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Fire alarms systems play a crucial role in today’s society by detecting and warning us of the presence of smoke or fire. The fire alarms are activated automatically from a smoke and heat detector, or manually, by using fire alarm call points and pull stations such as the one seen in the photo.

How do Fire Detector and Alarm Systems (FDAS) work?  

A fire detector is activated by either smoke, heat or both and is connected to a central fire alarm control panel which activates the alarms. The alarms are usually bells, mountable sounders, or speaker strobes. (Strobes must be set at precise frequencies because certain strobes can trigger seizures for those suffering from epilepsy). They are commonly followed up by a voice evacuation message from the public address system which tells people to leave the building and warns people inside to not use the elevators. 

A fire alarm bell or sounder can also be set to different volume levels, frequencies and tones depending on the country standards and manufacturer of the device. Fire alarm electronic devices are known as horns in both the United States and the Philippines and can be either continuous or set to different codes. 

The fire control panels are classified as either a conventional fire alarm system or an addressable fire alarm system. Conventional detectors are used in systems which only identify a specific area, also known as a zone system. On the other hand, addressable systems have a unique identifier called a Media Access Control (MAC) address that allows the system to find the exact location of the smoke or heat. A high-end fire alarm system will be addressable and offer your building more protection.

Fire alarm systems can be connected to a fire suppression system such as sprinklers that release water or dry chemicals. You often see the sprinkler heads in rooms near the smoke sensor. In server rooms, fire suppression is done by an inert fluoride-based gas such as FM200 or Novec 1230 which extinguishes the flames but does not damage expensive or fragile equipment. 

An FDAS is normally connected to the Access Control System to unlock all doors, fire doors and turnstiles in case of fire and, to the Public Address (PA) Emergency Evacuation system to broadcast evacuation announcements. 

How to choose a fire alarm? 

When choosing to buy a fire detection system, it is critical to know what type is appropriate for your situation. Normal sensors can be used in kitchens or low-ceiling areas. For high-ceiling warehouses and areas with valuable items such as a server room or museum, you want to look for a high-end system with sensitive units such as those that detect smoke at very small concentrations. There are “sniffer” systems called VESDA (an acronym for Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) that can detect tiny smoke particles minutes before they would be discovered by a normal smoke detector. 

Fire detection is a life safety system and must conform to the Philippines Fire Code and is required for an occupancy permit. The fire alarm systems should only be set and calibrated by an accredited installer to meet the country standard. Tampering by businesses owners or building administrators may result in criminal liabilities. When choosing a fire detection system, be sure you go for a known brand with available preventive maintenance and parts.  

HMR Solutions is a distributor of UTC Edwards/Kidde Vigilant systems and is a trained partner for Bosch and Honeywell Notifier, all three of which are among the market leaders in FDAS systems.

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