Trending now: Fire alarms

There’s a real buzz on now with fire alarm systems. Not only do they provide a natural extension of the intrusion business for the systems integrator, but they also lend themselves to additional and much-needed revenue streams from code-required fire systems service and maintenance contracts. Someone who’s really in the know about all this is Beth Welch, manager of public relations for Honeywell Fire Systems, based in Northford, Conn.

Welch related some current fire alarm trends she’s been hearing about out in the field and of course the vertical market angle is as important as ever, but in additional to traditional hot markets of schools and healthcare, other rapidly emerging points of sale are assisted living facilities and hospitality/hotels.

“A lot of hotels are renovating now and the majority  are going with IP-based fire alarm communications,” Welch commented during a meeting at ISC Solutions in New York this week. She added that sounders in renovations will be based on new intelligibility rules, for example, use voice evacuation command devices to direct occupants to certain exits or perhaps only evacuate occupants above and below an alarmed floor in addition to that space until a further assessment can be made. (Intelligibility changes were part of the 2010 NFPA 72 Fire Alarm and Signaling Code update.)

With that trend to voice evacuation, Welch talked about Silent Knight’s 125-watt amplifier, designed to ease fire alarm voice evacuation system design. The VIP-125 amplifier can be mounted up to 6,000 feet away from the Silent Knight fire alarm control panels, simplifying installations and reducing costs for speaker circuit wire runs. Pushing audio communications to speakers, it’s a fully supervised fire alarm panel and requires only six wires total for integration: two for voice data communications and four to provide serial communication from the fire alarm control panel and amplifier. 

Other emerging markets are retail, especially ‘big box’ stores who are also going to VoIP-based signaling systems and what looks to be more new folks coming into the industry as the days of father-son-based businesses seem to be waning. Finally, here’s a trend Welch says integrators should be aware of: reluctance on the part of the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to approve combination burg/fire panels. Something to be aware of before you start your next installation. – Deborah L. O’Mara, editor in chief, Security Dealer & Integrator magazine