How Addressable Fire Systems Save Lives

As building design evolves to accommodate present-day conditions, addressable security and fire and life-safety systems are more important than ever. Fire and life-safety systems are becoming more flexible, efficient and responsive, giving campuses cost-efficient, integrated options.

A building’s appeal is based on its reputation for providing a safe, secure and convenient environment for its occupants. The safety equipment installed in a building varies by the size of the building, its height, age and use. High-rise buildings, including office buildings and hospitals, are typically categorized by exceeding seven levels, making the use of addressable fire systems that much more important in quickly locating the fire and promoting a fast response from emergency personnel.

Continuous improvement of commercial building safety systems is crucial. Recent National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show annual average losses of 15 deaths, 300 injuries and $26 million in direct property damage from fires in high-rise buildings. Because automatic fire protection equipment and fire-resistive construction is more common in high-rise buildings, NFPA’s “High-Rise Building Fires” report suggests the risk of death during a high-rise building fire is significantly lower than in a non-high-rise building. However, although statistics show high-rise fires have been steadily declining during the past two decades, addressable fire system technology remains a vital tool in the quest to maximize life-safety efforts.

According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), most high-rise building fires begin no higher than the sixth-story level. One significant concern with high-rise building fires is locating the origin of the fire in relation to egress. NFIRS reports that high-rise hotels have a larger share of fires originating in means of egress than non-high-rise hotels. The integration of mass notification with intelligent fire alarm systems is essential in minimizing damages and providing a safe exit strategy for those in the building. The demand for these technologies continue to grow, resulting in the development of codes and regulations, new applications, and overall costs decreasing.

Designed for Quick Response

Campus officials can choose addressable or conventional control panels to monitor smoke detectors and other equipment. Addressable panels offer more capability to quickly identify and isolate a potential emergency. They are efficient to maintain and offer advanced reporting features.

An addressable control panel receives signals that provide the precise location and status of each individual detector connected on the panel loop. These detectors indicate abnormal conditions, including maintenance alerts or loss of contact to the panel. Building engineers know exactly where to go when a device requires attention, saving time and minimizing frustration.

Addressable systems provide early, constant, real-time monitoring of many open areas or individual office spaces. They accurately specify the source of smoke before it escalates to more advanced, damaging stages. These addressable systems are also capable of directing Emergency Response Team (ERT) personnel to trouble areas quickly, minimizing smoke contamination.

Fully networked addressable systems enable operators to assess the status of detectors dispersed throughout a building instantly by using optimum communication speed and pinpoint accuracy to enhance response time. It allows diagnosis, and in some cases, even repairs from a central location for improved system maintenance.

Networked addressable fire and life-safety systems use one of two types of communication media. An RS-485 network uses a single pair of copper wires to connect multiple buildings’ addressable systems on one network. Fire and life safety systems can also use fiber-optic cable as an alternative, which is used extensively in telecommunications and data applications.

The choice depends on site conditions including existing utility trenches, environmental conditions within an existing trench system (e.g., copper performs poorly in damp environments), availability of spare capacity on an existing fiber-optic network, and the thoroughness of the building’s master plan. For example, if a fiber-optic telecommunications network is being planned, allow capacity for fire alarm and life-safety systems.

There are many interface options for remote system monitoring and control, including elaborate graphical user interfaces on large stationary monitors or small portable ones. Today’s fire and life-safety systems offer more flexibility and rapid expandability with the integration of these addressable smoke detectors.

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