There is no sound more grating than a fire alarm. During an emergency, however, that same sound becomes a lifesaver – a blaring, ear-splitting lifesaver. Not only do professionally installed and maintained fire alarms save lives and protect property, they are required by law in many situations. NFPA 72 requires that systems be monitored by central, automated stations. Here’s a look at how they work.
Communication: Linking Your System with a Central Monitoring Station
Why is it important for fire alarms to communicate with a monitoring station? Think of a typical office building, unoccupied after 5 p.m. each day, and empty on weekends. If a fire breaks out when the property is vacant, a fire alarm system ensures emergency responders are informed right away. Maintaining constant communication from the customers’ sites to a monitoring station allows faster response times. This, in turn, can minimize potential damage and loss. The hub of all of this communication is the fire alarm panel. An AES radio, which is connected to the panel, sends a signal to the central station at regular intervals. If an emergency causes a disruption in the signal, the monitoring station alerts the appropriate parties (i.e. property owners or managers, and emergency personnel). The panel also receives input from initiating devices, such as:
- Smoke detectors.
- Heat detectors.
- Pull stations.
- Duct detectors.
If these devices detect heat, smoke, or fire, they trigger annunciating devices. These are designed to alert people on the premise of an emergency. Examples include:
What to Expect During Installation
Wiring a fire alarm system does not need to be a time-consuming, invasive process. While customers might envision days or weeks of intrusive drilling and irritating dust, a good electrical team will get in, get the job done, and get out with minimal disruption. They will arrive onsite with all of the tools and materials needed to wire the customer’s system, including:
- Fire alarm panels.
- Pull stations.
- Cut-in boxes.
- Staples, drills, and other equipment.
- Vacuum cleaners
- Dust control measures
To further minimize the impact on the customer, they will fish in the system and finish as they go. In other words, they’ll drill small holes into the walls, pull the wire through, trim out the device, and clean up. And that’s it. You shouldn’t see them again until they come back for the final test, when the fire marshal signs off on the system. A centrally monitored fire alarm system helps building owners and property managers comply with the law, protect their properties and the tenants inside them. While customers hope they never need their fire alarm system, it’s reassuring to know they are in place, and quietly working in the background.