel, product manager for Fire Control Instruments, Inc. "With more emphasis being placed on system survivability and flexibility, I see further developments in network system technology including low cost distributed audio and distributed intelligence. The enhancements will greatly improve life safety in fire, tornado, and special hazard applications as well as reduce installation costs even further."
Service and Maintenance are Enhanced
Kimpel agrees that the market is increasingly demanding more cost effective installed systems while at the same time raising the bar on system survivability. "Developments in self diagnostic fire alarm technology improve both performance and life safety by alerting service personnel when detectors and/or modules become defective or dirty," Kimpel comments. "It allows technicians to isolate most problems down to an individual sensor which results in a typical building maintaining the same level of detector sensitivity and protection as the day the system was commissioned."
These developments benefit the dealer in a couple of ways. First, by reducing the amount of time a technician spends on an average service call, the dealer can better utilize his manpower and pass on the resulting savings to the customer. Kimpel asserts, "The result is a customer who is more likely to request service on the onset of a problem rather than 'put off' the service due to cost concerns. This again results in improved life safety."
Self diagnostics never preclude the need for scheduled maintenance, Kimpel clearly warns. NFPA has established guidelines which ensure that all aspects of fire systems are maintained. For example, mechanical switch failures on devices like waterflow switches or manual stations would not be normally detected without periodic maintenance. Other conditions like bagged detectors, devices left in ceilings after renovations, audio/visual devices removed or blocked, to name a few, would go undetected or uncorrected without maintenance.
Scheduled maintenance ensures a better performance and detection, offers Christianson. "Self diagnostics is a fail-safe feature from the manufacturer to better protect the end user," he says.
The value of addressable fire alarms is also a long term payback to both the client and the installer because servicing and maintenance of addressables is far more efficiently performed than with conventional systems where multiple devices share a loop and are unable to identify troubles individually. Addressable fire alarm systems and wireless fire alarms are major advances in electronic life safety. They permit faster installations, provide concise reporting of fire events, expedite troubleshooting and, along with the host of other features incorporated into microprocessor based FAC's, bring the fire protection to higher levels than ever before.