One size fire and life safety system does not fit all. Some products are more appropriate than others in certain situations, environmental conditions, occupancy and structure. It is imperative that integrators do their research and that the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is consulted before the selection of solutions.
Half the battle is knowing which fire detection options are available, as well as how to best apply and adapt these to the building environment.
Conventional detectors specialize in the detection of slow, smoldering fires and are often ideally suited to general commercial and multi-family residential applications. These are a practical choice for typical applications when they don’t require an intelligent device and the primary objective is to protect lives from fire and smoke.
Most smoke detectors work either by photoelectric or by ionization, while others use both detection methods to increase sensitivity to smoke. These detectors have an approximate maximum coverage area of 900 square feet.
Ionization smoke detectors are inherently adept at detecting flaming fires and almost immediately recognize fires characterized by combustion particles from 0.01 to 0.3 microns. However, ionization sensors offer limited or slower capabilities when installed in areas with high airflow.
Photoelectric smoke detectors, however, quickly respond to smoldering fires characterized by combustion particles from 0.3 to 10.0 microns, making these detectors appropriate for more critical or sensitive settings.
Some of today’s fire systems are “smart” or “intelligent.” The components of these systems are able to engage in two-way dialog, analyze complex environments, adjust their own sensitivity levels and make educated decisions based on stored data.
Intelligent smoke detectors pinpoint alarms
Intelligent, high-sensitivity spot detectors typically use a focused, laser-based source to achieve sensitivities that are 100 times more sensitive than standard addressable or conventional infrared-based photoelectric smoke detectors. They are designed to respond to incipient fire conditions as low as 0.02 percent per-foot obscuration.
One important benefit of intelligent, addressable smoke detectors is that they enable the panel to quickly pinpoint locations of detectors in alarm. They can also identify detectors that have been tampered with or require maintenance. Some intelligent detectors can automatically compensate for changes in the environment, such as humidity and dirt buildup, and can be programmed to be more sensitive during certain times of the day.
Aspiration smoke detectors draw air into a high-sensitivity sensor through a pipe network to provide Very Early Warning Fire Detection. This approach enables these detectors to protect mission-critical facilities and high-value assets from the faintest traces of smoke.
The newest aspiration detection systems provide enhanced nuisance immunity along with the capability to provide Very Early Warning Fire Detection. Also look for programmable alarm levels and pre-alert particulate levels that can be set to specific site requirements. Integral Ethernet connectivity and email notification of device status updates enable facility managers to respond appropriately.
Because it can be installed remotely while sampling points can be run into the protected area through the pipe network, an aspiration unit can be an ideal choice for challenging environments, such as cold storage facilities or medical testing rooms. Aspiration systems also protect mission-critical environments, like data centers or fabrication facilities.
Most beam smoke detectors are designed to save time and money and provide better detection capabilities for open-area and high-ceiling applications. Many of these detectors offer a very wide coverage area—up to 19,800 square feet. They are well suited for applications where it is difficult to install or maintain traditional spot detectors or where smoke might not reach the ceiling due to stratification.