Refocusing on Fire Detectors and Sensors

Oct. 27, 2008
Technology helps lower risk

Looking At Fire Alarm Technology There Is A Big Difference Between Professionally Installed Equipment, As Opposed To Equipment Installed By Homeowners Or Non-Professionals. It Is Important For Security Alarm Dealers To Bring This Message Of Fire Safety To Your Customers. Educate Them On The Importance Of Professionally Installed Equipment And Re-Iterate The Role Smoke Detectors Play In Saving Lives.

The end user's responsibility is to properly maintain the equipment or have a service maintenance agreement in place with you. Customers need to understand that their fire alarm equipment's proper working performance is based on regular inspections, tests, and maintenance performed by professionals. Part of the process is to ensure to the greatest extent that the premises equipment is not only cleaned and functional but that the communications link between the premises and the central station is working and reliable.

Several situations have had an enormous impact on alarm communications, which should put this detail on the top of every dealer integrator's list of concerns. These situations are, of course, the AMPS sunset, and the move away from PSTN, POTS, land lines, or whatever other buzzword you wish to use.

Customers are having their phone equipment altered by those who could care less about security communications. It's the alarm dealer's responsibility to stay informed and do whatever it takes to protect their clients from themselves.

Several new technologies are helping to redefine security and safety. For example, there is exciting new technology that is now scanning environments for CO as a product of combustion to provide earlier detection and improve the reliability of fire detection systems. It is in your best interest to explore the new marketing possibilities that environmental monitoring systems offer the dealer.

You also have to consider the importance of protecting alarm equipment from vandalism as a first line defense against system malfunctions. Furthermore, the new products we present this month accommodate both the end users' aesthetics as well as the security professionals' obsession with value, reliability and ease of installation.

Avoiding Fire System Failure

Smoke alarms most often fail because of missing, disconnected or dead batteries. It seems clear that occupants of structures without smoke detectors and those with non-supervised and battery-operated smoke detectors are at a far greater risk than those individuals with supervised and maintained smoke detectors.

Here are some installation and maintenance tips courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

• Install smoke alarms on every level of a home or commercial building including the basement. In residential settings make sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area. New homes are required to have a smoke alarm in every sleeping room and all smoke alarms must be interconnected.

• Smoke alarms can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location. This is an advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in another part.

• If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have a qualified electrician install interconnected smoke alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.

• For deaf or hard of hearing clients, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.

• Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the ceiling.

• If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm near the ceiling's highest point.

• Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.

• Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.

• Have battery backups in case of a power outage.

Technology Leads the Way

Professionally installed smoke detectors provide a level of safety which far exceeds any other installed method. A professionally installed fire alarm will provide centralized supervision, annunciation and remote monitoring/reporting features.

In addition, as fire professionals, security dealer integrators select the most appropriate type of detector for an application. Fire professionals can also determine the correct number of detectors required to achieve adequate protection. install the detectors in the most critical locations. and test detectors for proper operation once it is installed.

The technology is maturing and continues to make for more intelligent systems. Besides detectors' heightened levels of performance, manufacturers are supplying equipment to the trade which installs faster and requires less system infrastructure, as well as models adaptable to a wider variety of environmental and aesthetic requirements. Here are a few selections that illustrate technology advancements.

Adding CO Detection and Improve False Alarm Immunity

The FCP-500 flush mount smoke detectors from Bosch are UL listed, open area photoelectric smoke detectors designed to be used with commercial fire protective signaling systems and household fire warning systems. The FCP-500 is available as a photoelectric smoke detector or as a multi-sensor detector with an additional carbon monoxide (CO) sensor. The detectors are ideal for areas where increased levels of dust and fibers are expected. Each type is offered in white or transparent with color inserts.

The FCP-500 series smoke detectors satisfy the most demanding aesthetic requirements. Their ultra-low profile design offers flush ceiling mounting. The detectors and covers in the P versions are supplied with reversible printed color rings in 16 colors for individual color matching. All detectors in the FCP-500 series are equipped with two optical sensors and a contamination sensor.

The FCP-500-C multi-sensor detector also has a CO sensor. All sensor signals are constantly analyzed by the internal signal electronics and are linked with each other through specially developed algorithms. Linking the optical sensors and the CO sensor results in an extremely high tolerance to unwanted alarms.

The FCP-500 detector can be used in places where the work carried out gives rise to small amounts of non-fire related smoke, steam, or dust. The optical sensor operates according to the scattered light method. The LEDs transmit pulsed infrared light at a defined angle into the scattered light area.

If a fire occurs, the light is scattered by the smoke particles and strikes the photo diodes that transform the quantity of light into a proportional electrical signal. Interference effects from daylight and commercial lighting sources are filtered out with an optical daylight filter and by using electronic filtering and rectification algorithms. The detector's various diodes (light-emitting and photo) are individually controlled by the detector's electronics.

Note: CO sensor (C models only) is for detection enhancement only. It is not a CO detector and cannot activate an alarm in the presence of CO only. Without the presence of CO, the smoke sensor is half as sensitive to smoke as a standard commercial photoelectric smoke detector. This reduces false alarms. When the sensor detects CO, the detection chamber's sensitivity to smoke increases so it is equal to that of a standard commercial photoelectric smoke chamber.

The CO sensor is monitored by measuring the current generated by CO oxidation on an electrode. If the current lies outside the permitted range, the trouble relay activates. If this occurs, the detector continues to operate only as a scattered light detector.

The degree of contamination on the detector surface is continually measured by the contamination sensor. Heavy contamination of the detector surface causes a fault indication.

CO & Vulcain Poisonous Gas Detectors

The CO1224 CO (carbon monoxide) detector for residential applications and the Vulcain Series of gas monitoring devices for parking structures and mechanical-type rooms are now available through Gamewell-FCI. Both detector lines represent an addition of more than 100 devices to an already comprehensive product portfolio.

Every year, more than 500 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Growing numbers of CO deaths have lead cities like New York to require CO detectors in tenanted properties and other similar applications.

Gamewell-FCI's CO1224 detector ties straight into the fire system to alert occupants via the system's notification appliances and notify the central station when dangerous levels of CO are detected. CO detectors monitored by a central station provide extra protection when residents are sleeping or alone; the residence is empty; or when occupants are already suffering from the effects of CO.

Gamewell-FCI's Vulcain Series is a complete line of commercial gas detectors, including monitoring devices for underground parking structures where toxic gases can build quickly. These detectors can be installed to activate ventilation fans when common vehicle emissions such as CO and nitrogen dioxide reach hazardous levels. Controlled fan run-time and temperature stabilization can equal large reductions in maintenance and energy costs.

A building's mechanical room is the hub of its HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system – relegating a big need for gas detection systems to be installed within these types of rooms. The Vulcain Series includes detectors designed to monitor for deadly refrigerants and combustible gases. Boiler and chiller rooms, electrical and fuel rooms, and metering and communications closets all have the potential to leak combustible, toxic gases, making them the perfect application for these detectors.

A 50-point Addressable Digital Fire Control Communicator

Ideal for small to mid-size applications, the IntelliKnight 5700 Fire Control Communicator from Silent Knight now conforms to the testing requirements of UL 9th edition standards, and boasts battery charging circuit integrity testing. It provides digital fire reporting over ordinary telephone lines and supports up to 50 addressable devices that allow the user to pin-point precisely which device has been activated and/or needs attention. It also uses a distributed power scheme to simplify installation and reduce wiring requirements.

The drift compensation feature

of the 5700 helps reduce false alarms and pin-point maintenance problems. If a fault condition is detected at any of the 50 addressable points, the system will display the problem sensor and generate a trouble report that is sent to the central station. In addition, the system conducts an automatic test every 24 hours that is sent to the central station. The 5700 reports in both the SIA and Contact ID formats.

Directional Sounder

The System Sensor Exitpoint directional sounder Model PF24 has an integral audio amplifier that produces a sound consisting of broadband low, mid and high range sounds in specific pulse patterns. ExitPoint directional sounders fitted in addition to normal building evacuation sounders, draw people to evacuation routes in perfect and poor visibility. Triggered by existing fire detection systems, directional sounders positioned at key locations guide building occupants along escape routes and to perimeter building exits.

The PF24 directional sounder incorporates four different field-selectable sound pulse patterns. The patterns consist of broadband noise that makes it possible to locate where the sound is coming from. The four pulse patterns are used to create an egress pathway out of a building and mark perimeter exits. The sound pattern becomes faster as the building occupant approaches the perimeter exit.

Three additional tone pulses can be added to each of the four pulse patterns. Two of the tone pulses can guide occupants up or down a stairway, and the third tone pulse identifies areas of refuge.

Smoke Detector Damage Stopper

The STI Smoke Detector Damage Stopper helps prevent vandalism to smoke detectors and is UL listed for specific smoke detectors. This protective device is the simple, low-cost solution for areas where severe vandalism and physical abuse of smoke detectors is causing false fire alarms or high maintenance costs. Its durable polycarbonate design permits itto take tough knocks in stride, and its multiple slots allow smoke to reach the detector.

It is easily installed and may be removed quickly for servicing of the detector. Two UL listed models are available to fit virtually all smoke detectors, the flush mounted STI-8100 and the surface mounted STI-8130 with spacer to accommodate conduit piping (see technical data sheet for specific detector models). Spacer and cover come standard in clear. Also available in almond, black and white.