Get to know your fire alarm systems

Get to know your fire alarm systems

Written on 09/24/2018
Greg Chapman


Installing a fire alarm, including detectors at your business or rental property is essential for protection of life, assets and property.

There are a wide range of fire alarms to suit different needs and different property types, these are usually divided into the ‘conventional’ ‘fire alarm system and the ‘intelligent’ system (analogue addressable).  They may also be divided into categories depending on whether the protection is aimed at life or assets and whether they are manual or automatic.

Conventional fire alarm

For smaller buildings such as shops or small business a conventional fire alarm is mainly used. It is a cheaper fire alarm and work by splitting the building into detection zones.  Each zone is hardwired into the control panel (with the possibility of having multiple detectors on one zone).

If a detector sensor goes off the control panel identifies the circuit that contains and will let the user know which zone it has been activated. The area will then need to be searched to locate.

Two-wire fire alarm systems

This alarm is also designed for smaller businesses, they are based again on the conventional system technology but a two-wire system has the detectors, call points and alarm devices for each zone wired on the same set of two-core zone cables back to the control panel. This allows the use of a single circuit per zone for both the detection and to power the sounders or sirens.

The two-wire systems cost more than conventional systems but they are a lot quicker and more flexible. They also have additional functionality, such as fault conditions, isolation, and detector recognition.

Analogue-addressable fire alarm systems

These intelligent analogue-addressable systems are designed for larger commercial properties and are far more complex and networked systems. They cost a lot more than the other two systems above but have increased flexibility, speed of identification and can give better information to the user about individual detectors, specific circuits and zones

Different types of initiating devices are wired in one or more single loops around the premises, this means less cabling and unique addresses for each for each detector. The intelligent control panel then is able to receive information and status reports from each device and can indicate the exact location if there is a fire, fault, smoke, heat, or contamination.

Wireless fire alarm systems

These again are more expensive to buy than the conventional alarms but much quicker to install and still provide the same amount of protection. These systems are often use when no wires are wanted or in older grade listed buildings. Systems today are much more reliable than they used to be and have multi-frequency links to eliminate signal blocking and collision, allowing a high margin of signal strength to be maintained.

Smoke detection systems

Expensive to install and maintain aspirating smoke detection systems are highly sensitive and can detect cool smoke that does not rise to the ceiling, as well as smouldering fires and particles given off by overloaded electrical cables. They are therefore especially useful where early warning is required.